LONDON, 30 August 2006 - Piecemeal prevention efforts in South Eastern Europe (SEE) are failing to protect children from falling prey to traffickers and have relied too much on general awareness-raising, says a report released today by UNICEF and Terre des Hommes which also urges a shift of focus away from prosecution.
“Children are trafficked in South Eastern Europe because prevention efforts are too little, too late,” said Maria Calivis, UNICEF Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS). “They end up in a terrifying maze with no known escape route,” she added.
The report Action to Prevent Child Trafficking in South Eastern Europe – a Preliminary Assessment examines different strategies and initiatives to prevent child trafficking in SEE and it includes the voices of child victims from Albania, Moldova, Romania and the UN Administered Province of Kosovo where the research was carried out.
“Trafficking can be stopped before it starts,” said Christian Hafner, Vice-President of Terre des Hommes. “And while the prosecution of perpetrators and the rescuing of children already in the trafficking chain make a vital contribution to beating the crime, they are insufficient to stop it. Efforts must now focus on preventing it from happening in the first place.”
The report finds that awareness-raising campaigns are often way off the mark, are unfocused and not systematic. Some carry stereotypical images of men lurking in the shadows when traffickers are often family or friends; others ignore trafficking for purposes other than sexual exploitation, for example, domestic work, begging or stealing; that most messages are tailored to adults instead of children and therefore provide little or no information on how children might protect themselves, who to turn to, or where to go for help.
Child trafficking can only be combated by addressing the root causes of the problem and the patterns of supply and demand that govern the cycle, the report states.
“Poverty, abuse, exclusion, marginalization – we know the root causes, who the vulnerable children are, where they come from. Clearly, to develop a tight, effective network that protects children, we must go to source, listen to what children have to say on the matter and plug the gaps in our knowledge of trafficking patterns and in our approaches and messages,” said Maria Calivis. “Time and again, opportunities to prevent or stop trafficking have been missed. To foil the predators, we must urgently become as organised and agile as they are,” she added.
The report calls for the establishment of harmonised, synchronised and seamless systems and services – both internal and cross-border – to protect children. It stresses the obligation in this regard on States and on parents, guardians and professionals who interface with children (customs officers, border guards, police, teachers, social and health workers etc) under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other relevant instruments.
In addition, standarised, comparable indicators and data must be gathered and shared broadly across international boundaries.
“The focus on awareness-raising and prevention has contributed to the lack of resources available in many countries for data gathering and analyses of patterns and trends,” said Christian Hafner. “The point here is that without data, we are working in the dark, and it is difficult to prevent something from happening if you don’t know what is out there.”
UNICEF and Terre des Hommes are calling for an urgent focus on prevention through:
• Addressing root causes
• Rights-based (as opposed to law enforcement and security) approaches
• Seamless coordinated systems and information-flows among all actors
• Standardised data gathering
• Consulting children themselves on these issues
• Training professionals who interface with children in their obligations
• Tailoring messages that clearly point to avenues of help for children i.e. hotlines, social service numbers, contacts of ombudspersons for children…
• Support to families in stress to keep the family together
• Creative schools programmes to prevent children dropping out
• Life skills education to give children the means – knowledge and skills - to protect themselves
UNICEF and Terre des Hommes work in close collaboration in the field, mutually benefiting and complementing each other’s work. This preliminary assessment of prevention strategies in SEE is a first step towards a greater understanding of what needs to happen to prevent children from becoming victims of trafficking.
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
About Terre des Hommes
The International Federation Terre des Hommes is a network of eleven national organisations working for the rights of children and to promote equitable development without racial, religious, political, cultural or gender-based discrimination.