April 20, 2009: Along with a sobering report about child trafficking in the United Kingdom, this last week saw a burst of local coverage of Malaysia’s human trafficking problem, including two articles noting the great efforts of the non-governmental organization Tenaganita.
According to an article published April 15 in the Daily Express, Malaysia’s Sabah region has become a “hotbed for human trafficking in the country, the victims being women and children forced into prostitution.”
The report cites Tenaganita, a partner of the Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia (CAMSA), as declaring the Sabah problem “quite serious,” and one related to criminals moving there to escape more stringent monitoring by authorities elsewhere in Malaysia.
Tenaganita’s executive director, Dr. Irene Hernandez, told the newspaper that of the 119 cases of human trafficking in Malaysia, 80 percent of the victims had been rescued in Sabah. She identified a worrying trend: Among those rescued were children below the age of 16, and some were as young as 13 and 14.
“This means that children are being brought in for forced prostitution,” she said at the opening of a local two-day workshop on the “Role of the Media in Countering Trafficking in Persons.”
According to a separate report in The New Sabah Times published April 16, Tenaganita rescued 24 women from human traffickers in various locations in the Sabah and FT Labuan regions in the last seven months.
“The girls from Vietnam and Cambodia were … promised jobs in factories in Kuala Lumpur, but instead they were forced into prostitution once they arrived here and Kuala Lumpur,” a Tenaganita spokesperson told the newspaper.
Meanwhile, trafficking in children, including Vietnamese, is reaching as far as the United Kingdom, according to an April 14 article in The Guardian. The report says this trade is actually becoming more common.
The report notes that “suspected victims of child trafficking from Asia, Africa and the Middle East are being smuggled through Britain’s leading ports and airports at an accelerating rate …A total of 957 children, including more than 400 from Afghanistan and 200 from Africa, were picked up by local authorities in the eight months between April 2008 and the end of the year.”
According to the article, the figure represents a 90 percent increase over the annual rate of arrivals for the preceding three years.
The largest proportion of trafficked children arrive in Kent, where in the last recorded eight months, authorities gathered 255 Afghan children, 55 from Iran, 50 from Iraq and 49 from Eritrea as well as others from Vietnam, China, Kosovo, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka and Turkey.