IOM Gathers Practitioners to Counter Child Trafficking in Eastern Europe

27 October 2016

Counter-trafficking practitioners from Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine came together for a two-day conference in Kyiv on 26-27 October to create a platform for regional discussion and the exchange of best practices for an intensified and sustainable response to trafficking in children. The conference was organized by IOM with funding from Global Affairs Canada, the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).

During the period of 2000-2015, IOM in Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine identified over 1,200 children under the age of 18 as victims of trafficking and provided assistance to them. Moreover, the results of a survey commissioned by IOM Ukraine show that 40% of vulnerable minors are ready to accept offers that may lead to human trafficking.

“Children are often sold by their family members or guardians, trafficked with the purpose of sexual or labour exploitation, forced begging and other purposes, both across borders and domestically,” said IOM Ukraine’s Senior Programme Coordinator Stephen Rogers, opening the conference. “While children are particularly vulnerable and require additional attention and support from state and non-governmental agencies, they also have limited capacity to protect themselves and report the crime, thus often remaining invisible to social services and the criminal justice system,” he added.

Mr. Roman Waschuk, Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine, noted that “no country is immune to human trafficking, but the crucial issue is whether we are able to build the capacity of government institutions to counter it.” Mr. Ole T. Horpestad, Ambassador of Norway to Ukraine, added “what we see today in terms of victim identification might be only the tip of the iceberg.” Both diplomats renewed their support for IOM’s efforts to counter modern-day slavery.

Deputy Minister of Social Policy of Ukraine, Ms. Natalia Fedorovych, thanked IOM and its donors for the assistance provided to the Ukrainian Government in the creation and expansion of the National Referral Mechanism for Assisting Victims of Trafficking. “This support is essential now, when we are receiving reports about the recruitment of children by armed groups in the non-government-controlled areas of Eastern Ukraine, and when the Government itself is in the process of decentralization, entrusting local actors with key tasks,” said Ms. Fedorovych.

Ms. Natalia Fedorovych, Deputy Minister of Social Policy of Ukraine

The development of child-centred services, the enhancement of children’s access to these, and the set-up of a monitoring framework for the reintegration process to ensure children’s safety and protection were at the centre of the conference discussions.

Experts from across Europe – namely Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Austria, France, Bulgaria and Poland, as well as IOM specialists from IOM Headquarters and the Regional Office for South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia shared their experience in the identification and protection of trafficked minors, as well as in the prevention, investigation and prosecution of child trafficking. The results of the conference will be highlighted in a comprehensive report proposing effective measures to address existing gaps in countering trafficking in children in Eastern Europe.

Ms. Bharti Patel, CEO, ECPAT children's rights charity, United Kingdom

Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine have made commitments to counter child trafficking that are enshrined in the protocols and conventions of the United Nations and Council of Europe and reflected in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

For over 10 years, IOM has implemented regional counter-trafficking programming in Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine to contribute to strengthening partnerships and coordinated responses to the trafficking phenomenon, assisting over 18,000 trafficking survivors.