Saudi Arabia has expelled at least thirteen Afghan children ages six to 15 due to their lacking proper legal documentation, according to Afghan officials on Tuesday. Some of the children were thought to have been smuggled to Saudi Arabia and forced into bonded labor.
Representatives of the Afghan Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled said that they are considering all options when it comes to caring for the children, many of who are poor and lack homes to return to in Afghanistan.
Protection centers, often used to house victims of family violence and persecution, are said to be the top choice at the moment. The centers, located in secret locations in a number of provinces around the country, have been used in the past for housing and protecting victims of human trafficking.
"Last we year we handed over at least 14 children to their families from Baghlan, Kabul and some other provinces," Deputy Minister Wasil Noor Mohamand said.
The children that were expelled from Saudi Arabia this week have said that some of them were originally brought there by human traffickers and were forced into hard manual labor.
"We have established four centers for such children in Kunduz, Herat, Kabul and Nangarhar provinces and last year we helped 169 children," Mohmand said.
Poor families in Afghanistan are often exploited by organized crime groups and human traffickers who use promises of a better life and remittances as a means of persuading them to hand over their young girls and boys.