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Reference Guide on Protecting the Rights of Child Victims of Trafficking in Europe

© UNICEF/SWZK00852/Pirozzi
Children on the streets of the Albanian capital, Tirana.

Q&A: Reference Guide on Protecting the Rights of Child Victims of Trafficking in Europe

1) What is the Reference Guide on Protecting the Rights of Child Victims of Trafficking in Europe?

The Reference Guide is essentially a handbook for the implementation of the standards and measures outlined in the UNICEF Guidelines to Protect the Rights of Child Victims of Trafficking. The Reference Guide is a practical tool that offers step-by-step instructions to those working directly with victims of trafficking and children at risk of being trafficked. Furthermore, the Reference Guide serves as a reference for governments, organizations, and other advocates seeking to develop and implement effective policies and specific actions to prevent child trafficking and protect those who are currently victims of trafficking.

The Reference Guide is divided in three main parts:

1. Guiding principles and strategies for the implementation of UNICEF Guidelines to Protect the Rights of Child Victims of Trafficking. This section introduces the issue of child trafficking and explains in detail the implications of each of the standards and measures outlined in the UNICEF Guidelines, including key challenges in their implementation and examples of good practice. Although prevention is not in the focus of the UNICEF Guidelines, this section of the Reference Guide also suggests some strategies on how to prevent child trafficking. 

2. Specific tools for a broad range of practitioners, including checklists to assist in dealing with child victims of trafficking. This part is specifically relevant to professionals in direct contact with children at risk and/or trafficked children such as social workers, border officials and police officers.

3. Relevant international and regional (Europe, Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States) human rights standards and instruments including the text of the UNICEF Guidelines, as well as examples of national and bilateral coordination mechanisms and agreements on the protection of child victims of trafficking.  

2) What are the UNICEF Guidelines to Protect the Rights of Child Victims of Trafficking in South Eastern Europe (SEE)?

The UNICEF Guidelines were developed in 2003 in response to the increased incidence of human and child trafficking in SEE in the last six years. The aim was to ensure that the best interests of child victims are respected at every stage of anti-trafficking action, from the moment of identification to the provision of special protection measures and implementation of all other actions, both immediate and long-term. Durable solutions are, of course, paramount to the prevention and protection of child trafficking. 

In 2003, the UNICEF Guidelines were endorsed by governments at the Stability Pact Task Force sub-regional Ministerial Forum in Sofia, Bulgaria (10 December 2003). Today, more and more anti-trafficking practitioners are making use of the UNICEF Guidelines, which benchmark the minimum standards for the protection of child victims of trafficking.

The UNICEF Guidelines address 11 specific aspects concerning the protection of the rights of child victims of trafficking:

1. Identification of children as victims of trafficking;
2. Appointment of a guardian for every trafficked child;
3. Questioning by the authorities;
4. Referral to appropriate and coordinated services;
5. Interim care and protection;
6. Regularization of a child’s status in a country other than his/her own;
7. Individual case assessment and identification of a durable solution;
8. Implementing a durable solution, e.g., possible return to a child’s country of origin;
9. Access for children to justice;
10.  Protection of the child as a victim and potential witness;
11.  Training for all those who deal with child victims of trafficking.

The UNICEF Guidelines are an important tool. The new European Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (16 May 2005) has included a number of these provisions, translating them into hard law. But they are only as good as their use in practice, and need more promotion and implementation.

3) What is the Task Force on Trafficking in Human Beings of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe (SEE)?

The Task Force was established by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2000 to combat trafficking in human beings. The focus was placed on the development of National Action Plans to combat trafficking that included a wide range of initiatives: awareness raising, training, exchange programmes, law enforcement co-operation, return and reintegration of victims and legislative reform.

4) Why do we need this new Reference Guide?

Although the UNICEF Guidelines have proven to be an important tool, they have yet to be systematically and strategically used in practice. Thus, the Reference Guide was put together to offer step-by-step guidance for implementation of each of the standards and measures outlined in the UNICEF Guidelines.

This is a unique and specialized Reference Guide based on the most significant conclusions derived from years of research and information-gathering on trafficking in this region. In order to prevent trafficking and protect the rights of those most vulnerable – children – one must understand trafficking in the context of the unique socio-cultural-political realities in which children live day by day.

This Reference Guide also demonstrates UNICEF’s commitment to prevent trafficking and protect children by placing the child trafficking victim at the heart of interventions. The Reference Guide is a critical element in the effort to create a “protective environment” for all children that is child-rights focused. Such an environment is the responsibility not only of governments but of every member of society. If there is a protective environment, children who are socially excluded or at-risk will be identified, protected and assisted, irrespective of their nationality.

5) Who can use this Reference Guide?

The fact that this Reference Guide is designed for use by a variety of child advocates and by those who come into direct contact with child victims is another factor that makes it unique and important. The Reference Guide can easily be utilized by anyone –
from the child protection worker in Ukraine, the social worker in Russia and the border patrol agent in Albania to the staff driver in Romania, the parliamentarian in Brussels, the Minister of Social Welfare in Moldova and the school teacher in Berlin.

It is also intended to serve policy makers and officials within governments, non-governmental and international organizations throughout the region (Europe, Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States).

6) How can I get a copy of the Reference Guide?

Currently, the Guide is available online and on the UNICEF Online Magazine. Print copies are limited but requests can be sent to





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