CHOGM side event addresses orphanage trafficking

25 April 2018

With leaders and representatives from across the Commonwealth gathering in London in April 2018, CPA UK  together with Lumos hosted a side-event entitled: Leading the Fight against Modern Slavery-related crimes and Orphanage Trafficking.

The event presented a unique opportunity to raise awareness and develop responses to end the global phenomenon of ‘orphanage trafficking’.

Chaired by the Rt Hon. David Hanson MP, Chair of CPA UK Modern Slavery Project. the event included contributions from Kevin Hyland OBE (UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner) Senator Linda Reynolds (Australian Parliament), and Georgette Mulheir (CEO, Lumos Foundation).

An estimated 8 million children live in orphanages and other institutions across the world. More than 80 years of research has demonstrated that children raised in institutions are more likely to suffer life-long physical and psychological harm and experience dramatically reduced life chances. 

Over 80 percent of children in institutions are not ‘orphans’ and have at least one living parent. Poverty, disability, and marginalization tear children from their families. Institutions often promise food, shelter and education – yet these promises are rarely delivered.  There is a growing body of evidence highlighting how many children are being exploited: trafficked in and out of institutions, becoming victims of modern slavery.

‘Orphanage trafficking’ is the active recruitment of children into residential institutions for the purpose of exploitation.[1] Evidence across a number of countries highlights that children are removed from their families and placed in residential institutions (so-called ‘orphanages’) to attract funding and donations from foreign tourists, international charities and others. In many cases, parents are deceived or coerced by recruiters who visit poorer rural communities on behalf of orphanage directors to place their children in institutions on the promise of an education and a better life. 

Once in these institutions, children are often held in slavery-like conditions and/or subject to a range of exploitative behaviour and abuse – sexual, physical, psychological and forced labour / services. 

This is fuelled by vast sums of international money flowing into the country to support orphanages which creates a demand for children. Much of this money does not go to supporting children, but acts as an incentive, creates a market, to supply children to fill up orphanages, to encourage and meet the support of often, well-intentioned donors.

The event shared recent developments in the recognition and response to tackling orphanage trafficking, including in Australia which has specifically addressed the issue in its draft Modern Slavery Bill. Those in attendance also heard about other practical steps that can be taken to stamp out this form of modern slavery and child exploitation.

[1] Kathryn E. van Doore, 'Paper Orphans: Exploring Child Trafficking for the Purpose of Orphanages'  (2016) 24(2) International Journal of Children's Rights 378.



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