The trafficking of children is on the rise globally! What are we doing about it?

According to a recent United Nations report, the trafficking of girls make up 2 out of every 3 child trafficking victims. And together with women, they account for 70 per cent of overall trafficking victims worldwide.

The fact remains: the most vulnerable are continually targeted for exploitation.

One in three known victims of human trafficking is a child, and girls and women are particularly targeted and forced into “modern slavery,” according to the 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.

These statistics speaks to the fact that vulnerable persons everywhere are targeted, as no country is immune. There are at least 152 countries of origin – where women adn children are procured from – for exploitation, and there are 124 countries of destination affected by trafficking in persons, and over 510 trafficking flows criss-crossing the world.

The 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons found that most trafficking flows are interregional, and more than 6 out of 10 victims have been trafficked across at least one national border.

The ease of access for traffickers cross borders questions the criminality of immigration officers who are government officials, who either turn a blind eye, get paid off, or are involved in the trafficking flow directly that ensures these traffickers avoid detection.

72 per cent of convicted traffickers are male and citizens of the country in which they operate.

The report also highlighted that impunity remains a serious problem.

An example of this is that 40 per cent of countries recorded few or no convictions, and over the past 10 years there has been no discernible increase in the global criminal justice response to this crime, leaving a significant portion of the population vulnerable to offenders.

Let’s look at how that affects victims in our region, and how Australia is not only a demand nation for the trafficked, but how Australian citizens abuse these vulnerable victims in our region.

Michael Refalo, a 61-year-old Australian national was arrested on 13 May 2015 on two charges of human trafficking by Philippine authorities. Refalo’s arrest follows an extensive investigation which uncovered the abuse and exploitation of 14 girls, including 10 suspected minors, over the last three to four years.

Australian Michael Refalo Arrested in Philippines for Abusing School Children

According to the victims, Refalo promised them food, money, cell phones, and even payment for schooling in order to lure them to his home. In exchange, he would require them to have sex with him.

Authorities, including the Vice Governor of Cebu and the Cebu Provincial Police, mobilized to arrest Refalo, but he fled to another island several hours away. Cebu police immediately enlisted the help of the mayor and local police. Days later, Refalo was apprehended.

For Rafalo to be apprehended, there was cooperation between the national and local police, and government and social services. The various members of the public justice system have to work together to protect vulnerable women and children not only in the Philippines, but regionally.

Refalo is now in jail awaiting trial. If convicted of qualified trafficking, he will be sentenced to life in prison, according to the Philippine’s appropriately stringent anti-trafficking laws.

Although he may have been considered untouchable due to his resources and influence, authorities proved the opposite. “Despite his resources and influence, Mr. Refalo is not above the law,” remarked Jesse Rudy, National Director for International Justice Mission in the Philippines.

Jeff Nagle, Chief Executive of IJM Australia. “Michael Refalo’s case sends a clear message to Australian pedophiles, and to sex tourists and traffickers worldwide: abuse a child and you will be held to account.” For more information

So, if we are relying on the justice system to ensure investigations of these heinous crimes, representation for the victims, and for appropriate sentencing for the scums who commit such atrocious criminal acts, what is the state of the justice system like in often third world countries, in which the most vulnerable women and children can be found?

Let’s look at the most vulnerable of them all: the access to justice that children experience:

The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Gabriela Knaul made public her findings during the presentation of her latest report to the UN Human Rights Council, stating that: ‘A justice system that fails children ultimately fails society’.

Despite the quasi-universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the report notes that children still count among the most vulnerable to human rights violations and other types of abuse.

“Children still count among the most vulnerable to human rights violations and other types of abuse,” Ms. Knaul said, calling on States to develop justice systems adapted to their needs and rights. “Justice must be child-sensitive; it needs to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of children and take into account their best interests.”

“Every day throughout the world, countless children suffer adverse consequences at the hands of justice systems that disregard or even directly violate their fundamental human rights,” she noted. “Not only do children face the same obstacles as adults to access justice, but they also encounter challenges and barriers linked to their status of minors.”

“For this reason, the importance of child-sensitive justice – justice that respects, protects and fulfills the rights of children – cannot be overemphasized,” the expert said in her report. “An administration of justice that fails children ultimately also fails society.”

Ms. Knaul said “it is unacceptable that children who come into contact with the justice system are often victimized or re-victimized.”

The treatment of children in judicial proceedings around the world, both civil and criminal, is not satisfactory and often “unacceptable,” the UN human rights expert on the independence of judges and lawyers said today and called on countries to develop justice systems that are sensitive to the needs of children.

“Judges, prosecutors and lawyers can influence the future course of children’s lives,” the expert said. “To discharge such a great responsibility, it is essential that they receive specialized education and training in international human rights and in particular children’s rights.”

So, if children everywhere are the most vulnerable and susceptible to abuse and exploitation, and we rely not he justice system for their protection, and the most recent UN report has claimed that the justice system remains most ineffective for children, where does that leave children?

Outside the responsibility of families for their own children, where is a child meant to turn for protection and help?

