More Than 10.000 Refugee Children for Sale

Although this is not one of our main issues to deal with, on August 13th, the OveHum was publishing a post entitled “7 Ways to Spot that Someone is Being Trafficked“. Today I have to dedicate another post to this issue, since we’ve recently known that more than 10.000 refugee kids, mainly from Syria, have disappeared in Europe.

Syria was a French colony until Arab Republic is declared, but since 1970 is under the dictatorship of the al-Assad family, which has controlled the country until the outbreak of civil war with the so-called Arab Spring 2011 (social movements that followed in several countries, such as Tunisia and Egypt). In 2013, the army included the use of chemical weapons, and that’s when civilians started to flee the country, beginning an exodus of refugees that many have compared to the Second World War. In fact, according to Intermon Oxfam, the war left 220,000 dead, 11 million displaced, and 3.9 million refugees; figures continue to rise every day. However, it was not until the 2014 that Europe became aware of the plight of Syrian refugees.

In September 2015, a picture of a three year old Syrian Aylan Kurdi drowned in the Turkish coast was published, and the reaction was immediate and global. The citizens used the Internet global network to express their grief, placing the photo as a trending topic. So civil society echoed the human tragedy experienced by the Syrian refugees, criticizing the inaction of the institutions, and they also reacted. In the days following the publication of the photograph (which we now know, was a set up) institutional statements followed, resulting in emergency budgetary allocations to accommodate refugees in Europe.

It’s not the first time that the photograph of a child breaks awareness and mobilizes a population shocked by tragedy or injustice. Previous examples include the baby Phan Thi Kim Phuc running naked and terrified on a road in Vietnam. Now, in a context ruled by the media, in which information is shared at lightning speed, the role of social media has been crucial to force the reaction of the institutions. Thanks to this, some of the thousands of victims, will participate in programs and may host some hope.

Phan Thị Kim Phúc


But we also now know that trafficking gangs have found a way to profit from this vulnerable group. It’s not the first time. It has happened before, for example in Burmese refugee camps located along the border of Thailand, where children continuously disappeared, sent into prostitution throughout the country, “exported” as any merchandise to be sold as slaves. This time, we don’t have a manipulated photograph of a dead child on a beach … we have many more than 10,000 children anonymous to us, but not for their families, who are tortured and enslaved daily

From the OveHum, we appeal to social and civil mobilization, as well as institutional, so that all necessary measures to eliminate this scourge are taken. Providing the police forces with appropriate training and resources, raising adult’s awareness, criminalizing all activities that may directly or indirectly encourage torture, exploitation, trafficking or slavery. These are also, and we must do everything possible to eradicate from our society. 

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