Warsaw/Cairo- Today (15/10), Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), held a webinar on countering trafficking and smuggling of children in the European Union (EU) and the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA).
The webinar is the first in a series of joint activities organised by Frontex and IOM to counter people smuggling and trafficking in human beings/in persons in 2020 in the MENA region. It was organised in the run-up to the 14th EU anti-trafficking day on 18 October and aimed to raise awareness, share experiences and highlight new challenges in the field of trafficking and smuggling of children, particularly in the context of COVID-19.
“Border guards are often the first law enforcement officers who come in contact with potential victims of child trafficking or smuggling,” said Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri.
“This is why training them to detect possible victims is so important. We need to work together to enhance the protection of children at risk and to effectively combat the activities of organised criminal groups,” he added.
During the event, which was attended by nearly 200 participants, including child protection experts, law enforcement experts and policy-makers from the MENA and EU region, as well as representatives from other regional and international organizations, including UNICEF, UNODC and UNHCR, Frontex and IOM introduced tools for combatting child trafficking and smuggling. As trafficking in persons/human beings often takes place across borders, law enforcement officers play a crucial role in identifying potential victims. One of the tools is the training of border guards.
Ideas for opportunities of future cooperation between countries in the EU and the MENA region as well as international and regional organizations to fight these crimes and ensure protection was discussed.
“I am pleased to see our member and partner states from both sides of the Mediterranean coming together to discuss the crimes of trafficking and smuggling of children during this challenging time,” said Ms. Carmela Godeau, IOM Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“IOM continues to advocate for balanced and rights-based approaches to migrant smuggling, human trafficking and irregular migration in the MENA region and is working with governments on countering human trafficking.”
Over the past years, the Mediterranean region witnessed unprecedented levels of migratory movements, including those originating or transiting from countries of the MENA region towards the EU. This has increased the risk of migrant and refugee children of becoming victims of trafficking.
In cooperation with specialized UN agencies and I/NGOs, Frontex has been active in this field for years, producing handbooks for border guards on how to detect potential victims and refer for assistance. The Frontex VEGA Handbook: Children at Airports has been translated into Arabic and released on the webinar.
This event was financed and organised in the framework of the EU4BorderSecurity project, which aims to enhance dialogue and cooperation in different areas of border management and security between countries of the EU and those of the Levant and the North of Africa.