WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, held a hearing on Protecting Ukrainian Refugees from Human Trafficking. Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) applauds the Commission’s decision to highlight the trafficking dangers refugees fleeing Ukraine face, particularly unaccompanied and separated children.
KIND visited Poland, Slovakia, Romania, and Moldava last week, where staff witnessed first-hand the extraordinary challenges facing receiving countries, the uneven application of child protection principles, the need for more resources to support child protection efforts, and the gaps in protection. Unaccompanied and separated children are extremely vulnerable to trafficking and other forms of abuse as a result of these fundamental lapses.
KIND recently published a report with its Brussels-based partner Child Circle, Note on Unaccompanied Children Fleeing the Ukraine, that provides an overview of the protection issues facing unaccompanied and separated children from Ukraine, including procedural safeguards and recommendations to guarantee access to protection and safety for children.
In its statement for the record to the Commission, KIND noted:
“The unique vulnerabilities of unaccompanied and separated children are too often overlooked during crises; and the vital need to identify, register, and provide independent support and assistance to children must be fulfilled, even in situations where meeting the needs for transport away from the border and immediate shelter appears paramount.”
KIND offered key recommendations from its report with Child Circle to address risks of trafficking among children fleeing Ukraine, including:
• The EU, international organizations and civil society organizations should work together to promote child safeguarding actions and awareness of the risks of trafficking, exploitation, and abuse of unaccompanied and separated children. For example, information on trafficking trends should be compiled and shared, including through the involvement of Europol, to promote awareness and up-to-date risk indicators, based on the diverse ways in which criminals are responding to the situation.
• Regional information sessions and training on child safeguarding should be conducted urgently starting with border guards but going across the range of actors involved in responding to the situation of these children.
• The EU should also promote resources on safeguarding processes, such as guidance for, and vetting of, volunteers as well as training, supervision, and support for foster families.
KIND’s statement for the record concluded:
“The sheer volume of unaccompanied and separated children who have fled Ukraine has brought stark attention to the risks refugee children face on their own, but the dangers unaccompanied and separated children encounter are not limited to this refugee crisis. Child migrants are vulnerable to trafficking whenever the frameworks for ensuring their safety are weak. As our report notes, governments must invest in the people and technology necessary to ensure that systems are in place to identify, register, track and monitor the progress of unaccompanied and separated children. Access to legal counsel and necessary guardianship and social services, clear and transparent information, and enhanced education and training for professionals working with children, are all necessary to reinforce a commitment to the protection of unaccompanied and separated children, no matter how their migration journey begins.”
Click here to read KIND’s full statement for the record.
Media Contact: Megan McKenna, email@example.com, 202-631-9990