More children at risk of exploitation and abuse: UNICEF
GENEVA/BUCHAREST, 17 January 2013 - UNICEF is urgently calling for stronger prevention measures to protect vulnerable children from growing exploitation and abuse, including trafficking.
The appeal coincides with the German television station, ARD, premiere of their 90-minute film Operation Sugar on 16 January. The fictional film poignantly describes the fate of an exploited and abused Romanian girl and boy, in their early teens, who ended up in Germany – a fate that could be shared by many vulnerable children. It also elaborates the difficulties of protecting victims and witnesses as well as prosecuting the perpetrators.
Two of the film's main actors visited Romania last year to see first hand how UNICEF supported the government to prevent exploitation and abuse of children.
For the first time since 2005, human trafficking in all its forms reported a rise in 2010 to 1,154 from 780 cases a year before in Romania, reported its National Agency against Trafficking in Persons. It also says many of the victims are children around 14-17 years of age. In 2010, 88 per cent were girls and many of them were also sexually exploited. For the first time, 14 boys were identified. Minors usually come from rural communities, homes affected by domestic violence, poverty, unemployment and child neglect. Despite serious concerns of cross border cases, children are increasingly trafficked within Romania.
The agency says the economic crisis has reduced the quality of life in the country, pushing people affected by job losses to take greater risks to earn money.
Children are estimated to make up 27 per cent of all trafficking victims, the most recent report from UN Office on Drugs and Crimes stated. In Germany, 482 official cases were brought to court in 2011 involving 640 victims. Many more cases may not have been reported, the German police said, adding that 61 per cent of the victims came from Eastern European countries.
“Prevention measures means governments and communities are there for children, first and foremost to protect families from spiraling into violence, abuse and exploitation. But they are also there to respond to these gravest of child rights violations once they have taken place,” Marie-Pierre Poirier, Regional Director of UNICEF Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States said in Geneva.
“Many children who end up being trafficked or facing other forms of exploitation are first exposed to risks and deprivations. They have no access to basic social services, such as social assistance, education and primary health care or supportive family services,” she added.
In partnership with the authorities, civil society and the media, initiatives aiming to prevent child trafficking, are incorporated into broader social and justice systems' strengthening strategies addressing disparities, exclusion and discrimination at national and sub-national level.
Preventive community-based services are being developed and modeled throughout Romania with a special focus on most deprived areas. These efforts will strengthen the capacity of local authorities to identify and respond to risks and vulnerabilities of deprived children and their families. Social workers will do more outreach work, early identification, assessment of needs and intervention to promote social inclusion, child rights and family cohesion.
UNICEF is providing expertise to the governments, local authorities and parliaments in Central and Eastern Europe to improve laws and policies based on affordable models and European good practices.