(MENAFN - Arab News) The number of children being trafficked from Yemen to Saudi Arabia in 2009 has decreased, according to the Yemeni Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor.
Officials there attribute awareness campaigns on child trafficking, collaboration between Yemeni and Saudi authorities and the unstable situation in northern Yemen as the reasons behind the slowdown.
According to Abbas Ghalib, head of the juveniles department at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor in Sanaa, only 602 children were reported as trafficked to Saudi Arabia in 2009, compared to 900 in 2008.
Most children being trafficked end up being used as street beggars, according to Ayman Abulaban, Riyadh-based UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) representative for the Gulf region. "Children are being exploited as beggars particularly around the time of Haj and Umrah," he said.
On the streets of Jeddah, one can notice those children standing next to traffic lights and moving between cars asking for money. "UNICEF is trying to help coordinate activities by both governments to prevent trafficking from happening and to help the children in accordance with child rights," Abulaban said.
Children who are trafficked into the Kingdom are denied education and face a lifetime of abject poverty, living off the grid at the mercy of their abusers. Girls often end up in prostitution.
"UNICEF wants the children to be treated as victims, not criminals," said Abulaban. "(We) want them to be treated in a humanitarian way and be repatriated to their families."
Abulaban said child trafficking in Saudi Arabia doesn't come only from Yemen but from other places as well.
By Laura Bashraheel