Child trafficking: Sri Lankan children victims of trafficking (and easy passports)
An organised crime cartel allegedly brought 13 children 'regularly' from Sri Lanka to Malaysia and from there, using false documents, they were trafficked to the rest of the world, including Europe. The chairman of the National Child Protection Authority, Udayakumara Amarasinghe: 'Parents are given a certain amount of money to take them abroad even though this is a criminal offence'.
Colombo (AsiaNews) - Last week the Sri Lankan immigration and emigration control body filed a formal complaint with the human trafficking, smuggling and maritime crime investigation division of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) regarding an alleged 'cartel' of human trafficking - in particular children under 18 years of age, mostly Tamil citizens from the northern and eastern areas - who were allegedly brought to Malaysia.
Having arrived in the South-East Asian country "in a regular fashion" and often accompanied by their parents who receive money in exchange, traffickers would provide them with false passports with which these children would then be sold in other countries including France and the United Kingdom using counterfeit travel documents.
According to senior police officials, 13 cases of minors sent to Malaysia under this system have so far been confirmed, but there could be more. An intermediary trafficker was identified in the operation, while investigations are currently underway to arrest the suspects. In the meantime, recovery operations are underway for minors trafficked abroad with false passports.
Senior officials from the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs revealed to AsiaNews that the institutions are currently consulting with the relevant law enforcement agencies to take ministerial-level action regarding the alleged child trafficking racket reported from Malaysia, while the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) is monitoring the ongoing investigation.
Addressing Parliament, Minister for Women and Children Geetha Kumarasinghe said she had been informed of developments in the case and was awaiting information on the distressing organized and specialized child trafficking racket: “I have instructed the Secretary of Ministry - said Kumarasinghe - to launch an investigation into this shocking phenomenon."
In the meantime, the institutions should move on the prevention of the phenomenon: according to the lawyer Sahan Senanayake "the Department of Immigration and Emigration should be more careful when issuing passports to children, even if the request is made by their own parents".
National Child Protection Authority chairman Udayakumara Amarasinghe believes these children went to Malaysia with their parents or legal guardians. “From there the criminal group then takes over and sends them to Europe and beyond.” Amarasinghe emphasizes the fact that "sometimes parents or guardians are offered a sum of money, thus committing a criminal offence".
According to a senior Sri Lankan police official, around 30 children were sold for money by their families in 2020, through a racket known as "baby farming". Women from the most vulnerable sections of the population were attracted with money given in exchange for their children, who were then sold abroad.