Vietnamese children who are trafficked from Vietnam to the UK are being abused as they transit through Europe. And according to a new report from Anti-Slavery International, the Pacific Links Foundation, and Every Child Protected Against Trafficking UK (Ecpat UK) European governments are “passing the buck” on dealing with the problem.
“What we found from our research is that governments see these children are passing through their countries to get to western Europe and the UK, so they act like it’s not their problem and they can just pass the buck,” said Debbie Beadle from Ecpat UK.
“They’re not identifying trafficking victims and even NGOs are not seeing it as an issue. Victims are being arrested and seen as criminals rather than victims of trafficking. Under international law, states have a duty to protect children from trafficking and exploitation. It’s simply not acceptable for states to regard trafficked Vietnamese children as another country’s problem.”
The Guardian reports:
Victims are typically trafficked through eight countries before arriving in the UK, and at each point are vulnerable to labour and sexual exploitation.
The report, based on 18 months of research with law enforcement, NGOs, government officials and members of the Vietnamese community across Europe, found that Vietnamese children are routinely trafficked by plane from Vietnam to Russia, then overland through Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands and France.
In some cases, children are forced to enter EU countries on foot through woodland to escape the eyes of the authorities; in others they are driven by car or lorry, then loaded on to ferries.
Whatever the circumstances, said Mimi Vu, of the Pacific Links Foundation, governments all along the way are collectively failing to tackle the issue because they have not invested in simple resources that would yield insight into the issue – such as police officers or social workers who speak Vietnamese.
“There’s no statutory or mandatory training for frontline professionals, so you can’t guarantee a victim-centred response,” added Vu. This meant that Vietnamese children are often detained — sometimes misidentified as adults — and deported. Such criminalization has a strong deterrent effect on these victims from opening up to authorities about what is actually happening to them.
One Vietnamese girl explained: “I was a child who was taken across Europe by people I was scared of.”
“In France, the police didn’t help me and my traffickers found me again. When in the UK, I was treated like a criminal. One thing I would say to the people in Europe is, if it happened to your children, you wouldn’t ignore it. One thing I would say to the UK government is, why are the victims the ones you treat like criminals?”