June 7, 2009

Pregnant Women Being Trafficked for Their Babies

Pregnant women being trafficked for their babies
Updated May 25, 2009 12:48:54

First world demand to adopt very young babies is driving a new twist in people smuggling, particularly in Asia.

One of Australia's senior law officers says more and more, smugglers are trading in pregnant women - the perfect incubators - for access to their newborns. Australia's Chief Federal Magistrate John Pascoe is presenting a paper on the issue to the LawAsia conference in Singapore, which is looking at children and the law.

He says that among the measures needed to fight the insidious trade should be a new system of children's rights. To illustrate the shift in focus for the smugglers, Mr Pascoe describes a 2003 case that happened off Indonesia.

Presenter: Linda Mottram
Speaker: Australia's Chief Federal Magistrate John Pascoe.

JOHN PASCOE: There were eight babies in the boat. They were packed in styrofoam fish boxes, that were punctured in order to enable them to breathe and put very crudely, this is seen by traffickers as not a particularly good way of moving children because there are health consequences and it is seen as both safer for the child and safer in terms of detection for them to move the pregnant mother across the national boundary.

LINDA MOTTRAM: Do you have any idea about the extent of the problem, what sort of numbers we're talking about?

JOHN PASCOE: Sadly this is a crime which is very hidden, trafficking generally is very much a hidden crime, but there are increasing numbers of reports, there are fortunately an increasing number of arrests in this area, so we believe that it's increasing and that the numbers are probably in the thousands rather than in tens or hundreds.

LINDA MOTTRAM: So why is this growing? Is it just because the trafficking progress is evolving? The traffickers are finding new and better ways, if you like, to move the people they want to move or are there other factors there?

JOHN PASCOE: We believe that trafficking is always motivated by economics, but also there is significant demand for children for adoption apart from anything else. I believe that most newly born children end up in some sort of illegal adoption process. There's huge demand from first world countries for very young children for adoption purposes.

LINDA MOTTRAM: Well, what can be done about this? There are international conventions on the rights and protection of children but clearly that's inadequate?

JOHN PASCOE: Yes, I think we need to encourage countries throughout the Asia Pacific region to become signatories to the various conventions that protect the rights of the child. and that is not universal across the region. And I am also putting forward that I think we need to move to a system that actually gives a child rights which crystallise the moment it is born and those rights should include a right to know its nationality, to know who its parents are and generally to be properly cared for.

MOTTRAM: But, is that sort of thing going to really do anything to stop traffickers who clearly are willing to go to any lengths to make money out of humans?

PASCOE: I think where there is money, human ingenuity will often find a way to get it. But I think this is really all about making it as difficult as possible. We also need to increase border protection, so that when somebody moves across a national boundary with a child that was not on their passport, for example, when they entered the country, that questions are asked and that officials don't turn a blind eye for whatever reason that they may choose to do that.

MOTTRAM: Do you think or have any sense of whether those adopting parents in the first world with sufficient money have any idea of where these babies are coming from?

PASCOE: Broadly speaking, I think no. I think many of them are genuinely motivated by the desire to give a child a better life and I think they would be horrified if they knew, for example, that the child had been stolen as sometimes occurred or that the mother actually had no idea what was really happening to her child.

(*You can "click" on the title to this post to be directed to the original article and listen to the actual interview online).

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