113,000 children in the UK go missing each year, but only 1200 are abductions, what happens to the rest?
It was a billboard in the train station that struck me recently. A young 15 year old boy went missing over 30 years ago, blonde, and his haunting face stared back at me. This boy, now a man, is still missing, he was reported, someone did miss him, but he never returned.
Missing children are a regular feature in the news and on billboards, but I found myself contemplating how much awareness is really out there.
For a child to go missing, my first instinct is a kidnapping, but the reality is many children are runaways or from broken homes. I think most people think along similar lines and therefore the reality of the situation is somewhat hidden.
Why Would a Child Go Missing Unless They Had Been Taken?
Suburban childhoods are of course our only inclination, rather than the backgrounds of those who may have no other option than to leave. Children of broken homes and abusive situations are all too common, but these are not the children we see in the headlines and so the common narrative is to believe a child has been taken.
In fact, just under 113,000 children go missing in the United Kingdom each year. Of those 113,000, 1200 are abducted (2018/19). Many children are lost unbeknownst, irrespective of abduction. In the US, 460,000 children are reported missing. This is incredible, how can so many children go missing each year? According to the home office, those who go missing are most often in the 15-17 year old category, this is out of all missing person figures. It is also believed this number is not reflective of the real problem, as many missing children are not reported.
What seems to be even more incredible than the sheer amount of children who go missing each year, is the knowledge that so many are not reported.
How is it Possible for a Child to Go Missing and Not be Reported?
This is just incredulous.
The only logical explanation I can summon lies within the background these kids are exposed to. If a missing child has not been reported, it does suggest a background of abuse that may wish to go unnoticed. Or they could hail from neglect. A lot of children go missing each year, more than we even know, and there are so many who cannot be attributed to abduction.
Where Do All the Lost Children Go?
What happens to these children? It seems a lot of children are not abducted, yet still go missing and never return.
If so many children go missing, some of whom are never reported, there must be something larger at play.
Child trafficking is the term given to children who are solicited into leaving home for good, and used for sexual exploitation, workforce, drug transportation, and forced marriage. These children may be abducted or they may be solicited. In other words, they may be coerced into trusting people who later turn out to be their abductor, and enforcer into child slavery or sex trafficking.
As much as this seems incredulous to me, that children as old as 15-17 would fall into such a net, it happens only too often. If there is a history of abuse, and the child has left home to escape one nightmare, it is almost inevitable they will fall into another.
The recent documentary series on the Jeffrey Epstein scandal has highlighted a significant detail.
Why Trafficking Can Happen and Does Go On for years
Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell were both charged in procuring a child sex trafficking ring. Epstein was a billionaire who, with the help of Ghislaine Maxwell, regularly lured young women to his home under the pretences of ‘massage’. As it transpired, these women were being lured into rape and sexual assault, that would last and transcend years.
Epstein procured well over 100 women it is believed. What came to light from these testimonies, was the situation these vulnerable women had come from. Each and every individual who came forward had a past. These women who have been abused by Epstein-well over 40 women have come forward, had a past history of abuse. In fact, Epstein and Maxwell came to know this history whilst befriending the girls, before later abusing them. Epstein was charged with abuse of a minor, whilst Maxwell has been charged with procurement (obtaining).
However, she is accused of conducting in the abuse by numerous individuals.
That is to say, the survivors of Jeffrey Epstein were all predominately abused before they came into contact with Epstein. If they had not experienced abuse directly, they were vulnerable in some other obvious regard. This ranged from hailing from a remote place to growing up with addicted parents in prison. Not to mention the vulnerability of age. Many of them came from poor and desperate situations. Epstein provided the ‘golden ticket’ in their eyes, but they were unbeknownst to where that ticket led.
And so it seems many other victims of trafficking, they are vulnerable, and they are lured with what they most want in life. For some it may be acceptance, for some it is money, for some it is education and notoriety, and for others it is a job. For whatever reason they follow the yellow brick road, their lives are changed forever and sometimes, irrevocably so.
They are the forgotten children who never return, and even if they do, they are never the same.
They are the stolen generation.
Human Trafficking: Modern Slavery Still Exist
Even in 2022 human trafficking is still the worst reality. Men, women and children all over the world are trafficked and exploited in the worst forms of harassment.
Around 6000,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked each year across the borders to get forced into illegal occupations and labour.
The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) provides threatening statistics for the trafficking victims.
