RIYADH: SHARIF M. TAHA
Published — Saturday 16 February 2013
Last update 16 February 2013 3:58 am
Child protection activists on the Saudi-Yemeni border have launched several programs to rehabilitate child workers repatriated from Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries.
The project is being coordinated with the International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) and focuses on the creation of jobs in Hajjah Province, in Yemen's north-west region.
The project aims to minimize infiltration and trafficking of children across the border looking for jobs in other countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, and facilitate their return to school, said Nabil Shalf, Director of the Child Protection Center in Hardh.
He stressed the importance of providing basic public services and developmental projects in Yemeni provinces and regions, known as the source of many child workers and beggars.
He said the center was set up temporarily by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Salih Social Development Foundation (SSDF) and the Yemeni government. It receives repatriated children at Hardh border point. Some 1,716 children, victims of trafficking, were received there over the last three years, Shalf said.
In a three-month period, the center received more than 60 children caught by Yemeni security agencies before they were smuggled out. The Saudi authorities deported more than 30 children, aged between 12 and 16, as they were trying to cross into Saudi territory looking for work, he added.
Meanwhile, the officer responsible for the Elimination of Child Labor at the Yemeni Ministry of Social Affairs, Muna Salim, said health and education plans need to be prepared now to deal with this problem in future.
Shalf said a security action plan will be drawn up in the next few days to deal with the infiltration of Yemeni minors into other countries through the Hardh border point and to crack down on child trafficking agents. A number of people were recently arrested and sentenced to between one and three years for trafficking children, he said.
Members of the elimination of child trafficking technical committee in Yemen said child workers seek jobs in other countries because of various factors including poverty, poor living conditions, limited incomes, high levels of illiteracy, violence, divorce and disintegration of families.
Officials at childcare centers in Hardh say poor awareness has led some families to send their children to foreign countries regardless of the risks involved. Other families see nothing wrong with child labor and work with traffickers to have their children smuggled out to foreign countries, they said.
The problem has been worsened by the non-existence of clear-cut laws criminalizing child trafficking, according to experts.
Shalf said that the Yemeni government and UNICEF are conducting awareness campaigns, panel discussions and symposia at local and national levels on the problem. A documentary film was produced and screened for teachers, students, parents and the general public, he said.