When freelance photographer Paul McCambridge became aware of the realities of child trafficking on a visit to India, his research produced striking images that have formed an exhibition in Dublin.
Simply called ‘Human Trafficking’, the photographic exhibition was on display in the Irish Aid Centre in Upper O’Connell Street during the second week in June. It highlighted the issues of an ‘industry’ estimated by the UN to be one of the fastest growing criminal activities only third behind arms dealing and the drug trade.
Talking of his experiences, Paul the founder of MAC Visual Media, spoke of the hard facts that defy belief.
“It is hard to comprehend” said Paul. “Many of these people come from rural, tribal areas and criminal gangs treat the children like a commodity - they will go and look specifically for good-looking girls and children they think they can easily sell on.
“Sometimes families will be approached and offered for one of their children to take domestic work in the city. The parents, who are often living in poverty, will take up the offer with the plan that the child will send money home to them.
“In this way parents are duped and the child will be taken and sold on.
Sometimes the gang will forge a letter home pretending it is from the child saying all is well, but by the time the family realise something is wrong and go to look for their son or daughter, all links and traces are gone.
“Due to high illiteracy rates and no contact details it’s hard for the authorities to track the children down. It’s also a vast country which futher compounds the problem.
“The child is then enslaved.”
“I met with some girls who had been rescued, but only 2% of anyone taken is ever recovered. “I also met with some of the parents who had lost children and you can see the hopelessness in their eyes. Their eyes show a deadness and dispair when a son or daughter has been captured. They have given up hope of ever finding their child.”
Paul’s exhibition was very simply displayed, with no frames on his work.
“The cost of framing the photographs would keep a family in India going for two or three months” explained Paul, “so I just couldn’t bring myself to do it”.
Paul’s research began when he went out to Calcutta to visit his son who was working there with the Hope Foundation.
Back at home he successfully applied for the Simon Cumbers Media Fund, which enabled him to go out and do further research.
Paul says he now has other projects in the pipeline.