Somalias children smuggled abroad to an uncertain future UN reports

Faced with desperate choices and a bleak future in their own country, many Somali parents pay up to $10,000 to child traffickers, who “abandon” the children at airports and railway stations in European and North American countries, says “A Gap in their Hearts: the experience of separated Somali children,” which was prepared by OCHA’s independent humanitarian news service known as the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN).The report quotes child smugglers who claim that up to 250 children – mostly teenagers but some two to three year-olds – are sent out of Somalia every month. Families blame poor education, sparse health facilities, poverty and conflict as reasons to spent thousands of dollars to smuggle their children abroad.But while some “separated” children end up with caring relatives, some are burdened by serious psychological and identity problems; they are coached and intimidated to assume a new name, age and a made-up family history. The report also says that in extreme cases some fall into the hands of international criminal gangs. Houdan, a “separated” child studying biotechnology in Sweden, is quoted in the report as saying that for people like him, the problems outweigh advantages. “It is tragic…they can’t take advantage of the opportunities they are sent for because of their circumstances,” he says.The children also pose a challenge to host countries where immigration and security measures after the 11 September terror attacks in the United States have been tightened and their rights often come under question. With immigration one of the most important issues in the West today, the report says that development and aid is imperative rather than erecting more barriers in the host countries. After a decade of international neglect and collapse of the state in 1991, Somalia produces one of the largest groups of separated children who arrive in Europe and North America. read more

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