Strengthen child protection to guard against trafficking

In 2016, around one in three asylum seekers in the EU was a child. Many go missing and risk falling into the hands of human traffickers. Ahead of UN World Day against Trafficking in Persons on 30 July, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) calls for stronger child protection safeguards to help end the exploitation of children.

Large numbers of children have fled their home countries, either alone or with their families. Unaccompanied or separated from their families, they risk being trafficked and exploited for labour, for crime or for prostitution. To minimise this risk, FRA has identified a number of crucial actions that could help:

  • Improving identification and registration procedures to better keep track of arrivals and to also identify victims of trafficking so they can receive adequate support;
  • Providing specific safeguards for unaccompanied children such as specialised facilities, adequate first reception and transit facilities, including finding alternatives to detention, and placing unaccompanied children with foster families;
  • Enacting a coherent guardianship system that clearly underlines the need to safeguard the best interests of unaccompanied children in all aspects of their lives;
  • Cooperating with support groups who can offer specific assistance such as identifying and referring victims;
  • Offering guidance and training for frontline staff, including police officers and border guards on the needs of children and on identifying victims of trafficking. This could also extend to how best to handle traumatised children;
  • Developing child-friendly information and support so children are better informed about the risks of trafficking and how they can protect themselves. 

With large profits to be made for relatively limited risks, traffickers are moving and exploiting large numbers of people across the EU. To fight such modern-day slavery, FRA is working hand-in-hand with the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, and other EU bodies and agencies to jointly help prevent trafficking, prosecute traffickers and better protect victims, especially children.