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Published on Thursday, September 12, 2019

Taskforce launched to keep 'well-meaning' UK tourists away from orphanages

ABTA has teamed up with an international charity to launch a taskforce to encourage well-meaning UK tourists and volunteers to stop visiting overseas orphanages.

The Orphanage Tourism Taskforce, backed by Hope and Homes for Children, says misdirected donations, holidaymaker visits and volunteer projects in orphanages can help to fuel a corrupt orphanage business that tears families apart, exploits children for commercial gain and exposes them to abuse.

Its members include TUI, Intrepid, Exodus and Projects Abroad.

Hope and Homes for Children's CEO Mark Waddington said: "What many tourists, volunteers~and even some travel companies don't know is that 80%  of the eight million children trapped in overseas orphanages today are not orphans.

"Most are separated from their families because of poverty, disability or discrimination.

"But increasingly, children are also being targeted to pose as orphans, to meet the demand of travellers from wealthy countries who want visit orphanages while overseas.

"Often these children can be forced to perform or beg for funds from these tourists and volunteers."

As many as 37 out every 100 children living in orphanages may suffer violence or sexual abuse, according to a Save the Children study in 2009.

"The tragedy is that many dangerous orphanages are operating as profit-making businesses. Some even employ professional child-finders to go into impoverished communities to persuade vulnerable parents to give up their children with the promise of schooling. This is child trafficking," said Waddington.

"The more children the orphanage has, the more funding they receive, or the more well-meaning visitors they attract from Western countries. It's a lucrative industry, with the money too often ending up in the pockets of orphanage owners, instead of benefiting children and their families."

As part of this new joint initiative, ABTA is reminding its members of the importance of moving away from offering donations, volunteer projects and tourist trips to orphanages and the need to educate well-meaning travellers.

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said: "ABTA has been taking an active role in supporting child safeguarding for many years and advising its members to move away from supporting orphanages. Travel companies have policies not to visit or support orphanages, but there is more to be done because the issue is still concerningly prevalent.

"Working in partnership with Hope and Homes for Children, The Orphanage Tourism Taskforce will increase traveller awareness of orphanage tourism, provide evidence to government to inform advice and engage with tourist boards and local suppliers to transition away from any orphanage visits.

"It is well meaning travellers that are trying to help but by raising awareness of the reality we can safeguard children's' futures."

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