Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat – A Saudi charity, in collaboration with UNICEF, plans to carry out a groundbreaking study on the exploitation and trafficking of children.
Ashari Khalil, director of the international institute for humanitarian sciences and an advisor to the UN body, told Asharq Al Awsat, “The study is being financed by UNICEF and will be overseen by AL-Bir Charity Organization in Jeddah.”
The study will fill a gap in statistics and information about the problems facing children in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world. It will focus on “identifying the ways the police, passport authority and those fighting homelessness deal with children…we need qualitative data,” Khalil added. He stated that though it is important to gain qualitative information, the priority lies in “recognizing the nature of the problem in the country itself and to classify cases according to the definitions set by international treaties. This is especially considering that the term “begging” that is used by a number of countries has a number of meanings that one needs to understand such as exploiting children in illegal activities or trafficking.”
Dr Ashari stated that the study is the first of its kind, as the Saudi association will receive financial support from UNICEF. He added that the association has demonstrated a great sense of awareness concerning the needs of the region for such studies, as well as excellent understanding of UNICEF’s regulations in this context. He adds that it is for these reasons that the association gained support from the international body. He said, “We are waiting for relevant information to assist us in implementing the organization’s plans to protect children in all parts of the world with no exceptions.”
The director of Al Bir charity in Jeddah, Mahmood Baquis asserted that the association in cooperation with the sociology department of the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah would form a team of specialists, academics and students to undertake field research to define cases in which children are exploited and to look at how authorities deal with such cases and the related safety procedures to design strategies that could combat this phenomenon. Baquis added that the team would begin its work as soon as university examinations are over. He said that the lack of information and data is the main reason that such an important study has not been conducted.
The Naif University for Security Sciences in Riyadh sponsored a workshop held in the city that was attended by Arab representatives. Dr Adeeb Khadour, a specialist in security affairs presented a paper that affirmed the lack of information in the Arab world regarding child trafficking. The security specialist called on media institutions to help combat this phenomenon by highlighting the international crisis. The General Director of UNICEF, Carol Bellamy stated, “No country in the world is free from child trafficking.”
Dr Khadour focused on some fundamental aspects of the issue of child trafficking and the importance of understanding the reasons for this trend that may involve forcing children to get involved in prostitution, employment, to take part in armed conflicts, to be domestic servants, to be used for sexual exploitation or to be bought for their organs. He provided some alarming figures concerning child trafficking around the world.
According to the International Labor Organization, the child trafficking industry is estimated at 22 billion dollars and the number of children involved in this phenomenon exceeds five million. Illegal institutions in Thailand depend on child prostitution as a major source of income in tourism as it brings in 15% of the Gross Domestic Product.
The report highlighted that the number of child laborers between the ages of five and seventeen exceeded 325 million in 2003, more than the population of the United States. 70% of these laborers work in dangerous conditions and 73 million of these children are under the age of ten.
Dr Khadour’s paper included information from various official, media and academic sources. The report also referred to the selling of organs for surgical purposes, in which cases the child is sold for 15, 000 Euros.