[JURIST] The government of Indonesia, concerned over reports of human trafficking in children in the wake of last week's tsunami disaster off the west coast of the country that killed over 100,000 and left other hundreds of thousands homeless, has now placed restrictions on the transport of youngsters out of the country and has brought special guards into refugee camps, directing local police commanders to be on watch against abduction or other exploitation of children. The move comes as senior UN officials with UNICEF warn that the chaotic situation with so many children suddenly left without parents has created an environment where exploitation and trafficking is likely to occur, with criminal elements attracted to camps, hospitals and other locations where children may be vulnerable. According to a UNICEF statement issued in Jakarta Tuesday,
relief efforts must ensure that children are protected from exploitation. In tumultuous environments like those in the tsunami zone – where families are broken apart, incomes are lost, and hope is in short supply – children are more vulnerable…. In some of the affected countries, reports have been emerging of opportunistic child traffickers moving in to exploit vulnerable children. UNICEF is working closely with local and national authorities to head off these criminal activities.
UNICEF executive diretor Carol Ballamy says, however, that as yet she has no concrete information on any actual trafficking, and officials with other aid agencies have called reports of child trafficking in other affected locations such as Sri Lanka "fairly unsubstantiated." At the same time, Thai authorities and INTERPOL are investigating the disappearance from hospital
of a 12-year old Swedish boy who was taken by a man who was not his father. Read the UNICEF statement here
. The UK Press Association has more
; AP offers this report