9.3 Strategic and Programmatic Options for Prevention of Child Trafficking and Reintegration of Trafficked Victims
As conceptually discussed in the first section of this chapter, trafficking situations change over time as former trafficked victims learn from their experiences. Trafficking in children has become more publicly open and accepted in many communities. For the Maekong basin countries under various trafficking circumstances, state authorities in the subregion are not aware of the situations and are not able to respond to the problems efficiently. Different motivations have been currently used to recruit children into the workforce, and some children have voluntarily migrated for employment to other foreign countries. Natural geographical settings along the borders and in sending and receiving communities in the Maekong basin countries have contributed to the problem by making it easier for child traffickers to transport children across the borders.
The following section will discuss strategic and programmatic plans for policy options and recommendations to combat all forms of trafficking in children. The suggested Plan of Action is strategically recommended as a short term of two years and a long term of five years. The options will also be discussed in a suggestive manner with the purpose of allowing concerned countries to review the recommendations and make independent decisions regarding their child trafficking problem. The countries and concerned/involved organizations will also need to determine whether a specific recommendation will work as local, national, bilateral, subregional, or international strategies for each independent country. Each program of action will need to base on each country’s perception of the problem and the need to take care of the problem too. Child trafficking is a similar global concern which many countries in the Maekong subregion share. Yet, the issue is quite complicatedly different and related to specific socio-economic and political situations of different countries in the region. The suggested Plan of Action is also therefore recommended as a whole cycle of multi-level development. Each respective country and their government has to be responsible for sorting their particular problems out and decide what to do and at what level.
9.3.1 The Two-Year Plan of Action
Immediate action has to be taken both in terms of preventing further trafficking of children and in terms of working with currently victimized children. The two-year Plan of Action will explore some possible options based on the research findings.
(1) Prevention of Child Trafficking
1. Identify all characteristics and issues possibly related to the trafficking in children, and conduct in-depth studies of the issues in order to design practical and effective policy, and implementation and intervention programs. Possible issues include the current situation of trafficking, the process of trafficking, the patterns, the players, the procurement, the networks of traffickers, tricks used and business victims are driven into, and etc. Issues vary among countries and rather different in their degrees. Each country in the Maekong sub-region should begin the process of identifying and studying prioritized issues nationally. The overlaps, however, should be considered and co-studied among the countries involved.
2. Develop mechanism to coordinate, cooperate, and collaborate national cross-sectoral intervention strategies and programs to prevent and combat the trafficking. Policy makers, law enforcement officers, community leaders, activists, parents, teachers, and other concerned citizens should share experiences and tools successfully used to combat the trafficking, discuss obstacles currently present, and make suggestions which lead to making practical, effective and supportive policy and intervention programs to eliminate the trafficking in children.
3. Coordinate, cooperate, and collaborate bilaterally and multilaterally with other countries in the Maekong sub-region in intervention programs and strategies to prevent the cross-border trafficking in children.
4. Develop mechanisms to build and strengthen the capacity of organizations and individual government officers, NGO personnel, and concerned citizens to detect and investigate the trafficking which occurs in their respective areas, and to prevent and collaboratively eliminate it. It is suggested that there should be re-training of working skills and re-building of attitude and awareness for the involved organizations and individuals.
5. Pay intensive attention to sectors most directly in contact with trafficking agents such as border patrol police, immigration officers, law enforcement officers, and business owners, and learn their current problems and obstacles, strengthen their weaknesses, and provide support to their limitations. All with the intention to eliminate the trafficking in children.
6. Raise level of public awareness regarding trafficking in children and publicly campaign against it. All citizens should be informed of all possible characteristics of the trafficking, kept updated on the issue, trained and equipped with information, knowledge, and strategies to react to the situations, and report the incidence to authorities in charge.
7. Develop national plans of action to recognize issues and incidents related to trafficking in children, and spend a special day to stimulate energies to fight for children’s rights, to support children in difficult situations, and to eliminate trafficking in children. As in Thailand and Vietnam, the two countries have a National Children’s Day, and have generally spend the day to recognize and celebrate children as the virtue of human resource. There are customarily free activities for children to play and learn, and interact or just basically ‘be’ with their family and friends. The author’s suggestion is to cover all children from nationally born children of their respective countries to migrant children and trafficked children. If children are believed to be the virtue of human resource, each and every child should have equal rights to grow steadily into a society.
