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Documentary Film Highlights Trafficking of Children From Armenia

By Onnik Krikorian

Lusine was just 16 years old when she was trafficked from Armenia to the United Arab Emirates. A year earlier she had married against the wishes of her parents, but found herself on the streets when she could not longer tolerate the beatings she received from her husband. When she left her native Gyumri for the Armenian capital, Yerevan, it wasn’t long before she was approached by a man interested in exploiting her predicament.

“He said he could help me find work as a waitress in Germany,” says Lusine. “I jumped at the chance. I thought I could make some money abroad and get my life back on track.”

But because she was technically still a minor, Lusine didn’t have a passport. Her new ‘friend,” however, said he could supply her with one for $1,000. Then, in possession of travel documents stating that she was older than she actually was, she traveled to Tbilisi, capital of the neighboring Republic of Georgia, with seven other girls. From there, the girls traveled to Moscow, but rather than end up in Germany, they were instead was put on a plane to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Upon their arrival, the girls were then deprived of their passports and presented to an Arab who had paid $5,000 for Lusine and her companions, and who now had to work as sex workers servicing clients in Dubai, capital of the UAE. Now effectively in “debt” to her new “owner,” Lusine received 10 men a night on average at a local hotel in order to wipe the slate clean and to secure her freedom.

Unfortunately, Lusine’s plight is not unique. Faced with economic collapse after independence, women and children in transitional countries such as Armenia are easy pickings for traffickers. And while the rate of poverty in the former Soviet republic fell to 44 percent of the population in 2004, the social picture is still not reassuring. Children from vulnerable families, or those deprived of parental care, are especially vulnerable.

“In the last few years, the problem of trafficking has become common throughout the former Soviet Union,” says Naira Avetisyan, UNICEF’s Child Protection Officer, “and if the victims are children, it’s even easier to transport and trade them. They’re sold for various purposes such as forced labor, prostitution, drug dealing, and begging.”



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