It shows that 51% of total trafficked victims are women, 28% are children and 21% are men.
It further reports that 63% of people who are identified as traffickers are men while 37% are women.
An estimated 5.4 out of every 1000 people are enslaved in the world.
This criminal industry is generating 150 billion dollars each year with its illegal activities.
For more information, you can check out a21’s official website.
Major reasons for the people that make them an easy target for the traffickers are their poverty, will to support their family, improve their lives or avoid discrimination.
Trafficking and slavery are taking place in every country.
Victims around the world are trapped in human trafficking or modern slavery due to many hardships back in their native places or to achieving something better in life in new places. Some are fleeing from the war zones while others might want to ease their financial burden.
Victims including innocent children are found working in illegal activities like construction, mining, agriculture, cannabis farms and even in the worst sex industry. These victims are lured and trafficked mostly from areas of low income like Africa, South East Asia or Eastern Europe and their drudgery and exploitation start en route.
Also Read: Long-intertwined: Fashion and Modern Slavery
Poverty and vulnerability is the major cause behind the thriving industry of forced labour and trafficking. Victims often have memories of sexual abuse, drug addiction, bad relationships, and trauma.
Human trafficking can be seen in many forms with one common factor that is abuse and the vulnerable condition of victims.
Victims from developing countries are majorly trafficked with coercion or deception and are forced to engage in labour intensive and illegal activities like agriculture, mining, construction and domestic servitude. They work even without any pay and face inhuman treatment and conduct dangerous tasks.
Trafficking for Criminal Activities
Criminal gangs and networks use trafficked people to perform illegal and criminal activities to get huge profits. They are forced to perform theft, drug peddling, begging, selling counterfeit products, and likewise. They have been punished severely if they try to escape or behave contrary to the wishes of criminals.
Women and children all over the world face this cruel reality. They are being exploited by false promises to get a better job, and a better future at some other better place. They are often transported to the destination with counterfeit documents and get into the sexual racket with endless trauma and exploitation.
An ageing population with an increased rate of diabetes have promoted the demand for organ transplantation. This desperation to pay higher for the organs and long queues for organ transplantation need motivate the criminals to illegally provide the organs to the poor and vulnerable people. Many times such operations for organ transplantation are being conducted in clandestine conditions and often poor donors do not get any medical follow up and can even lose their life.
Maria, a young girl who has escaped from the sex racket and is now free and testify in court against her traffickers.
Ong has been forced into begging since he was born. He is now free and with his loving family.
We don’t know the true numbers of people being trafficked but we know that the problem is getting bigger with each passing day. Every place is affected by trafficking whether it is a source country, destination or transit country.
With each number, a life is being destroyed.
To stop this menace, raising awareness and generating political will against human trafficking are the most crucial steps.
The United Nations Organisation reveals that one of the most important impediments to the eradication of trafficking is a lack of understanding among people about the issue. Most people confused trafficking with issues of immigration, smuggling, asylum, prostitution and other grave crimes. But tracking is putting extreme and illegal pressure on an individual to forcefully do something by those who are in power to use coercive means.
Also Read: Slavery in the 21st Century
International efforts have been established in this regard as the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, which developed a victim-centred strategy for human trafficking. It has been signed by 177 countries until now. Another action was taken by the Council of Europe bypassing the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. It aims to promote greater cooperation and dedication within Europe against human trafficking. But more needs to be done not only by the international organisations and governments but at the community level. The United Nations firmly believe that trafficking starts at the community level and can be ended only at the community level.
Raise awareness and give recognition to the complexity of the crime. People need to know about the signs and ways to recognise and stop human trafficking and modern slavery at every level of society.
How to Stop Human Trafficking
Awareness is more important for young people as more than half of the trafficking victims are under the age of 18 years.
Incorporate anti-trafficking strategies in each policy area.
Educate women about trafficking so that they do not get trapped by traffickers.
Police need to be alert and the administration can make sure that police do not get influenced by bribery.
Victims of trafficking often show some signs that can help to recognise them.
We need to stop this trade of human beings with consistent vigilance and efforts from the community to the administrative level. Forced marriage, forced organ removal, and forced labour are the worst human violations. Human trafficking may begin at some local place but it undermines global peace and prosperity and global development.
