War and disasters leaving more children at the mercy of traffickers - Nobel laureate

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by Heba Kanso | @hebakanso | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 23 March 2018 14:12 GMT

"If such a movement does not take off, we will condemn another generation to poverty and destitution" - Indian Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi

By Heba Kanso

BEIRUT, March 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Children are more vulnerable now than ever due to conflicts and natural disasters with millions without homes or families, leaving them easy prey for human traffickers, Indian Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi warned on Friday.

Ahead of a second summit of global leaders and Nobel laureates on children's rights in Jordan on Monday, Satyarthi said orphaned child refugees have become a "common sight" in the Middle East - a region hammered by a seven-year war in Syria.

The United Nations children's agency (UNICEF) has reported a five-fold increase in the number of refugee and migrant children traveling alone since 2010, with 300,000 unaccompanied children on the move in the combined years of 2015 and 2016.

"This has led to a significant increase in trafficking," Satyarthi said in an opinion piece for the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Even children who are fortunate not to be trafficked stare at a bleak future with no access to proper education and healthcare," he said, calling for greater global efforts to protect children ranging from specific laws about children to a global convention at the United Nations.

Satyarthi, joint winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai for his work with children, said human trafficking has become the largest organised crime globally worth an estimated $150 billion a year.

UNICEF estimates that children account for about 28 percent of trafficking victims globally.

Satyarthi - whose charity Bachpan Bachao Andolan has freed at least 80,000 child slaves in India over 20 years - said action was needed urgently with millions of children in slavery, 150 million forced to work, and 260 million denied an education.

"If such a movement does not take off, we will condemn another generation to poverty and destitution," said Satyarthi who was the driving forced behind the first Laureates And Leaders For Children Summit in Delhi in December 2016.

At next week's summit Satyarthi will meet with leaders from Jordan's King Abdullah to Panama's Juan Carlos Varela and various Nobel laureates and activists to address challenges facing children on the move.

Satyarthi has also been pushing for a global agency, like Interpol, to be set up to tackle organised trafficking gangs that prey on children, using modern technology to maintain and share records globally.

"Just as financial institutions across the world now cooperate actively to block access to terrorists and their funding organisations, they must work together to choke trafficking gangs," he said.

"If we come together, we can create a world where every child lives freely with dignity."

(Reporting by Heba Kanso @hebakanso, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)