10 ways to protect children deprived of parental care and combat child trafficking

Almost one quarter of trafficked victims registered in the EU are children. EU child victims are twice the number of non EU child victims, with girls especially targeted. So what can be done? A new guide developed by FRA suggests 10 ways to protect children moving across EU Member States without parental care.

This child protection guide focuses on children deprived of parental care in EU Member States other than their own. It covers all children who need protection, particularly child trafficking victims.

FRA developed the guide in close cooperation with the European Commission Office of the EU Anti-trafficking Coordinator. It implements a key actionin the 2017 Communication stepping up EU action to address human trafficking, and is in line with the 2018 EU Agencies Joint Statement of Commitment to address human trafficking.

It aims at addressing the lack of a uniform approach across the EU to help such children in full compliance with international standards and EU law. Criminal and civil law come into play through the EU’s Anti-Trafficking Directive, the Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Directive, the Victims’ Directive and the Brussels IIa Regulation that covers cross-border family law matters.

It offers guidance on what to do from the moment the children are identified to the implementation and monitoring of a durable solution.

The guide is aimed at a wide range of relevant actors. These include police officers, child protection officers, guardians, central authorities dealing with cross-border child protection cases under the Brussels IIa Regulation, judges, lawyers, civil society representatives, as well as consular staff.

It first offers general guidance by outlining the relevant laws that frame child protection. It points to the need to consider the specific needs of children such as their age, gender and background when deciding about protection and care. It then details 10 practical suggestions how to protect children:

  1. Detect, identify and refer children who need protection
  2. Appoint a guardian
  3. Hear the child
  4. Assess the child’s best interests
  5. Coordinate all actors within Member States
  6. Address protection needs
  7. Establish jurisdiction and transnational cooperation
  8. Support judicial proceedings
  9. Determine and implement durable solutions
  10. Monitor the child’s wellbeing

Throughout, the guide includes quotes from legal and policy documents, practical checklists and references for further reading, such as handbooks and hands-on guidance.

Specific sections are dedicated to support by the relevant EU agencies to law enforcement and judicial cooperation. Prevention is the cornerstone of all EU anti-trafficking action, and countering the culture of impunity that occurs when those involved in the crime do not face any consequences for their acts remains a priority.