Sunday, May 06, 2007

Child trafficking in the Kingdom...

and I'm not talking the Magic Kingdom, either.

Disabilities are a plus, as is charisma and verbal skills.

Some 500 children are reportedly being smuggled into Saudi Arabia from Yemen every month to collect cash by begging, according to The Saudi Gazette.

More than 50,000 children have successfully crossed the Saudi-Yemeni border in the past four years.Only about 40,000 were apprehended, reports say. At the border area, the sheer number of children being smuggled into the kingdom – often in broad daylight – gives credence to these reports.

The children are mostly employed as beggars. Organised rings handle the bulk of the smuggling business. Some of them pay the families of the children as much as $ 3,000-$ 5,000 as an annual "rent" for the child.

Trafficking of a child from Yemen to the border region of Jizan costs about SR300, while transportation to Jeddah costs more than SR1,000.

Children with all sorts of disabilities are a commodity, and the reasons are obvious: do-gooders tend to be more generous to them – and thus they are potentially more lucrative. Being talkative and charismatic adds to a child’s "street value," sources said. But not all children are brought in to beg. The reports say a fifth of them are used as workers in farms or to herd sheep, and some for outright crime, mostly thefts.