Abducted girls traced

FOUND: Newcastle documentary filmmaker Ben Randall, "P" and her mother.
FOUND: Newcastle documentary filmmaker Ben Randall, "P" and her mother.

AMONG the horror stories of abduction, slavery and forced marriages, Newcastle documentary filmmaker Ben Randall has found a shining light in the bleak world of human trafficking.

His journey started in 2010.

Five years after travelling through Asia, Mr Randall decided to head back and hunt down 100 local people he'd photographed on his last trip.

His search involved 10 countries over 10 months, covering 40,000 kilometres from Indonesia to India.

On his initial trip, Mr Randall befriended three teenage Hmong girls, living in the mountains of northern Vietnam, just a few kilometres from China.

One of those girls he photographed, named "M", was abducted and sold as a wife into China in 2011, aged just 16.

In March, Mr Randall started a five-month search throughout China for "M" and managed to track her down.

He also found a second friend, named "P", who disappeared in similar circumstances.

Both girls had been befriended by young Hmong men from a neighbouring province, who drugged the girls then took them on a motorcycle to a remote area of the border.

They were transported deep into China and sold to Hmong families who then sold them on to Chinese men. Since then, both of them have had a daughter to their Chinese partner.

Mr Randall said he always hoped to find the girls but never actually expected to succeed.

"As strange as it sounds, there are so many Hmong girls who have been trafficked from Vietnam and sold in China that many of them have been able to form an extensive underground network able to communicate regularly by phone," he said.

Mr Randall was able to tap into that network.

"The past year has been such a wild ride. I really had no idea what I was getting myself in for when I started this project."

"The true highlight for me so far though was a five-day motorcycle journey I made with P after her return, where I had the privilege of watching her really come back to life.

"In a way, she'd been cut off for such a long time from the life she'd known that she seemed to have lost a sense of who she was.

"I'd been working towards bringing her home for so long that she'd almost become something abstract - then to spend that time together, joking and laughing, and also having some very serious conversations about her experiences in China ... it reminded me who she really was, and why we'd been friends in the first place."

Although P is back in Vietnam, M is still in China with her partner and 15-month-old daughter.

Mr Randall plans to release a documentary on his search for the two girls, called Sisters For Sale in the near future.

■Go to humanearth.net to find out more.