28 June 2011

Middle East - Child Trafficking

Child trafficking is a serious problem in many Middle Eastern countries. While there are few official statistics on the child trafficking, there is enough information about the victims of trafficking to know that child victims of sexual exploitation have been reported throughout the region.

One of the largest contributors to the child trafficking problem is the domestic service industry. The Middle East hosts more than 13 million migrant workers, many of whom are very unskilled and low-paid Asian workers, often children and usually female, who are very vulnerable to abuse and find themselves trapped in abusive situations after arriving in the Middle East. It is all too common for child domestic servants to be exploited by their employers who take advantage of children’s unprotected legal status as well as naivety of age and force them to provide sexual services.

Young girls are also trafficked into the Middle East for arranged marriages and commercial exploitation. Often times these arranged marriages will involve the marriage of an underage girl in exchange for financial compensation to her family. Child marriage is extremely common in the Middle East, with about half of all girls younger than 18 in Yemen and Palestine being married.

Disaster and emergency situations, including wars, put children at an increased risk of sexual exploitation and trafficking. The Middle East has been a country with many issues of political and social unrest through the decades which is another major contributing factor to the child trafficking that originates there.

Some of the countries which have been recorded as being destination countries for victims of child trafficking include Bahrain, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Iraq. The trafficking victims entering these countries often times come from Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, North Africa and other African countries.

In addition to being destination countries, a few Middle Eastern countries are also transit countries, which means that the victims of trafficking move through these countries while en route to another country , either in the Middle East or often somewhere in Western Europe or the UK. A few of these transit countries are Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and Syria.

Children are exceptionally vulnerable to being trafficked because they are all too often very poorly educated and very easy to convince that they must do what an adult tells them to do.

Children who are living in extreme poverty or who are abandoned or homeless are especially vulnerable to child trafficking as they have nobody looking out for them and are often times desperate for stability and care.

All child trafficking or abuse must be reported to the law enforcement authorities.

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