As a growing number of Vietnamese children and women are trafficked to neighboring countries, Vietnamese and Chinese government officials met in Hanoi in May 2000 to discuss a joint strategy to overcome cross-border trafficking.1
Due to the illicit nature of the business, little is known about trafficked children and those who enslave them. A study conducted by the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs in 1999 (MOLISA) indicated that trafficked children typically belong to the poor provinces of Vietnam. Their parents are normally offered a few hundred dollars with a guarantee that their child will get a well-paid job. Instead, the children are promptly deprived of their identity papers and forced into slavery.
The meeting of Vietnamese and Chinese officials in Hanoi was followed up by a field assessment and a joint survey later that year. On the basis of the gathered information a network for exchange of information was created and mechanisms to rescue the victims of cross border trafficking were introduced.
Under the current plan, border guards and women's union representatives in the affected provinces will undergo training to help them meet the needs of the trafficked persons. Returning persons will be given empathetic care in shelters. Vietnam has signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, committing itself to combat illicit transfer and trafficking of children, as expressed in article 11 and 35.
The government of Vietnam encourages the participation of international agencies such as UNICEF and local NGOs to work with local-level child protection networks to protect and prevent Vietnamese children from being trafficked to China, Cambodia and other countries in the region. Information about commercial and sexual exploitation of women and children is also regularly disseminated through newspapers and TV.
Over the last five years,2 the Youth Social Work Center organized eleven workshops in provinces and cities with the aim of preventing sexual abuse and child prostitution, which in many cases result from child trafficking. Government personnel participated in these workshops at which participants exchanged experiences about how different communities had tackled the problems of trafficking and child sex abuse.
The Youth Social Work Center also organized training courses for "cadres of organizations," giving them skills and knowledge to prevent child sexual abuse and child prostitution, and to help victims. In 1998, UNICEF reported that the Youth Social Work Center's information campaign was considered a success.
A birth registration program has been a significant advance. Birth registration not only makes it easier to track children that are missing but also ensures their rights to a nationality. Networks of community collaborators have been trained to teach families how to protect and care for their children and how to be alert to procurers and traffickers.
According to the Director of the Anti-Vice Department, the minimum age of people who can be sent to medical facilities and rehabilitation centers would be lowered to fourteen. Currently only persons eighteen years or above can be sent to rehabilitation centers managed by the Ministry of Public Security.
The Youth Social Work Center has said that it collaborates with other organizations in providing direct care and support for victims of sexual exploitation. In particular, victims are provided with physical and psychological rehabilitation and reintegration into the community. According to the Youth Association, it has not been given permission by the authorities to carry out programs to help bring back child victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation from Cambodia to Vietnam.
In 1998, the Vietnam Women's Union reported that it was very active in the rehabilitation of women and their children from China and that some of their work was being supported by the IOM. It was also reported in 1998 that a certain amount of co-operation takes place with information about Vietnamese children and issues of repatriation. The Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children's Rights is very active in the area of rescuing Vietnamese children from brothels in Cambodia and working for their repatriation to Vietnam.
Vietnam is planning to amend its adoption laws in an effort to stop the trafficking of babies through overseas adoption agencies. Babies can be sold for up to $50,000 each. Vietnamese officials say that overseas families have adopted 2000 babies in the last decade. Many of them have been taken to the United States of America and France.
The government is well aware of the problems of baby selling and falsification of documents. Recently, the state media reported that police had broken a major baby-selling ring, with the prosecution of sixteen people in the southern city of Ho Chi Minh. However, the illegal practices continue, at so-called baby hotels where deals are made, through orphanages, and through traffickers and intermediaries who find the babies and sell them.
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