Refugee children in Bangladesh at real and immediate risk of trafficking

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  • Stories emerging of narrow escapes and children being preyed upon
  • Protection of children needs to be the number one priority, says aid agency

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7 – Fresh reports from Bangladesh this week should be a wake-up call to protect children from immediate harm, says World Vision as is sounds the alarm about child trafficking in refugee camps.

Child protection issues are at the centre of the refugee crisis which include child marriage and child exploitation, and human trafficking. As different child trafficking groups are active in the region, children and adolescents, especially girls are vulnerable to trafficking,” says Tanzina Akter, National Coordinator, Child Protection, World Vision Bangladesh.

It is common to see upsetting numbers of displaced and unaccompanied children being sexually abused, trafficked and exploited, and children fleeing Myanmar are no exception, says World Vision.

Since late August, 605,000 people have crossed the border into Bangladesh, escaping violence in Myanmar. As many as 60% of these are children and many have been separated from their parents.

“This means they are easy targets for traffickers. It also means their safety and security needs far more urgent care and attention than it is currently getting,” says Tanzina.

According to UNHCR, international donors have pledged US$344 million to help deliver critical humanitarian assistance to refugees and host communities in Bangladesh.

"We need to see a commitment within this funding to address the specific issue of protecting children, keeping them safe and out of reach of those who would prey on them,” says Jared Berends, Senior Director of Operations and Resource Mobilisation, World Vision Bangladesh.

“It was 1am. He had already picked up my younger daughter, 4-year-old Fiza, but his hands accidentally grazed my older daughter and she got up with a start and screamed," says 35-year-old *Razia.

“We didn't get a tarp the first week. We just had to get by. No food, no shelter, no medicines was very challenging. It rained sometimes and it was extremely hot sometime. The children were dehydrated and started developing fever along with a cough," she says.

Having very little to work with, Razia and her husband tried their best to provide a secure space for their children; carpeting the wet mud ground and on the sides with a thin sheet of plastic was all they could manage.

 But the thin, plastic, tearable walls weren’t enough to keep the danger out.

“There are no permanent walls on the sides of the tent. From one side it’s completely open. The shelter walls are so thin anyone can rip it open. That night was the most shocking. It was dark but the moon radiated some light. We were all asleep. I keep the little one in the middle and the older children sleep on the sides. A man entered our tent from the side of the tent and picked my 4-year-old."

Her daughter, seeing a silhouette of a stranger, let out a loud scream, waking up the family.

“When my daughter screamed, we all got up. The intruder left the child and ran. We were unable to catch him,” says Razia.

"We left to keep our children safe from the violence but after the incident we feel more vulnerable. We keep the children at home most of the time.”

“Razia’s experience gives us an insight into the danger facing all children, but especially those who have been separated from their parents,” says Jared.

“It takes being aware of the real risks facing refugee children, and taking intentional steps to scale up programmes to protect them."

ENDS

*not their real names

Saibal Sangma Director - Communications, World Vision Bangladesh Mobile: +8801711543507  Saibal_sangma@wvi.org  Skype: Saibal.sangma (Bengali, English)

Phuong Tran East Asia Communications Director, World Vision Mobile: +66870560077  Phuong_tran@wvi.org  Skype: phuongtran_comms (French, Spanish, Vietnamese, English)

Note to editors:

World Vision has been working in Bangladesh since 1972 when it started with emergency relief operation

 For 20 years, World Vision has had a regular field presence 67km from the affected area in Cox’s Bazar where it runs a community development  program.

About World Vision

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organisation conducting relief, development and advocacy activities in its work with children, families, and their communities in nearly 100 countries to help them reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.

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