Holier than Thou
We have grown used to "the West" lecturing the rest of the world on standards of living, education, economic development, health and safety, human rights and, well, almost everything else. Africa in particular is given a very unsavoury image in the Western media and public perception. It is presented as a continent of aghast poverty, ravaged by disease, ruled by dictators, still practising slavery and child trafficking and having no regard to the value of human life. When the Western media became obsessed for months with the fate of Madeleine, the little Scottish girl who went missing during a holiday in Portugal whilst her parents were having a good time outside the house, all fingers were pointed to Morocco. An innocent girl belonging to a Moroccan family had her face plastered all over European newspaper because some tourists thought she looked like Madeleine. When she turned out to be one hundred percent Moroccan, no apologies followed. Meanwhile the fate of dozens of innocent children abducted from their families by so-called aid workers in Chad for the purpose of selling them on in France has all but been forgotten only a couple of weeks later.
Like drug trafficking, child trafficking is not a localised phenomenon. Supply is usually driven by demand, and the demand originates in the countries of the West. After a Unicef warning that the British government is failing to protect vulnerable youngsters brought into the country the Guardian newspaper revealed that during 2005-6 a total of 88% of Chinese children illegally trafficked into the UK have gone missing AFTER having been identified and cared for by Social Services. A similar story emerges for children brought to the UK illegally from Nigeria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Russia or Eastern Europe. Of course, the children brought to the attention of Social Services are only the tip of the iceberg. But at least one would have thought that once they were being looked after by the State, they would be safe. However, the majority eventually disappear never to be traced again, and Social Services are probably glad to have them off their books. As Unicef observes, the care and protection for these children is inconsistent, ad hoc and, in some regions, completely absent.
Some of the children are brought into the UK for sexual exploitation, others as domestic household helpers and child labourers. Their individual stories are a lot more heart-rendering than the plight of Madeleine's parents grabbing world headlines, yet little is written about them since this would tarnish the polished veneer of the "leading civilisations" of the world and reveal an ugly underside beneath the skilfully applied make-up. Until Europeans sort out their own problems of child slavery and trafficking, they should stop lecturing the rest of the nations on human rights and freedoms. If the European media were as interested in the dark side of European sexual appetites and child exploitation as in the fate of little Madeleine, and if the UK government was as proactive in dealing with the problem as it is with deriding, for example, Zimbabwe, then maybe they deserved to be listened to when talking about universal values, human rights and the future of the planet.