Writes Althea, Content writer, Headline Diplomat eMagazine
Many people are familiar with child trafficking but a few know about orphanage trafficking. Child trafficking is a crime and so is orphanage trafficking.
While child trafficking is the exploitation of girls and boys, mainly for sexual exploitation and forced labor, orphanage trafficking is the active recruitment of kids from vulnerable families into orphanages or home care institutions for exploitation.
Surprisingly, about 80% of the more than eight million children in orphanages are not orphans and have at least one living parent. It is heartbreaking to believe that there are individuals in the world who deliberately recruit children into orphanages to make money. This is because vulnerable ‘orphans’ attract donations, funding, and international volunteers.
Due to orphaned trafficking, kids are deprived of their families and exploited for profit. Besides, some kids are forced into labor or sexually mishandled. What’s more, others are sold for slavery or illegal adoption. Some disappear, while others are sold for their organs.
Most children who find themselves in orphanage trafficking are there because of things like poverty, disability, displacement, or to get an education. On the contrary, some are there because they have been trafficked. One of the first orphanage trafficking to be discovered was in Nepal after the 2015 earthquake by the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report in 2017.
The Discovery by the US Department of State was an eye-opener that made the UK and Australia also start their investigation into orphanage trafficking. Australia is one of the major funders of Orphanages and home care institutions around the world and it had to investigate this issue thoroughly so that they don’t play a part in orphanage trafficking, or what is also referred to as ‘Paper Orphaning.’
This practice has been made popular by Orphanage owners, who use ‘child finders’ to pick out endangered families to get more children to fill their orphanages to attract volunteers and donations. Some even go to the extent of faking documents to make them look that they don’t have families and create ‘paper orphans.’
The orphanage traffickers normally target impoverished families and dupe them into giving up their kids by orphanage owners, or they also hire local pastors or child-finders to seek out children. Such a practice is common in Haiti. A report released by Haiti in an anti-trafficking conference stated that taking children from their parents through deception, coercion, or purchase is a form of human trafficking going largely unchecked.
In a statement, Georgette Mulheir, Lumos Chief Executive said, “Many parents are deceived into giving up their children, purely so that unscrupulous individuals can make a profit.” She added, “Well-intended donors give vast sums to orphanages. But 80 percent of children living there are not orphans.”
Despite soliciting a lot of funds from donors and volunteers, Orphanage owners keep most of the kids in deplorable conditions to prompt sympathy and donations. Even though this kind of exploitation is yet to be known by the UK government in its law and policy, a current review of the Modern Slavery Act has shone new light on the issue.
Apart from this challenge being pinpointed, different charities around the UK have provided evidence about their encounter with orphanage trafficking and encouraged the government to do more to determine the roles its citizens are playing in extending the orphanage ‘industry’ via tourism, donations, and volunteering.
For instance, one of the current investigations into ‘paper orphan’ showed how the UK was assisting to support about 60 million illegal orphanages in Uganda. A good number of people donating to orphanages overseas believe that they are doing good. On the contrary, orphanages are dangerous to kids.
Recently, the Department For International Aid released funding guidelines that clearly state that UK Aid Direct will not fund residential care institutions and orphanages. However, the UK was not the first country to make major steps towards fighting orphanage trafficking. Several Australian NGOs have been working together to raise awareness of this problem. The NGOs formed the ‘ReThink Orphanages Coalition,’ which is creating awareness against this vice.
Other countries that have created awareness against this vice are the Dutch parliament, which held a debate on orphanage tourism and its connection to child trafficking. And of course, in 2018, the US Trafficking in Persons set aside an entire section to the risk to children in institutions.
Even though this practice has been going on unnoticed, momentum is growing fast to make people aware of the underlying damage of orphanages, the danger of trafficking, and the urgency to instead invest in family-based care. Such milestones will help to reduce global dependence on institutions and instead assist countries to invest in care reform to make sure all kids can grow up in safe and loving families.
With more awareness being created about orphanage trafficking around the world, many governments should take a strong stand against this vice and embrace family-based care, which Lumos, an international non-governmental charity is promoting around the world.
Since major funders of orphanages and residential care institutions like the UK and Australia are ceasing to fund orphanages, the end to orphanage trafficking is very near. But the support of governments around the world is vital in ending this form of child trafficking completely.