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On 29 May 2015, the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) organised in Brussels a policy forum addressing three new forms of trafficking in persons: child trafficking for begging, for pickpocketing and for sexual exploitation of boys and the way they manifest themselves among Roma communities. The policy forum presented the final results and the key recommendations of an international comparative study conducted in seven EU Member States (Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia), before key stakeholders at EU level.

The policy forum was opened by Dr Helmut Sax, GRETA Member and Head of Department on Child Rights, Women’s Rights and Human Trafficking at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Human Rights, Austria, who gave the policy perspective of the topic. Among the key recommendations Dr Sax presented are empowerment of child right holders through participation of victims in decision-making (incl. through Roma community leaders, mediators, civil society, service providers) and accountability of duty bearers through ensuring cross-border cooperation of child welfare/child protection authorities, in order to prevent re-trafficking.

The academic perspective of the conducted study was presented by Dr Brenda Oude Breuil, Assistant Professor of Criminology at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands. Dr Breuil is also a member of the Advisory Board of the CONFRONT project. She stressed the importance of using participatory research method when working with sensitive topics, such as trafficking. This method reduces the chances of further stigmatization and ensures that Roma are first to benefit from research results. Some of the challenges in using participatory research methods are the threat of strengthening the taboo on child trafficking in Roma communities and further reinforcing existing inequities.

Ms Yva Alexandrova, senior analyst at CSD, outlined the factors of vulnerability to trafficking of Roma children and how they influence on the different recruitment strategies. Among the identified factors of vulnerability are poverty, social exclusion and marginalization, as well as dropping-out of schools and lack of employment prospects. The occurrence of traditional practices such as early marriages, child labour and mobility are also factors that create a vulnerability to trafficking and should prompt deeper investigation into how they underpin essential survival strategies for families. Ms Alexandrova presented examples of specific vulnerabilities from all the countries in which the study was conducted.

Ms Kamelia Dimitrova, senior analyst at CSD, outlined the main findings about the three different forms of children trafficking. Some of the challenges in identification and assistance of children victims of trafficking for begging are the stereotypes that begging is a “cultural” activity and the absence of child support mechanisms to begging families. The main challenge in identification of victims for pickpocketing is that investigation can be launched only if children are caught committing the crime. Regarding the third form examined – sexual exploitation of boys, the challenges in identification and assistance are the biggest due to institutional homophobia and the complete lack of data on characteristics of victims of exploitation. Ms Dimitrova focused on recruitment strategies for the three different forms and outlined the specifics of the risk groups. She pointed the policy recommendations for improvement of the victim identification and child trafficking response mechanisms and stressed on the importance of community involvement.

Among the discussion following the presentation emerged the question whether there is ethnically desegregated data collection and representatives of the European Commission stated that this is an issue that they work on and soon there will be a proposal on the topic.

Participants in the policy forum
Dr Helmut Sax, GRETA Member
Dr Brenda Oude Breuil, Assistant Professor of Criminology, University of Utrecht
Ms Yva Alexandrova, Senior Analyst, CSD
Ms Kamelia Dimitrova, Senior Analyst, CSD

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