Fears of child trafficking have escalated in the areas hit by Typhoon “Yolanda” [Haiyan], prompting the Philippine government, United Nations (UN), and various partner organizations to seek an immediate and effective solution to the problem.
These agencies began conducting information drive across the ‘Yolanda’-hit areas, warning parents and children about the perils of trafficking.
These people were warned not to immediately believe in a person, especially someone they do not know, regarding job opportunities that would take them out of the region.
According to head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Philippines, Bernard Kerblat, they know by experience that those who have been involved in major disasters that destroyed entire communities are more vulnerable to human trafficking, especially since most cling to the hope that there is a better life for them outside their damaged place.
Traffickers feed these people false hopes and dangle the possibility of a better life with a good job somewhere away from the broken community.
To combat these tactics employed by the traffickers, the UNHCR quickly moved across the affected communities to try and “outbid” these people before they can victimize the vulnerable typhoon victims.
Also, departure points in affected villages have stations where authorities register the departing people who are planning to relocate.
Kerblat conceded that people do have the right to move from their damaged communities to a better life in a new place but warns of the dangers of trafficking if they just believe any person promising them a new job.
Anti-trafficking project officer Shirley Vastero of Plan International Philippines reveals that Samar is widely known as a source area for human traffickers, adding that the recent disaster could increase the number of people vulnerable to false hopes and false jobs away from their damaged homes.
Adding to the increasing threat is the fact that many children had lost their parents and older relatives during the typhoon, making them even more vulnerable to the traffickers since there are no people to serve as their guide or watch out for their welfare.
Moreover, the US State Department recognizes the Philippines as among the source countries for force labor and sex trafficking on a global human trafficking report in 2013.
Possible Child Trafficking Incidents
At the port in Guiuan, Samar, authorities caught a man who was bringing along seven minors.
These young ones were interviewed separately, but authorities were not able to glean much information from them regarding their supposed destinations and why they were with the man who was later released for lack of evidence.
The authorities, however, warned him against bringing the children along if they were not his relatives.
In Basey and Marabut, at least five high school girls were recruited from their villages, according to reports from Plan International.
The parents were told that the young girls will be working in a bakery which opens only at night, from 6 p.m. to midnight.
This sparked concern in the agency, especially since sex trafficking is quite rampant in the region and a bakery which is only open at such hours is quite questionable.