Government unveils new plan to combat child trafficking

The Yemeni government has announced a new and comprehensive initiative to combat child smuggling and trafficking. The first of its kind in the country, officials say they expect the plan to tackle the problem through detailed research and targeted programmes.

[Read this report in Arabic]

Prepared by the Higher Council for Motherhood and Childhood (HCMC), a government body, and funded by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the 'national childhood plan to combat child trafficking and smuggling' was discussed in a workshop on 7 April and will soon be presented to the Cabinet for approval.

Abdullah al-Khamisi, coordinator of HCMC's Technical Committee for Combating Child Smuggling, told IRIN that the government is committed to ending child smuggling and trafficking. "The challenge will start after the plan is approved by the Cabinet. The challenge also lies in attracting the attention of concerned government bodies and civil society organisations to this problem," he said.

The plan defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation”.

According to the plan, human trafficking, particularly of children, will be considered a security threat at the national, regional and international levels.

No accurate data

While there is no accurate data on the number of children trafficked in Yemen, officials acknowledge that it is a serious problem. Colonel Ali Awadh Farwa, general manager of the General Administration of Women and Juvenile Affairs at the interior ministry, told IRIN on 9 April that since the beginning of 2008, security officials had stopped 49 children from being smuggled into Saudi Arabia, which shares a long and porous border with Yemen.

Officials at Yemen’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour say the Saudi authorities arrest an average of 10 Yemeni children a day as they attempt to cross into Saudi border illegally.

The first step of the new initiative will be to conduct a thorough assessment of the issue in order to produce reliable statistics to work with. To this effect, a joint study will be undertaken by Yemen and its richer neighbour Saudi Arabia.

In addition, the two countries are expected to sign a bilateral agreement on trafficked children based on international treaties.

Tackling the root of the problem

The plan will also study the socio-economic conditions of families that are most prone to allow their children to be trafficked, so that the problem can be tackled at its root.

Once enough reliable information on child trafficking is gathered, the plan is to provide a framework for government efforts to combat child trafficking by detailing the appropriate measures necessary to stop the abduction, sale or trade of children for any purpose.

The plan will also review laws and their amendments to ensure human traffickers are penalised and trafficked children are compensated.

The plan's programmes and activities will be funded from the national budget, though it is not yet known how much they will cost.