© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

‘A heartbreaking situation’: COVID-19 traps human trafficking victims in China

Antoinette Spicer
Blue Dragon Moment of reunion

COVID-19 travel restrictions have put a halt to rescue missions that save Vietnamese girls from Chinese brothels and forced marriages.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation based in Hanoi, Vietnam, rescues Vietnamese women and children trafficked across the border to China.

Founded by Australian Michael Brosowski, Blue Dragon liaises with police in Vietnam and China to coordinate the women’s return to safety.

The organisation has received support from people across New Zealand and Australia, since its founding in 2002.

Brosowski said 29 girls stuck in China contacted Blue Dragon for help. Blue Dragon has rescued seven girls, however, COVID-19 travel restrictions have forced their rescue efforts for the remaining 22 to a halt.

“At the moment, we're prioritising life and death situations: people who are likely to be killed or harmed if we cannot get to them immediately,” Brosowski explained.

“One woman we are touch with has already attempted suicide because the situation is so bad. We are deeply concerned that this will be widespread”.

Blue Dragon has rescued 930 children, women and men from trafficking. The organisation usually rescues up to 13 people from human trafficking per month, however, since the pandemic began in January, Blue Dragon has only been able to rescue five people and another seven with the help of the Chinese police.

Brosowski said there's been a spike in calls for help not only from human trafficking survivors but from street children too.

“Here in Hanoi, where we assist street children, the number of kids out on the streets has increased - notably among children under the age of ten. Families in rural areas have lost all their income and are desperate, so we're seeing children making their way to the city to beg or find work.”

“It's heartbreaking”, explained Michael. “I've been in Vietnam since 2002 and seen such great progress throughout the country: for victims of trafficking, for street kids, and all the extremely poor families out in remote rural areas. But now, as this pandemic forces the country to impose travel restrictions and shut down businesses, I see this all sliding backwards fast.

However, Michael said Blue Dragon “will not give up hope”. “It makes me more determined than ever to fight for children to be free, safe and healthy,” he explained.

“I have my entire team at Blue Dragon 100% behind me - we're not going to let this pandemic stop us".

Brosowski said China is already starting to relax some of the restrictions on people's movement, so they are hopeful in coming days or weeks we may be able to increase the limited work that we've been doing.

"As travel becomes possible again, we have 22 people to get out and we're already strategising how to do that. There may well be more than 22 by the time we can start.

We need to urgently raise the money that will be needed for this, so right now we are preparing to launch an emergency appeal, asking people around the world to donate so that these girls and women can get their lives back.

I know that's going to be hard for people, and it's the worst possible time to ask, but lives depend on it."

 

To donate or for more information visit: https://www.bluedragon.org/donate/

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Blue Dragon Rescue in the time of Coronvirus v2