Child trafficking is a notorious international phenomenon that has continued to attract attention at the highest level of public discourse. There are efforts to stop the horrendous practice that tugs at the conscience of humanity. However, part of the challenge is understanding the intricacies of the trade so as to device a means of halting it. In many contexts, there is a lack of sustainable solutions for child victims of trafficking – including long-term assistance, rehabilitation, and protection. Many child protection systems remain under-resourced, and there is an acute lack of guardianship and other alternative care arrangements.
It is in this regard that this newspaper commends National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) for the bold move to collaborate with Meta to find an effective way of ending the menace. The partnership, second of its kind in Africa after South Africa and the 29th in the whole world known as Amber Alert, is designed to increase the chances of finding missing children by putting more people on the lookout for them. Meta is the parent company of Facebook and Instagram which are the two major social media outfits deployed in this drive to rid the country of incidences of child- trafficking.
From the way it is made to operate, Amber Alert includes important information about the missing child such as a photo description, location of the abduction, and other relevant and available information to aid in immediately identifying the missing child. The alert is broadcast within the search area covering a minimum of 160 kilometres.
The decision to declare an Amber Alert is made by NAPTIP when investigating a suspected abduction case based on stated criteria. These criteria insist that the abduct child must be 17 or less. NAPTIP must satisfy itself that there has been an abduction and that there is the conviction that the victim is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or exploitation. Also, there must be enough descriptive information about the victim and suspected abduction for law enforcement to issue an Amber Alert to assist in recovering the child.
When these criteria have been met, NAPTIP will then notify Meta’s Global Security Operations Centre that a verified Amber Alert is active. Meta will then send the alert to the news feeds of people located in targeted search areas, in this case, Nigeria.
When an Amber Alert is activated by law enforcement, it will appear on Facebook and Instagram Feed of users within the designated search area, enabling them to share the information instantly with friends or contact the authorities if they have leads.
The whole essence of this Programme on Facebook and Instagram, in the understanding of this newspaper, is to help ensure faster response in finding missing children. NAPTIP and its partner Meta intend that more people can be on the lookout for kids reported missing in any vicinity and report all leads to relevant authorities.
Before now, one of the challenges confronting efforts to locate and rescue a missing child is the non-availability of vital information on real time basis. It goes without saying that when there is a reported case of a missing child, the most valuable thing to do is to share information as quickly as possible. By working with law enforcement in helping to share the right information with the right people, Amber Alert in its processes and procedures hope that missing children will be safely reunited with their families faster.
Other challenges militating against the drive to rid the world of child trafficking are that few come forward to volunteer information for fear of their traffickers, lack of information about their options, mistrust of authorities, fear of stigma or the likelihood of being returned without any safeguards and limited material support.
It is pertinent to note, in our opinion, that refugee, migrant and displaced children are especially vulnerable to trafficking. Whether they are escaping war and violence or pursuing better education and livelihood opportunities, too few children find pathways to move regularly and safely with their families. This increases the likelihood that children and their family members will turn to irregular and more dangerous routes, or that children will move on their own, leaving them more vulnerable to violence, abuse, and exploitation by traffickers.
Available records suggest that approximately 28 per cent of identified victims of trafficking globally are children. Across regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, children account for an even higher proportion of identified trafficking victims, at 64 and 62 per cent respectively. Even with this, we posit that the number of children who fall victim to trafficking is higher than current data suggests. The reality is that children are infrequently identified as victims of trafficking.