Saudi Arabia Prevents Efforts to Fight Child Sex Trafficking, WIkileaks Says

Yemeni authorities are frustrated by the Saudi Arabian government’s stalled efforts to fight child trafficking networks that involve smuggling Yemeni children across the border for work and “sex tourism” for underage prostitutes, a Wikileaks cable said today.

Child trafficking affects thousands of Yemeni children each year. Some are smuggled into Saudi Arabia to work in abusive conditions and others are kept in Yemen to serve Saudi sex tourists, the cable said. And although efforts have been made by Yemen in the past few years to address the problem, Saudi Arabia has not equaled the commitment.

More participation on the Saudi Arabian side is necessary since Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world and lacks the resources to fight a vast problem that is caused by a demand from its neighbor’s population. In 2009, Yemeni authorities had an embarrassing five thousand dollars earmarked to combat child trafficking.

In addition to not providing financial support, Saudi authorities have placed low-level bureaucrats with little influence in charge of a Joint Committee on Child Trafficking the two nations formed in 2005, which has caused problems. For example, a joint Memorandum of Understanding in October 2007 was never signed because the Saudis said they didn't have the authority.

The cable says that both countries are to blame for the proliferation of sex trafficking in Yemen. Underage prostitutes working out of urban hotels in Yemen are an “open secret.” Hotels throughout Yemen cater to these sex tourists, and even arrange trips to rural villages for similar liaisons, according to Ahmed Al-Quraishi of SEYAJ, an organization that promotes children's rights.

Al-Quraishi also said that he knew of three instances of Saudi nationals marrying underage Yemeni girls in order to bring them into Saudi Arabia and force them into prostitution.

Yemen is listed as a “Tier 2” country by the US Department of State, which means its government does not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards, but are making efforts to do so.

Saudi Arabia is listed as a “Tier 3” country, meaning it does not comply with the TVPA nor makes efforts to do so.