Campaigners are calling on the UK to update its laws to include orphanage trafficking as a form of modern slavery.
This is seen as an important measure to prevent funding and volunteers from being sent to unscrupulous orphanages that seize children with the aim of attracting donations from foreigners, especially tourists.
According to Lumos, a charity founded by “Harry Potter”author J.K. Rowling, at least 8 million children worldwide live in orphanages or other institutions despite having a living parent.
“Being able to chart and scope this form of exploitation, and prosecute it as a serious criminal act, must be a priority for the UK as part of its drive to tackle modern slavery,” said Chloe Setter, advisor for Lumos.
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
Children in countries from Cambodia to Haiti are taken from their homes and put into orphanages to attract donations and help from volunteers – often tourists – according to charities.
Britain has a responsibility to tackle the issue because the country contributes significant cash and support to orphanages, from students going abroad and volunteer agencies to travel firms and faith groups, said Christian charity Home For Good.
Hailed as a global leader in the anti-slavery drive, Britain said in July it would review its landmark 2015 law amid criticism that it is not being used fully to jail traffickers, help victims, or drive companies to spot and stop forced labour.
Several British lawmakers said they would call for the legislation to be updated to account for orphanage trafficking at a debate on modern slavery in parliament on Tuesday.
“We can contribute to the problem by supporting unhelpful forms of care through our funding or volunteering; in turn creating an orphanage industry and a ‘demand’ for orphans,” opposition politician Barry Sheerman said ahead of the event.
Charities and politicians are not necessarily demanding that funding be withdrawn, but rather redirected to better forms of care. In particular, campaigners want to reunite trafficked children with their families or help them be fostered locally.
“Supporting or volunteering in orphanages is contributing to a model of care that is harmful to children. It is fundamentally flawed,” added Rebecca Smith, senior child protection advisor at Save the Children UK.
“There is no such thing as a good orphanage.”