From children in the UK relying on food banks as emergency meals to African migrant children in Libya snatched away from their parents for organ trafficking, The Bridge Magazine wishes peace and social justice for children worldwide this Christmas.
As we head towards Christmas and the New Year, tens of millions of children worldwide are living in abject poverty.
While in the UK tens of thousands of children receive the most rudimentary nutrition from tinned food provided by food banks, thousands of miles away in Libya children are trapped in abject poverty and are easy prey to organ trafficking.
Recent data published on The Trussell Trust website in April this year was enough to raise the eyebrows:
‘Between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017, we provided 1,182,954 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis compared to 1,109,309 in 2015-16.’
The Trussell Trust is a UK anti-poverty charity that provides most of the nation’s food banks.
In Libya, modern slavery is rife, $400 being the average cost of a black man to North African buyers as a potential farmhand.
But there is an even darker aspect to the problem of modern slavery in Libya: it is rumoured to be the perfect façade for infant organ trafficking.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ‘over 6,800 kidneys are illegally obtained by black market traffickers all over the world… also, at least 200,000 people are on waiting lists for kidneys worldwide and a myriad have no access to transplantation or dialysis services’.
As food insecurity and homelessness hits tens of thousands of UK children this Christmas, food banks and temporary accommodation such as B&Bs can only provide a temporary and precarious respite. Such a state of affairs is as unstable and uncertain as the European Union’s ‘Operation Sophia’ naval mission to reduce people smuggling in Mediterranean North African countries such as Libya.
It has become a tradition for this magazine to devote its December world exclusive editorial to highlighting the plight of children in war zones. However, this Christmas, in addition to the aforementioned cause, The Bridge Magazine focuses in particular on the plights of children in the UK and in Libya.
A brief analysis of UK and Libyan children situation by The Bridge Magazine
UK child poverty
The New World Wealth’s ‘Global Wealth Migration Review’ recently showed that the UK was the fourth richest country in terms of private wealth, with $8.7trn (£6.63trn) in wealth held by its population.
However 128,000 children will be homeless this Christmas according to a recent report, a state of affairs called out as ‘a national scandal’ by housing charity Shelter.
UK households are struggling to cover the rising costs of essentials of everyday life.
Low pay, unemployment and inadequate benefits for both those in-work and out of work are among the main reasons for child poverty in UK.
In November this year, research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) forecasted that under current plans for changes to benefits, including the rollout of Universal Credit, absolute child poverty is set to increase from 27 per cent to 31 per cent by 2021.
As a result of rising poverty, children’s health has worsened due to poor and insecure housing in slum-like conditions prone to damp, broken boilers, bed bugs and other infestations.
A lack of food and decent accommodation can severely impact not only on children’s abilities to concentrate at school and on their homework, but also on their health, physical, mental and emotional.
With social mobility at a new low, the future looks bleak for many UK children. The gap between the rich and poor is deepening by the year, while homelessness has doubled in the past seven years. And the employment market grows ever more competitive with thousands more job losses on the way: Sainsbury’s and Wilkinson are to cut 2,000 jobs and 4,000 jobs respectively by January 2018, to list just two.
Children of African immigrants prey to slave traders and organ traffickers in Libya.
Organ trafficking is booming and money-hungry traffickers will go to great lengths to satisfy increasing demand in a highly profitable dark market.
Legal and ethical regulation of organ donation is limited. Broadly speaking, acceptable organs are obtainable from victims of traumatic deaths such as car crashes, complications of pregnancy, and gunshot victims, to list a few.
To be usable, the organs have to be obtained promptly before or just after the death of the victim. But statistics show that very few people have opted to donate their organs for fear even doctors may become compromised in terms of the efforts they make to save their lives in the event of serious accidents.
Organs of people who have died from long term diseases or from old age are beyond the acceptable level of optimal performance and are generally unsuitable for use in the organ transplant industry. Body parts from young, healthy and robust children are fully functional and deemed to last for decades, hence are highly sought after.
According to the Council of Europe’s Convention Against Trafficking in Human Organs, trafficking in human organs is, ‘when committed intentionally, the following activity:
The removal of human organs from living or deceased donors where the removal is performed without the free, informed and specific consent of the living or deceased donor, or, in the case of the deceased donor, without the removal being authorised under its domestic law’
The children of African refugees whose parents have already been sold either as farm workers or sex workers become ‘forgotten’ and are then easily targeted by criminal body parts dealers scavenging for organs and body parts.
