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Type of document: News
Topic: Trafficking patterns
Geographic descriptors: Yemen
Language: English
Publisher: yobserver.com
Source: www.yobserver.com/news_3667.php
Date of publication: 5 February 2005
Long Abstract: Child trafficking to Saudi Arabia is mostly done with the agreement of parents and their children, according to a new study by the Yemeni Center for Social Studies & Labor Research in the governorates of Hajja and Al-Mahweet.

The study found that "child slavery is not the work of organized gangs" and that, contrary to the media's depiction, around 94% of smuggling cases arise from the child's desire to sneak into Saudi Arabia to make money.

Human trafficking is an old problem in Yemen. Ever since the 1991 Gulf Crisis, workers have been willing to try illegal means to enter Yemen's wealthier neighbors to find work. However child-smuggling is a new phenomenon.

According to the study, nearly 60% of deported children originate from the Haradh district of Hajja, with its major Saudi-Yemen border crossing. Just over 50% fell within the age range 13-16 years old, and of the 59 cases, only two were girls.

Although 74.6% of the group had previously enrolled in school, the majority dropped out due to lack of resources, family problems and to enable them to travel to Saudi Arabia; 63% came from families with more than eight members who often supported additional dependants and who therefore looked for other sources of income.

The children's families typically had low incomes and were predominantly employed in agriculture or as unskilled labor; 66.5% of the families of these children had incomes of less than YR 20,000 (US $108), although this figure reached 80% in the Al-Mahweet sample.

The report found that most children started the journey accompanied by a direct relation, although some children traveled with other children instead. “Traffickers expect to be paid a proportion of whatever the child earned and they specifically look for children suitable for begging. Sometimes border guards were bribed to make movement possible," said the report. "Smugglers also operate in these areas and 30.5% of children were involved with merchants moving goods.”

While many children embark on the journey voluntarily and with their parents’ consent, during the journey many children were threatened and beaten; others suffered from hunger and sexual abuse.

The children travel to Saudi Arabia by truck, donkey or on foot, often traveling at night to avoid the security services. The report also found that 64.4% of children caught by security forces experienced further beatings and abuse, as well as being frequently robbed.

On arrival in Saudi Arabia, nearly 75% of children successfully found work, but most were unable to find a place to live. 64.5% had no place of residence and therefore lived on the street, while the remainder lived with relatives or their employer. Many children experienced stress on arrival and an absence of basic necessities such as food and money.

Community leaders from the affected areas said that the children were trying to escape from their poor quality of life, including over-crowded housing and lack of services such as water or electricity. Lack of education compounds the problem, and leaves both parents and children unable to see any escape from poverty.

"In these areas there are not enough schools, teachers or even educational materials," said one schoolteacher in Haradh. The study recommended a number of steps that government should take to tackle the problem.

The government should improve cooperation with neighboring countries in order to intercept smugglers and to accelerate the return of children to their families, sad the report, adding that the government should also punish both smugglers and the children's families to establish an effective deterrent.
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