Dark Life of Child Labour Behind the Shinning Mica
Two children aged 5 and 8 pounding mica shows the worst form of child labour/ Image Source: Christine Romo / NBC News
People around the world are just aware that mica is something that makes their products shiny. It is used in cosmetics, paints and electronics. But few people are aware of its production story involving worst form of child labour.
India and Madagascar are the largest exporter of mica sheets worldwide and are often associated with claims that the worst form of child labour is being used to extract mica in a harmful mining process. Poverty is the major reason forcing children to engage in the mining sector and earn supplemental income for their families. Another reason is the unregulated nature of the mining sector which encourages the illegal use of children in mining.
In Bihar and Jharkhand, two major mica-producing states of India estimated children engagement is 22,000 which is not accurate as numbers are not reported by the mines.
While in Madagascar, the estimated number of children in mica mining is 10,000 as per the US Department of Labor. Even a research study reveals that children make up almost half of the total labour of the mica industry in Madagascar.
Vulnerable and innocent children paid only around seventy cents for their whole day’s labour. This shows how unsympathetic and inhumane the system is.
Children are Forced to Jump into Life-Threatening Activities
The process of mica extraction is very dangerous as children have to undergo narrow and suffocating shafts. Once children go inside they find themselves alone and in complete darkness. These shafts are fragile and can collapse which endangers the life of small children.
An NGO Children in Need Institute (CINI) reported that between 2013 and 2018, 45 children had died in mica mines.
Image Source: JACK PEARCE.
Besides, they constantly work in clouds of dust and inhalation leads to pneumonia and respiratory diseases that shorten their life quality and time.
Even these unregulated and unsystematic mines often do not possess tools and children are forced to use their bare hands for various mining activities that result in cuts, bruises and infections to their hands and other body parts.
These children are the face of modern slavery, extortion and abuse. Young girls are even sexually exploited in nearby areas of mines as mentioned in a report by the US Department of Labour.
The family lost one of their teenage daughter in a mine collapse
Image Source: JACK PEARCE
These children do not get an education and hence for their whole life they are trapped in a never-ending cycle of abuse, pain and struggle for pennies. Chances of higher formal education and hence better living opportunities remain a dream for them and their families.
Why are Children Engaged in Mining?
- High levels of unemployment and lack of income-generating activities in the vicinity of mining areas forced the parents to send their children to work in mica mining. It is their source of income for them. They have to eat and they have to survive.
- Lack of governance and lose regulations assist the employment of children in the mining sector with such impunity.
- Almost 70% of mica comes from illegal mining hence the mining industry is largely unregulated and unorganised and informal mining often leads to employment and exploitation of small children.
- Small stature and delicate hands often become valuable for entering narrow shafts and picking up the small pieces of mica. Small children are accompanied by their families.
This is the classic case where we see how developing countries are facing the resource curse for the demand for such resources by resource-ridden but rich countries.
How to End This Worst Form of Child Abuse.
Even if the mining of mica is banned, it would only add to the atrocities of families and children involved in mica mining. They would not be able to fetch even a handful of food as there is almost no source of income present for them. It is a moral dilemma for all those who are involved in the supply chain of mica from local to a global level.
Also Read: Children in Syria with no Future
The only solution is education for children and alternate livelihood provisions for the families. Authorities can make efforts to educate the families on the long-term hazards and life threats of mica mining.
Professional training and other skills can be given to the people of nearby areas who are dependent on mica mining. So that they can earn at least a basic income with safety.
Government can take help from the NGOs who can help establish skill-based small businesses or workshops for the people, especially among the women and girls. So that they can learn skills and trade manufactured goods to cities.
NGOs can help make connections between them and suppliers of their goods.
Likewise, local authorities can make provision for children’s education in nearby areas so that they don’t have to travel to far away locations. This would hugely impact girls as they could gain education due to safety and would not have to undergo an early marriage burden.
In India, there is a system of Anganwadi (it is a kind of rural child care centre in India.
It consists of a group of women volunteers appointed by the administration to look after the needs of women and children especially food and nutrition needs in rural areas) and compulsory food provision for school children. Authorities can make sure to provide nutritious and consistent food supply to school children so that families do not have to go back to mining for just a handful of food.
So we can say that instead of abolishing mica mining, it is more important to regulate and clean the mica supply chain. Helping families living near mining areas must be given opportunities for better and just livelihood options.
Every consumer has the responsibility to know from where their product’s source mica. They can call, tweet, write and inquire from the beauty brands if they are sourcing the child labour-free mica for their beauty products. Even these simple steps from the consumers can create a buzz among the beauty products suppliers and get them responsible and accountable for a clean mica supply chain and to contribute to the betterment of the community engaged in mica mining.
