No Child Taken

Monday 10 July

Tearfund Ireland's Emma Lynch and Gemma Kelly led a seminar at #Sligo17 looking at the global issue of child trafficking and asking What can we do?  Here's a summary of a sobering and thought-provoking seminar.

Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life and life in all its fullness.”  Around the world, Tearfund Ireland and its partners are bringing help and hope in situations of war, conflict, climate change, under development and extreme poverty.   Yet an underlying current in every country where they work is the massive and growing problem there is child trafficking. 

A few facts

  • 1.2 million children are trafficked every year.
  • Trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world
  • The “industry” is worth 150 billion dollars.
  • People who have been trafficked are involved in the sex trade but also forced labour, slavery, domestic servitude, the drugs trade and even the removal of organs.
  • Estimates for the number of people in slavery today range between 28 and 45 million people.
  • The average age for a trafficking victim is 13 - 14 years.

Gemma Kelly shared, “At Tearfund Ireland, we believe that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God and we believe they should be free from poverty, injustice, and violence and the horror that is human trafficking.  Trafficking goes against the core of us as human beings and Christians.  It preys on the most vulnerable.  We want to put an end to it and we believe that we can.

“These are huge numbers and it is an overwhelming situation but how can we break the cycle? Our partners in Cambodia tell us that 1 in 3 children who cross the border into Thailand will end up working in the sex industry. The reason that happens is that people who are living in extreme poverty. 

“You cannot just treat the symptoms, we need to go to the source.  When people are living in such extreme poverty that they do not have enough food to feed their children.  When you are desperate, if someone offers your child work, you may see it as an opportunity.”

What contributes to child trafficking?

  • Extreme Poverty - in some families a child might receive just one chapatti (tortilla) a day.  In such circumstances parents become desperate.
  • Natural Disasters - people lose their homes and are need to find urgent help for their children.  Someone offering care might not be seen as a threat.
  • War and conflict - as people flee violence they fall prey to traffickers
  • Climate Change - changing weather conditions leads to failed crops and new cycles of poverty and depravation.
  • Poor law enforcement and corruption - when the authorities look the other way, traffickers thrive.
  • A fatalistic worldview - when people believe “what will be, will be” then there is no hope for change.

One disturbing incidence of trafficking has arisen out of what is termed “volun-tourism.”  People want to go overseas to volunteer in an orphanage and they pay for the opportunity.  But some have set up orphanages specifically to cater for this western demand.  Children are being trafficked INTO these orphanage even when they have living parents. Orphanage recruiters promise a better life forthe children. The reality is that those children are left hugely vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse.  They can be psychologically and socially damaged.  A huge number will commit suicide. 

Surely the problem is “over there”?

The reality is that Ireland is a destination country, a transit country and also a source country for human trafficking.  Between 2014 and 2015 Department of Justice figures show a 70% increase in incidents of trafficking.   Females account for 2/3 of the victims and 91% of women who were trafficked into Ireland were trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. In 2015, Irish minors accounted for 19% of the trafficking victims with the majority forced into child pornography and child prostitution. 

What about us?

Every hand in Europe has probably worn or touched something that has been a product of people trafficking.  If you have chocolate, rice, if you have a football if you wear cotton underwear there is a possibility that at some point, someone involved in producing these things were forced to work as slaves.

Martin Luther King said, “Before you finished your breakfast this morning, you relied on half the world.” 

RIGHT NOW: Look at the labels on the clothes you are wearing.  Where were they made?  Who made your clothes?

The factory disaster in Bangladesh was a wake up call for many. If we buy a T-shirt for €8.50 somebody somewhere is paying it. They could be paying for it with long working hours, poor wages, poor conditions or worse.

Cobalt and coltan are used in majority of modern mobile phones.  These are being mined in the Congo in rebel-held areas where child labour and forced labour are used.  Reports show that children as young as seven are working in perilous conditions. 

How can we stop this cycle?

Take part in Fashion Revolution (April) 

Check out

Check out

As a result of the terrible disaster in Bangladesh, a fashion designer wanted to make the industry more ethical.  She created this global campaign. They are working with organisations and big brand companies and looking at how to make them more transparent.  They want to make sure people are paid a living wage and are not forced to work.  We buy the clothes.  Without us, there is not need for those people to work.  It is okay to want clothes but as consumers, we need to be holding big brands to account and choosing what we buy on ethical grounds.

The idea is that on April 25 (the anniversary of the disaster) you take a picture of your favourite piece of clothing and to send a message to the manufacturer or retail outlet asking… who made my clothes? 

We all have to shop smartly and use our voices to make sure we are not contributing to something evil. Think about sending an email or writing a letter.  If you are not sure who made your clothes, then ask!

Download BUYCOTT

This App allows you to sign into various campaigns and provides information about different brands. 


Turn off the Red Light Campaign

This is a recent success story.  Every day in Ireland therea re 1,000 women on sale as prostitutes.  For the most part (90%) these women have been forced, coerced, trafficked or forced out of desperation because of drug addiction.  The links between human trafficking and prostitution are inextricable. 

Tearfund Ireland and many other organisations campaigned to criminalise the buyers of sex (the Swedish model).  When you curb the demand, supply has to go down.

After campaigning for five years the Criminal Law Sexual Offences Act was part in the Republic of Ireland in February this year. Involved in this legislation were numerous other provisions that will go a long way to protecting children.  And it happened because people campaigned for it.  People went to the government and said, “We want to live in a country where you cannot buy and sell other human beings.”  Our voices have power and we can change things.  We can change laws.  It takes a long time, but it can happen.

Ethical Shopping

Tearfund Ireland and VOX magazine are working together to produce an ethical shopping guide that will be published in the October issue of VOX magazine. 


Prayer is not an after thought. We are all called to pray for the most vulnerable. We know that God‘s desire is that human trafficking would stop.  And prayer should lead to action.

Every one of these stories matter - there are 1.2 million children taken… but each one is an individual child made in the image of God and precious to the Father.