On 28 and 29 November, the European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), in close cooperation with the European Commission (EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator’s Office), brought together at Eurojust, the EU Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation, experts and partners from across the European Union to enhance prevention of trafficking of EU children. Participants included representatives from Eurojust, Europol, senior judges and prosecutors, child protection staff, central authorities established under the Brussels II Regulation, law enforcement officials, as well as civil society experts.
The meeting was held at Eurojust in the framework of the 2018 Joint Statement of Commitment to working together to address trafficking in human beings and organised in the context of the work to develop common EU-wide practical guidance to enhance inter-agency and transnational cooperation to prevent trafficking of EU children, ensure protection of child victims, find durable solutions and safeguard their rights under EU and international law. The development of the guidance is a key action set forth in the 2017 Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on Reporting on the follow-up to the EU Strategy towards the Eradication of trafficking in human beings and identifying further concrete actions.
The Practical guide will assist national authorities in identifying the most suitable jurisdiction among Member States dealing with cases of EU child victims of trafficking or at risk of being victimised. The document will include practical guidance to judges, police officers, social workers, child protection services and other relevant stakeholders. It will also set out the general principles governing the protection of EU child victims and provide a brief overview of the relevant international and EU legal framework in the areas of criminal justice, victims’ rights and transborder cooperation.
Enhancing prevention by countering the culture of impunity for all perpetrators
The Practical guide will help resolve issues of conflicting jurisdiction and foster transnational cooperation between Member States, including national judicial and law enforcement authorities, in cases involving EU child victims of trafficking or at risk of being victimised. Girls and boys continue to be trafficked within the European Union for the purpose of sexual exploitation, forced begging, forced criminal activities, labour exploitation, benefit fraud and more.
Eurojust can utilise its network of experts to coordinate the actions of all parties concerned, both at national and EU level, including by swiftly setting up joint investigation teams, by ensuring effective protection mechanisms for victims’ fundamental rights, as well as by raising awareness and providing regular customised training. Member States’ national authorities can thus be encouraged to refer more child trafficking cases to Eurojust for guidance, assistance and tangible solutions by reinforcing their referral instruments and by criminalising those who knowingly use services exacted from trafficked children.
A stronger coordinated response to revictimisation
Eurojust can also help prevent victimised children from becoming victims again in another Member State by avoiding unnecessary repetitions of hearings of the traumatised victims and their automatic return to their place of habitual residence without a prior thorough assessment by the involved authorities of their actual situation.