Agencies - Wednesday January 5, 2005
Indonesian authorities posted police guards at refugee camps today to protect children orphaned by last week's tsunamis from child traffickers. The UN confirmed two attempts to snatch children in Indonesia's devastated Aceh province, the first independent verification of widespread fears that children across the Indian Ocean region could fall prey to traffickers. The Indonesian government banned children under 16 from leaving the country on Monday in an attempt to halt a potential trade in tsunami orphans.
Indonesian police are guarding refugee camps in tsunami-hit regions to protect orphaned children from being kidnapped by trafficking gangs. United Nations charity workers have confirmed two attempts to snatch children from the devastated Aceh province. Indonesia has introduced restrictions on children leaving the country in an attempt to prevent youngsters being sold into forced labour or sexual slavery in rich neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. John Budd, Unicef spokesman, said there were unconfirmed reports of up to 20 other youngsters being taken to Malaysia, and possibly hundreds to Jakarta. He said: "I don't think you could have a more vulnerable child on Earth than a child in this situation. A young child who has gone through what they have witnessed will be barely surviving in terms of psychological health." Unicef, plans to set up a registration scheme for orphans in the area. Criminal gangs are believed to be posing as aid agencies or family friends and a text message is rumoured to be in circulation advertising an auction of 300 orphans. An estimated 35,000 children in Aceh have lost one or both parents in the tragedy.
THOUSANDS of vulnerable children orphaned by the south Asia tsunami disaster now have to deal with another threat: gangs of unscrupulous human traffickers looking for easy pickings, humanitarian organisations said today. "Experience shows that the risks of child trafficking grows in a crisis situation where there are population movements and where the environment that normally protects the child collapses," said Marc Vergara of UNICEF. "There are no parents, no family, no school, no village," the spokesman for the United Nations children's fund in Geneva said. As a result of the threat, the UN is developing a program to register every displaced child in Indonesia's tsunami-hit province of Aceh in an effort to stop human traffickers from smuggling them out, of the country.