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Pacific: Children at risk of trafficking

Publish Date: 19 Apr 2011
Source: Ninemsn

Children in the Pacific region are vulnerable to sex tourism, cheap labour and illegal adoption but there's limited evidence of the extent of the problem.

A study released by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) says child trafficking in the Asian region is well-recognised but more information is needed about the Pacific.

"Little is known about the extent and nature of trafficking in the Pacific region," said AIC senior research analyst Jacqueline Joudo Larsen.

Ms Larsen said there was considerable knowledge and a growing response to trafficking and exploitation of children in Asia but the problem in the Pacific region needs to be researched further.

The study said South-East Asia had long been recognised as a significant source of trafficked persons, with the majority moving from less developed to more developed countries.

That includes children from Cambodia to Thailand for begging, girls from Vietnam and Burma to Cambodia and Thailand for sexual exploitation and girls from Laos to Thailand for domestic or factory work.

But Ms Larsen said very little was known of trafficking in the Pacific, a region characterised by a largely youthful population with almost 37 per cent under 15.

She said children in the region were susceptible to a range of criminal activities, including commercial sexual exploitation, sex tourism, labour exploitation, illegal adoption and customary marriage.

"The issues underpinning the vulnerability of children in the Pacific region include the low availability and high cost of education and lack of employment opportunities for young people, as well as risky cultural practices such as billeting, informal adoption and early marriage," she said.

Australia now has tough laws against child trafficking but there have been no prosecutions. However two cases of children trafficked into the sex industry have come to light, both predating sexual servitude laws.

In both cases, girls aged 12 and 13 were sold by their parents in Thailand and forced to work in brothels in Australia. Both were discovered in routine immigration inspections, one after 10 days and the other after 15 years.

The girl found after 15 years later died in immigration detention of complications from heroin addiction and malnourishment. Three Thai nationals were subsequently jailed in Thailand for long periods.

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