Child Trafficking and Child Protection: Ensuring that Child Protection Mechanisms Protect the Rights and Meet the Needs of Child Victims of Human Trafficking

Posted By: • December 14th, 2018

T his Occasional Paper concerns the protection of child
victims of trafficking by State-run child protection agencies.
It does not review all the measures required during all
the phases involved in protecting and assisting a trafficked
child, but focuses on the following phases of action:
1. The decision-making process to choose a comprehensive,
secure and sustainable solution in the child’s
best interests (i.e., solutions that are sometimes called
“durable solutions”) concerning:
i. Children who are outside their country of origin
(whether unaccompanied, separated or accompanied),
including regularization of the immigration
status of such a child;
ii. Children who have not left their own country;
2. Implementation of such solutions;
3. The medium-term and long-term provision of
assistance to ensure each child’s satisfactory recovery
(“re/integration”), whether in the child’s country or
place of origin or elsewhere.
Chapter 2 sets out the child rights principles that underpin
the protection of trafficked children. The first and overriding
principle is that in all actions affecting children (covering everything
done to protect trafficked children or to tackle child
trafficking), the best interests of the child must be a primary
Chapter 3 explains what decisions generally have to be
made concerning trafficked children and at what point in
the protection process these occur. It emphasizes that child
protection specialists should take a leading role in making
decisions whenever feasible, and refers to Sweden’s National
Referral Mechanism handbook, which highlights the
action points required with respect to children and young
people. The chapter also examines the “The Child House”
(Barnahus) model, which seeks to ensure that child victims
are not subjected to repeated interviews about the same
Chapter 4 goes into further detail on the interim care of a
trafficked child, the period in which child protection authorities
are preparing to make key decisions affecting the child.
Considerations on whether a trafficked child should be
placed in alternative care are discussed, and the types of assessment
recommended by the United Nations (UN) Guidelines
for the Alternative Care of Children are described. In the
case of children who are (or appear to be) unaccompanied
when identified as presumed trafficking victims, the “necessity
principle” set out in the UN Guidelines means that the
child must be provided with alternative care straight away.
In such cases the authority responsible for making the decision
must assess the risks facing the child and how these
affect his or her placement, keeping a record of the factors
taken into consideration in deciding where to accommodate
the child and what measures are needed to protect the child
from any identified risks. It is emphasized how important it is
to avoid placing presumed trafficked children in any sort of
prison cell or other kind of detention situation. The risk of a
child victim being subjected to further abuse at a shelter or
care home is also discussed, along with some of the steps
that are essential for preventing this.
Chapter 5 considers the best interests of the child and how
an understanding of what this implies can be introduced into
the decision-making process, not only in countries where
unaccompanied children are identified, but also in children’s
countries of origin.
Chapter 6 looks at the experience of implementing decisions
made about trafficked children, focusing on case
management and care plans that promote the satisfactory
reintegration of children. It describes some of the benefits
of preparing a “life project” with a trafficked child. It also
discusses appropriate measures for reducing the likelihood
that a trafficked child placed in alternative care will walk out
and go “missing”.

Chapter 7 summarizes the principles surrounding a trafficked
child’s possible return to their country or place of
origin, emphasizing the safeguards that are essential. It describes
both bilateral and multilateral frameworks governing
the return of unaccompanied children, and discusses cases
in which restrictions have been placed upon trafficked children
after their return to their country of origin.
Finally, Chapter 8 presents a series of recommendations for
the OSCE participating States, noting that these supplement,
but are not intended to replace, the measures that
have already been recommended to participating States in
the past. Central to these recommendations is that child
trafficking should be addressed as a child protection issue
within a child protection framework, with child protection
specialists playing a leading role in all procedures involving
decisions that might have a significant impact on a trafficked
The Occasional Paper contains two annexes, the first quoting
from a Joint General Comment issued in 2017 by two
United Nations treaty-monitoring bodies, and the second
summarizing points from a UNICEF model bilateral agreement
concerning children who have been trafficked.

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