Human trafficking and sexual abuse are rampant among Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar, the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration said Tuesday.
In an inquiry of the matter, the migration agency said it found cases of men, women and children recruited with false offers of paid work in various industries.
The report said with no alternative source of income, the refugees were often forced into taking whichever opportunities they were given — no matter the risk, or involvement of children.
Once the refugees begin working, however, they were abused and exploited, the agency said. Women and girls were sexually abused. Some females who were promised jobs as domestic helpers ended up in prostitution. In one case, a woman who went to work for a family died.
“Understanding the scope of human trafficking is difficult in most settings due to the hidden nature of the crime,” Kateryna Ardanyan, an IOM counter-trafficking expert, said in a statement.
Many recruiters are said to be from Bangladesh, the country where over 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have immigrated since August. Some recruiters are Rohingya themselves, the U.N. report said, and have formed trafficking rings as the population has expanded in Bangladesh.
“In the chaos of a crisis like this, trafficking is usually invisible at first, as there are so many other urgent needs like food and shelter,” Ardanyan said. “Agencies responding to this crisis should not wait until the number of identified victims increases. Rohingya refugees need preventative and proactive action now to mitigate risks of human trafficking, and the survivors need help, before this spirals out of control.”
By Sara Shayanian