April 14th marked the most important holiday in Cambodian culture: Khmer New Year. The week-long break is full of festivities, games, and, most importantly, family reunions. However, in the rural areas of Battambang, the New Year break is a time when many children go missing.
Because of the proximity to the Thai border, the lack of economic opportunities for adults, and poor education, Battambang is one of the main transit points for migrant labour and human trafficking to Thailand.
Many of CFI’s students’ parents engage in illegal cross-border migration as it is the only way they know how to earn a living for their families. Once children reach 12 or 13 years old, they, too, are asked to join their parents, or their work is arranged by a broker, and they are sent to Thailand alone.
Other families bring young children for lack of alternative care options in their hometowns. Illegally migrated children grow up living in slums and workers barracks or factories. Safety risks aside, these children have no chance at getting an education.
Especially at risk are teen girls, who are coerced by friends or strangers to try their luck across the border, where, unbeknownst to these girls, they are at risk of human slavery and trafficking for sex work
To protect students and children in advance of the New Year break, Children’s Future’s social workers identified those most at risk, organized a safe migration workshop for 94 adults and 80 students, and visited 50 more families to create safety plans for the holidays.
These workshops allow the social work team to educate the community at large about the dangers of illegal migration and child trafficking, while the safety plans help families prevent these dangers within their own communities.
Additionally, CFI has worked over the past several months to set up alternative care arrangements so that parents who are engaged in migrant labor do not have to bring their young children into dangerous situations.
Thanks to the tremendous effort of all staff involved, Children’s Future was able to mitigate the heightened risk of child trafficking, so that everyone could enjoy their holiday with peace of mind.