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European Resource Center

Statement by GRETA on the occasion of the 9th EU Anti-Trafficking Day

Governments must act to prevent and combat child trafficking along migration routes

Strasbourg, 16 October 2015 – Ahead of the 9th EU Anti-Trafficking Day (18 October), the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) has warned about the increased risk of human trafficking posed by the current refugee crisis and the urgent need to address the particular vulnerability of unaccompanied children.

GRETA’s President Nicolas Le Coz said: “Unaccompanied children remain among the most vulnerable of migrant and refugee groups arriving in Europe today. Protection gaps are growing as Europe hosts increasing numbers of people fleeing persecution and armed conflict. It is imperative that governments urgently act to fill those gaps and ensure that children do not become victims of the heinous crime of human trafficking.”

GRETA has now completed the first round of monitoring of 40 out of the 43 countries which have joined the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. Summing up the main gaps in the implementation of the Convention, GRETA has expressed concern about the serious shortcomings in the identification of child victims of trafficking. Children at risk are frequently treated as offenders or irregular migrants by law enforcement officials who do not systematically look for indicators of human trafficking. In many countries, unaccompanied children disappear within a few days of being placed in reception centres. The inadequacy of child protection measures and the lack of co-ordination at national level as well as between countries increase the risk of unaccompanied children falling victim to trafficking. In most countries there is little or no information on the identification of victims of trafficking among unaccompanied children.

GRETA recalls that the Council of Europe Convention on action against trafficking in human beings requires special measures in respect of children who are victims of trafficking and calls upon Council of Europe member States to live up to their legal obligations to effectively protect and fulfil the rights of unaccompanied children. This includes improving the proactive identification of child victims of trafficking placed in reception centres for asylum seekers and strengthening multi-disciplinary co-operation to ensure that the best interests of the child are effectively protected. It is also imperative to promptly appoint legal guardians to all unaccompanied children and to ensure that they are properly trained. All other measures of assistance and protection under the Convention, including the right to a recovery and reflection period, the granting of a residence permit, access to education, appropriate health care and risk and security assessment before any repatriation, should be applied to child victims of trafficking.

A multidisciplinary college of 15 independent experts set up under the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, GRETA is mandated under the Convention to monitor its implementation by the 43 states which have so far ratified it.

Link to GRETA’s reports:


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