November 21, 2005

Pakistan fears human traffickers in quake zone

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Aid agencies and the Pakistan
government are working together to warn survivors of last
month's deadly earthquake against falling prey to human
traffickers, the International Organization for Migration (IOM)
said on Monday.

The quake, which killed more than 73,000 people and left
2.5 million homeless, has raised fears that gangs, already
active in Pakistan, will move into quake-devastated areas and
dupe families into letting them take women and children.

"Very often we see traffickers taking advantage of people's
desperate situation, moving into a situation where families can
be persuaded or compelled to part with their children," Brunson
McKinley, head of the Geneva-based IOM, told a news conference
in Islamabad.

"We have noticed in other emergencies, including also the
(Asian) tsunami, there's a kind of new opportunity for

Traffickers offer to take a child or a woman away with them
to another place and give them a job, so they can earn money
and send it back home to their families. Instead, they often
end up sold into child labor or prostitution. Some are just

The IOM, which plays a leading role globally against human
trafficking, is working with the government to alert survivors
to the danger of traffickers with an information campaign that
will go into the many tent villages scattered around the quake

McKinley said this was a preventive measure as he had not
yet heard of any cases where traffickers had succeeded in
luring away quake survivors.

Pakistan has set up refuges for orphans and widows to keep
them out of the clutches of traffickers. It has also frozen
adoptions of Pakistanis, McKinley said.

"When the door is open for adoption of orphans, it's
another avenue of approach to this problem by unscrupulous
businessmen, gangs and traffickers," he added.