This gives greater reason and cause for education, representation and advocacy on behalf of the child globally, particularly children who live in vulnerable circumstance.According to a recent United Nations report, the trafficking of girls make up 2 out of every 3 child trafficking victims. And together with women, they account for 70 per cent of overall trafficking victims worldwide.

The fact remains: the most vulnerabl are contiually targeted for exploitation.

One in three known victims of human trafficking is a child, and girls and women are particularly targeted and forced into “modern slavery,” according to the 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.

These statistics speaks to the fact that vulnerable persons everywhere are targeted, as no country is immune. There are at least 152 countries of origin – where women adn children are procured from – for exploitation, and there are 124 countries of destination affected by trafficking in persons, and over 510 trafficking flows criss-crossing the world.

The 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons found that most trafficking flows are interregional, and more than 6 out of 10 victims have been trafficked across at least one national border.

The ease of access for traffickers cross borders questions the criminality of immigration officers who are government officials, who either turn a blind eye, get paid off, or are involved in the trafficking flow directly that ensures these traffickers avoid detection.

72 per cent of convicted traffickers are male and citizens of the country in which they operate.

The report also highlighted that impunity remains a serious problem.

An example of this is that 40 per cent of countries recorded few or no convictions, and over the past 10 years there has been no discernible increase in the global criminal justice response to this crime, leaving a significant portion of the population vulnerable to offenders.

Let’s look at how that affects victims in our region, and how Australia is not only a demand nation for the trafficked, but how Australian citizens abuse these vulnerable victims in our region.

Michael Refalo, a 61-year-old Australian national was arrested on 13 May 2015 on two charges of human trafficking by Philippine authorities. Refalo’s arrest follows an extensive investigation which uncovered the abuse and exploitation of 14 girls, including 10 suspected minors, over the last three to four years.

Australian Michael Refalo Arrested in Philippines for Abusing School Children

According to the victims, Refalo promised them food, money, cell phones, and even payment for schooling in order to lure them to his home. In exchange, he would require them to have sex with him.

Authorities, including the Vice Governor of Cebu and the Cebu Provincial Police, mobilized to arrest Refalo, but he fled to another island several hours away. Cebu police immediately enlisted the help of the mayor and local police. Days later, Refalo was apprehended.

For Rafalo to be apprehended, there was cooperation between the national and local police, and government and social services. The various members of the public justice system have to work together to protect vulnerable women and children not only in the Philippines, but regionally.

Refalo is now in jail awaiting trial. If convicted of qualified trafficking, he will be sentenced to life in prison, according to the Philippine’s appropriately stringent anti-trafficking laws.

Although he may have been considered untouchable due to his resources and influence, authorities proved the opposite. “Despite his resources and influence, Mr. Refalo is not above the law,” remarked Jesse Rudy, National Director for International Justice Mission in the Philippines.

Jeff Nagle, Chief Executive of IJM Australia. “Michael Refalo’s case sends a clear message to Australian pedophiles, and to sex tourists and traffickers worldwide: abuse a child and you will be held to account.” For more information

So, if we are relying on the justice system to ensure investigations of these heinous crimes, representation for the victims, and for appropriate sentencing for the scums who commit such atrocious criminal acts, what is the state of the justice system like in often third world countries, in which the most vulnerable women and children can be found?

Let’s look at the most vulnerable of them all: the access to justice that children experience:

The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Gabriela Knaul made public her findings during the presentation of her latest report to the UN Human Rights Council, stating that: ‘A justice system that fails children ultimately fails society’.

Despite the quasi-universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the report notes that children still count among the most vulnerable to human rights violations and other types of abuse.

“Children still count among the most vulnerable to human rights violations and other types of abuse,” Ms. Knaul said, calling on States to develop justice systems adapted to their needs and rights. “Justice must be child-sensitive; it needs to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of children and take into account their best interests.”

“Every day throughout the world, countless children suffer adverse consequences at the hands of justice systems that disregard or even directly violate their fundamental human rights,” she noted. “Not only do children face the same obstacles as adults to access justice, but they also encounter challenges and barriers linked to their status of minors.”

“For this reason, the importance of child-sensitive justice – justice that respects, protects and fulfills the rights of children – cannot be overemphasized,” the expert said in her report. “An administration of justice that fails children ultimately also fails society.”

Ms. Knaul said “it is unacceptable that children who come into contact with the justice system are often victimized or re-victimized.”

The treatment of children in judicial proceedings around the world, both civil and criminal, is not satisfactory and often “unacceptable,” the UN human rights expert on the independence of judges and lawyers said today and called on countries to develop justice systems that are sensitive to the needs of children.

“Judges, prosecutors and lawyers can influence the future course of children’s lives,” the expert said. “To discharge such a great responsibility, it is essential that they receive specialized education and training in international human rights and in particular children’s rights.”

For more information.

So, if children everywhere are the most vulnerable and susceptible to abuse and exploitation, and we rely not he justice system for their protection, and the most recent UN report has claimed that the justice system remains most ineffective for children, where does that leave children?

Outside the responsibility of families for their own children, where is a child meant to turn for protection and help?

This gives greater reason and cause for education, representation and advocacy on behalf of the child globally, particularly children who live in vulnerable circumstance.

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