Father Shay Cullen, an Irish missionary in the Philippines and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, warned that the children made orphans by Typhoon Haiyan are in danger of becoming victims of human trafficking.
There are thousands of children who have become orphans after the storm that struck the province of Leyte. And they are the most vulnerable victims, as they find themselves alone, wandering through the rubble, looking for someone to take care of them.
As the orphaned children wander about, they become “the main victims of jackals who seize them for child abuse or human trafficking,” he told the Fides news agency. “It is a horrible prospect, but it is extremely realistic in the case of natural disasters. These children are in need of immediate attention, to be saved from the clutches of traffickers and pedophiles.”
“Under the pretext of saving or taking care of children, traffickers kidnap them and sell them to pedophiles,” he added. “Or they earn large sums of money by providing the children for illegal adoptions. Even worse, they introduce them into the world of prostitution, making them slaves of sexual exploitation.”
Fr. Shay Cullen, SSC, has been living in the Philippines since 1969, and he is known for his social and pastoral commitment, especially for child victims of sexual exploitation.
“Given the wide devastation, it is expected that the hunger emergency and the plight of the refugees will last many months”, says Fr. Cullen. It is the ideal situation for jackals. “We must do everything possible to stop child trafficking. Our association ‘Preda Foundation’ – he concludes – has sent skilled social workers in the affected area to help protect and take care of homeless children”.
In 2003, the Philippine government enacted the Anti- Trafficking in Persons Act, a criminal law against human trafficking, sex tourism , sexual slavery and child prostitution, which defines child trafficking “crime against humanity”.