Nine girls rescued from sex and labour trafficking have been taken in by Hope for Justice’s Lighthouse Assessment Centre in Cambodia in the space of two weeks.
The girls, ranging in age from just three to 17 years old, came straight to the facility following four different rescue operations over the course of a week.
Five of the girls – including the three-year-old and a four-year-old – were rescued from the street, where they would beg for 14 hours a day, from 6am until 8pm. At night they slept rough – a particularly arduous experience during the rainy season.
They arrived at Lighthouse following a rescue operation by local Cambodian police and the Department of Social Affairs. Hope for Justice in Cambodia works in partnership with other NGOs, local authorities and the police to provide care for human trafficking victims rescued from 25 different provinces in Cambodia as well as from across the border into Thailand.
Sokchan Dy, Hope for Justice’s Operations Director at Lighthouse, said: “When the five girls first arrived they were scared, with all the people here, and they were malnourished. But our house moms looked after them and after a couple of days they were much better, as then they realised they had good food to eat, clothes to wear, and a safe place to sleep. They are also able to learn here, which they could not do when they were asking for money all day.
“This three-year-old girl is the youngest we’ve had at Lighthouse. All the other girls care for her and carry her around.”
The other recent arrivals at Lighthouse were two girls, aged seven and 17, and an 11-year-old girl rescued from two separate labour trafficking operations, as well as a 12-year-old girl who has been taken in after reportedly being sex trafficked.
The girls are now receiving counselling from Lighthouse’s therapy team and are having regular sessions with a social worker.
Sovann Chhit, Intake Officer at Lighthouse, said: “We are now looking into the girls’ backgrounds and working with local authorities from their hometowns to assess whether their homes are safe for them to go back to.
“If it is not safe for them to go back to their families, then we will find another partner to work with them. They will go to foster homes or rehabilitation centres.”
The normal limit for a girl’s stay at Lighthouse is two months but this can be extended if necessary to determine whether it is safe for them to return to their families and communities or if they are engaged in a criminal case where they are testifying against a perpetrator and their safety is a concern.
Photography and words: Aly Walsh