Operation Sophia in Libya: ongoing until December 2018
Is Operation Sophia the new Zoé’s Ark scandal? Is Operation Sophia history repeating itself?
There are fears that Operation Sophia, initially set up to curb human trafficking, may be as corruptible as its Non-Governmental Organisation sister project, Zoé’s Ark, by possibly enabling –rather than safeguarding against– children organ trafficking to take place in a more disguised form.
Operation Sophia was launched on 22 June 2015 as part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to help better manage irregular migration and disrupt traffickers and smugglers’ networks.
One of the main aims was to enhance the possibilities for sharing information on human trafficking with member states’ law enforcement agencies, Frontex and Europol.
But according to an article entitled ‘Operation Sophia saves lives but has not stopped people smuggling’, published on the UK Parliament website, 12 July 2017:
The EU External Affairs Sub-Committee provided details of the published report on the EU’s naval mission in the Mediterranean, Operation Sophia. ‘This report concludes that it has failed in its mission to disrupt the business of people smuggling in the central Mediterranean.’
The Zoé’s Ark scandal in brief
The French ‘humanitarian’ charity Zoé’s Ark (L’Arche de Zoé) involved in Chad and Darfur was once
under investigation by the United Nations, France, and Chad for enabling the trafficking of black children.
It is believed that the Zoe’s Ark project initially began fundraising on 28 April 2007. It ‘evacuated 10,000 orphans’ allegedly facing certain death to France and the United States, but delivered over 300 children to Europe at a price of 2,000 Euros ($3450) per orphan, as mandatory ‘donations’.
Zoé’s Ark was rumoured to have obtained logistical support from the French military. They flew over Darfur borders several times under the subterfuge of offering aid but actually taking children away from their parents. They justified their access to war-torn Chad and Darfur under the banner of an international relief consortium and its security agendas.
On 24 October 2007 a group of families were waiting at the airport at Vatry, Marne, France, for the first planeload of children. The plane never arrived.
According to French news reports the group raised and spent 550,000 Euros ($US 802,000) on the operation.
After the airplane was intercepted before its departure to France, the UN High Commission for Refugees’ statement reported that the children were living with their families in communities and were neither from Darfur nor were they orphans and their health was not at risk.
According to reports from international investigators, the Zoé’s Ark official had forged identifications for the children, such as faked injuries and bandages, and claimed a sense of urgency over the need to fly the children away for immediate medical assistance in France.
Further investigations revealed that the illiterate Chadian parents had been tricked into given their children to Zoé’s Ark believing it was for the purposes of their being schooling in the Chad capital, and that they would be returned to them at the end of each school term. Their children were instead unwitting organ donors.
The Zoé’s Ark scandal was later closed with no further outcome due to the high profile nature of a case involving a former French President.
Christmas is associated with the events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ, but the day is also equally associated with family festivities and, in particular, with children. There is surely no better time, therefore, to reflect on the plight of today’s disadvantaged children around the world, and to wish peace and social justice to all of them.
Disadvantaged infants worldwide can be listed as follows:
- Children in war zones
- Sexually abused children
- Missing children
- Street children
- Children from broken families (divorced, parent death, in prison and others…)
- Malnourished children
- Impoverished children
- Sick children
We all have a responsibility to alleviate the continued suffering of innocent children caught up in the world’s vicissitudes, from the children prey to organ trafficking in Africa to the hundreds of thousands of children currently living in relative and even abject poverty in austerity-hit Europe.
Christmas should not be only about the latest sophisticated toy, electronic device, iPod or video game: but it should be also about trying to salvage some semblance of comfort, safety and normality for world’s innocents during the festive season.
But for outcast children, children in need, street children, children trapped in war zones, or closer to home, the best present Father Christmas could ever bring to the millions of suffering children throughout the world this Christmastime would be to end their suffering and ensure their survival and wellbeing into the future.
It is up to us, the adults of the world, to keep fighting and campaigning towards the eradication of all causes and agents throughout the world which continue to hamper the healthy development and growth of our children.
The Bridge Magazine wishes a Merry Christmas to the tens of thousands of children stuck in unsafe Bed and Breakfast accommodation in the UK this Christmas due to being evicted from their homes due to benefit caps, sanctions and the bedroom tax.
Merry Christmas to all children in war zones!
Merry Christmas to all the disadvantaged children around the globe!
Merry Christmas to all children around the world!