NEW YORK (10 October 2017) – States must step up their work to protect migrant children from sale, trafficking and other forms of exploitation, two UN experts say in a joint study, warning that many children currently suffer sexual and labour exploitation amid “ineffective” action by countries around the world.
Children fleeing conflict and disasters face high risks of exploitation - with lone children facing particular dangers - and States are falling short in their duty to protect them, said Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, and Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, presenting their joint
report to the General Assembly in New York.
“States must recognize the international protection needs of children who flee conflicts and crises,” the experts said. “In particular, States must ensure that unaccompanied and separated children are promptly identified, registered and referred to the child protection system.”
“All children, including those accompanied by parents or other legal guardians, must be treated as individual rights-holders, not criminals,” they added.
The UN experts said States’ existing responses to the various forms of exploitation faced by children fleeing conflict and humanitarian crisis were largely ineffective and led to precariousness.
“In spite of some promising practices, the interim care and durable solutions for vulnerable children on the move often do not consider the specific needs of children, especially those separated or unaccompanied who live in mixed spaces with adult migrants or refugees in areas or camps that lack basic amenities,” the experts said.
“All children on the move are vulnerable to sale, trafficking and other forms of exploitation,” the experts said. “Children must be protected first and foremost as children. Tailored solutions must be adopted for each case, including as appropriate additional protection offered by national legislation providing assistance, protection and residence status to children close to adulthood.”
Too often States fail to protect children and to identify indicators of trafficking and exploitation. “The existence of numerous cases of sexual exploitation of children, even in refugee camps and state-run facilities is an additional indication of the failure of a protection system meant to safeguard them.”
In their joint report, the UN experts urge States to adopt proactive protection measures for children affected by conflict and crisis, such as family- and community-based solutions and creating safe child-friendly spaces. They also advised strengthening the professionals working with migrants and refugees where they live and where they arrive in large numbers, and train them to identify international protection entitlements as well as indicators of sale, trafficking and other forms of exploitation.”
“States should also make sure children can easily report sexual abuse and exploitation, and ensure that those without family members are placed with trained guardians as soon as possible,” they added.
“The sale of and trafficking in children has to be prevented, with a particular focus on protecting orphans, children left behind by parents fleeing conflict, and those who have fled conflict and crises without their families,” the experts said.
“States must adopt measures to prevent the sexual and labour exploitation of children, including by establishing accessible, safe and regular channels of migration, respecting the principle of non-refoulement and ensuring that migrant and refugee children have regular access to education and life skills training in the host country,” the experts added.
Ms. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio (Netherlands) was appointed as
Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children by the UN Human Rights Council in May 2014.
Ms. Maria Grazia Giammarinaro (Italy) was appointed as
Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the
Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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