(2) Reintegration of Trafficked Victims
As the term ‘to rehabilitate’ has a negative connotation to it, the term ‘to reintegrate’ is therefore used to substitute it. Reintegration provides opportunities for returnees and/or repatriates to bring back experiences of being trafficked to their respective communities, be welcomed and seen as victims, and be able to reintegrate into the society which they left for quite some time. Communities of origin have to also be informed of the circumstances and help ease the trafficked victims back into the communities. The government and NGOs in communities have to accommodate the reintegration to their best ability. The following suggestions are hoped to be helpful in designing programs for repatriation and reintegration of trafficked victims in the Mekong basin countries.
1. Develop mechanisms to gather representatives from all countries in the sub-region, discuss the cross-border trafficking in children, and realize together what the problems are. Since trafficking in the sub-region is mostly cross-border trafficking, it is important to call for attention among the countries involved in order to solve the problem.
2. Develop mechanisms to learn together the best supportive environments trafficked victims should be in, and understand that, if trafficked victims are repatriated and not well taken care of, other serious problems will follow.
3. Agree among involved countries and commit to collaboratively and realistically work toward the goal to best repatriate and reintegrate trafficked victims.
4. Design occupational training and job generating programs for returnees. It should be children friendly or women friendly reintegrating atmosphere.
5. If a returnee ever needs medical care upon and after being repatriated, they should be provided with the medical care needed with respect of basic human needs.
6. Authorities should be equipped with updated information and knowledge to take care of returnees and help the communities learn how to welcome returnees.
7. The repatriation process has to be children friendly, sensitive and convenient. Those who are repatriated should not have to pay a repatriation fee as some victims have experienced.
8. NGOs should be brought into the repatriation and reintegration process.
9.3.2 The Five-Year Plan of Action
To ensure that trafficking in children is thoroughly eliminated, a long term plan of action needs to be developed and monitored. The following recommendations for five-year plans are hoped to be a starting point for further discussions on designing specific programs of action.
(1) Establish multi-disciplinary community-based organizations to watch and react to child trafficking incidence: The organization could be established in a network format having branch offices in different local communities. The organization should be located in areas most exposed to child trafficking. It could be a local or national organization with bilateral and subregional network. For example, the organization could be established with its branch offices in Bangkok and Maesai of Thailand, in Yunnan of China, in Kengtung of Myanmar, in Vientiane, and in a border towns between Thailand and Cambodia, and Cambodia and Vietnam. The organization should consist of concerned individuals from multi-disciplinary backgrounds such as lawyers, social workers, translators of Mekong subregional languages, law enforcement officers, political activists, educators, doctors, and etc. Individuals working for the organization must be well trained to react to child trafficking incidence and provide support to victims with victim friendly manner and attitudes. The organization should also be equipped with update information regarding the extent of child trafficking problem and should work in collaboration and co-operation with other government agencies, NGOs, researchers and academics working on this issue in their respective country. When necessary, the organization should also take the lead to advocate for laws and policy related to child trafficking.
(2) A Plan for the governments to learn about child trafficking: As the study findings indicated that governments of the six Mekong basin countries are important party in the fight against the sub-regional child trafficking, it is therefore necessary for them to truly understand the problem. Programs and activities to encourage the governments to learn more and be sensitively exposed to more issues related to child trafficking should be designed and practiced among the governments. The learning experiences acquired are hoped to build strong foundation regarding children’s rights and working with trafficked victims among the governments. It is finally hoped for more sensitive and thorough policy and plans of actions to combat with child trafficking in the subregion.
(3) Encourage movement to solve political unrest by supporting democracy and stopping Aid, international relations, and foreign investment from other countries: International and sub-regional groups such as ASEAN should take the lead in supporting outside organizations as well as the country-based individuals and organizations to solve political unrest in some countries in the sub-region. This recommendation is a political act that needs long term plan and establishment of clear political stance as well as cooperation among other interested nations.
(4) A plan to organize illegal migrants: Since trafficking of children occur mostly among disadvantaged groups of people such as illegal migrants, involved agencies should therefore pay attention to illegal migration and illegal migrants. Practical policy regarding child trafficking should be designed and implemented so illegal migrants are identified and overlooked by the authorities. Illegal migration should be systematically organized so illegal migrants are organized, registered, and taken care of. The plan should include activities such as building work capacity for authorities to deal with child trafficking issues, and advocating for awareness of child trafficking problems among general public and among the migrants themselves. The strategy will provide an opportunity for authorities to recognize when a child trafficking case occurs among the illegal migrant populations. The general public as well as the migrants themselves will also be aware of the problem and be able to identify and report when the incidence occurs. A plan to organize illegal migration will make the task to combat with child trafficking an easier one.
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