There are fewer reports of human trafficking in Macau, but as Good Shepherd Centre explains, that does not necessarily mean human trafficking is decreasing.
The government of Macau collaborates with the Good Shepherd Centre, the Macao Women’s General Association, and the International Organization for Migration to provide support to victims, including medical care, legal advice, and economic support.
Juliana Devoy, Director of the Good Shepherd Centre, noted that the number of trafficked minors they have assisted has decreased in recent years.
“We have an agreement with the government, for 10 years now, where we receive the minors. Since then, we’ve had over 50 girls here. But, we had 29 in 2013, 16 in 2012, three in 2016, and two in 2017,” she said.
“The number has fluctuated a lot, for at the beginning there were many more. It is very hard, though, to find the reason for this – but in my opinion the traffickers are just getting smarter.”
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“Does this mean there are indeed fewer cases? We have no idea. There may in fact be more cases but they do not know of them. It’s difficult to ascertain”, she said.
There is a pattern to the victims found, points out Juliana Devoy. The minors found are always female from more remote areas of Mainland China who have abandoned school and are unhappy at home, making them more vulnerable to traffickers.
“These are good children,” believes the Director of the Centre, who regrets their fate.
The difficulty in building up a criminal case stems from lack of evidence and testimony from the victims. “The girls won’t testify. They are very much controlled by the traffickers,” laments Devoy.
Debbie Lau, who helps at the Good Shepherd Centre, explained that part of the problem is that traffickers promise money to their victims.
“The trafficker keeps the money they get from customers for a month or two, and only after that will they start giving some of it to the girls. As such, if during that time the girls happen to be picked up by the police they will want to leave quickly to find the traffickers and get the money back,” explained Lau.
The director of Good Shepherd Centre says that Macau needs to allow victims to stay longer so that their cases can be fully investigated and NGOs can earn the trust of minors. Currently, if victims do not cooperate with police their case is closed and they are repatriated within a few days.
As Devoy points out, “If there is a longer period, our team has a greater opportunity for establishing a connection with the girls. It is not possible to create a rapport in two or three days.”