Inside the Cross-Border Human Trafficking Between India-Nepal
Nepal and India, the countries amongst which trade of products and migration of citizens happens in the same way as between two states of the same country. But the neighboring country’s open border has become a breeding ground for an illicit crime, long ignored by the international media giants; human trafficking. The special relationship reinforced by the Treaty of Peace and Friendship 1950 allows easy movement of both goods and people across a 1,800-km long border between the two nations.
But, the traffickers have long routed the path to hosting illegal smuggling and trafficking gangs, making trafficking of Nepalese women into India and then to the world a commonplace occurrence.
India-Nepal: The Open Border
Human trafficking is the second-largest criminal industry in the world. In South Asia, over 150,000 people fall into the traps of human trafficking every year, with Nepal, India, and Bangladesh topping the list of the most affected countries.
The emergence of new technologies for transportation and trade is making businesses easier and more profitable. But, the negative ramification of this inter-country channel between Indian and Nepal have proliferated cross-border trafficking. More worrying, though, is that the trafficking rates of Nepalese women and children have risen by over 500% in just the last five years.
Human trafficking is a menace to India as well as Nepal by law, but none of the country’s existing laws seem to be able to stop it as trafficking keeps growing. In the wake of the global pandemic, both nations closed their borders to curb the spread of the COVID. As a result of lockdown measures, it was expected that heinous crimes such as human trafficking would fall. The crime has, however, continued unabated.
From June to July 2020, India’s anti-trafficking units and the Nepalese Embassy came together to rescue some groups of trafficked Nepali women in India. However, despite the high level of threats, neither of the nations has developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or a comprehensive document that integrates standard operating procedures (SOPs) to resolve the issue.
The Long Network of Human Trafficking
Over 30,000 vulnerable Nepalese are engaged in complicated overseas trafficking for labor, adult entertainment industry, or employment every year. The victims are transported from Nepal to India either via bus or train from where they are transported to other countries, sold to brothel owners, or are forced to work in factories for little to no pay.
Due to Nepal’s ban on sending domestic workers to regions such as the Gulf and Africa, Indian routes to traffic women have grown in popularity. The routes used by traffickers vary based on the destinations they are trying to reach. These women are transported from Kathmandu to New Delhi through Mizoram and Sri Lanka in one way or another. The route Nepal-New Delhi-Dubai is also used by traffickers to transport the victims to African countries. The victims are also flown to the United States through New Delhi-Moscow-Spain-South America.
Poverty: The Root Cause
Every day, hundreds of Nepalese travel to Katmandu to seek a better life, most in an attempt to escape the poverty-stricken life and lack of growth opportunities. According to an estimate, about 16,00 Nepalese people leave the country every single day to find better work.
Another reason that experts believe the root cause of spiking human trafficking in Nepal is illiteracy and women’s personal autonomy. Due to widespread poverty, persistent unemployment, and dowry demands, parents avoid spending on a girl child—both India and Nepal witness widespread child marriage, which is a major cause of widespread human trafficking. In order to lure victims for human trafficking, fictitious marriages are used as a pretext. Parents marry off their daughters at a very young age, whose husbands then sell them off to traffickers or directly to brothels.
Furthermore, the lack of employment and the high poverty rate in the country make women and girls vulnerable to the risk of exploitation. Traffickers lure the women and their families by the fake promises of better wages of living in the foreign land. Thus illicitly pull them into the trap of trafficking.
The Solutions to Battle Human Trafficking
In order to uproot all trafficking supply chains, India and Nepal must build a united legal and social framework. Identifying and intervening in cases of human trafficking requires a plan and training by both countries’ border security forces. First, an emphasis must be placed on the role of first responders, either corporate, government, or individual. Secondly, it is imperative that security forces guarding the India-Nepal Border receive training so they can identify human trafficking victims.
The regulation of the open border must also take into account. The strengthening and ratification of international frameworks and agreements will strengthen the cooperation among the countries. Having gaps in the system is a transnational problem that can’t be solved in a single country. Furthermore, both the country should identify the socio-economic factors that facilitate trafficking (such as poverty, unemployment, child marriage, preference for female children, etc.) instead of solely focusing on improving the legal framework, which lacks implementation and is riddled with loopholes.
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