Report by Lars Lööf (CBSS) from the International Conference: “Stop Child Trafficking – Modern Day Slavery” Helsinki, 1-3 June 2003

Report by Lars Lööf (CBSS) from the International Conference: “Stop Child Trafficking – Modern Day Slavery” Helsinki, 1-3 June 2003

Report by Mr. Lars Lööf
Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS)
Children at Risk Unit

H.E the President of Finland, H.E. the President of Latvia, H.E. the Prime Minister of Finland, H.E. the Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, H.E. the US Ambassador to Finland, H.E. the Canadian Ambassador to Finland, H.E. the Swedish Ambassador to Finland, senator Landon Pearson from Canada and some 150 delegates gathered in the House of Estates in Helsinki to share, exchange and improve practices, programmes and policies aimed at Stopping Trafficking of Children.

The conference was organised by the US Embassy to Finland, the Swedish Embassy to Finland, The Canadian Embassy to Finland and the Finnish Government in co-operation with the Council of the Baltic Sea States.

Through input from a number of speakers from the region of the Baltic Sea on issues like Legislation, Demand Reduction, Interdiction, Prevention, Regional Co-operation, The role of the Media and Victim Assistance, the experts and senior officials were given the opportunity to consider how best to implement programmes and legislation that may intensify the fight against trafficking in children. As one of the opening speakers put it: “The failure of one of us, is the failure of us all”.

The international nature of the crime was clearly demonstrated in the presentations and regional and international co-operation was constantly underlined. The positive examples of successful legal actions against traffickers as well as successful assistance in reintegrating and rehabilitating victims all included elements of well functioning cross border co-operation.

Main threads in the discussions and presentations were the following:

Where are the children?
So many of these children are hidden from view because the authorities do not know where to look. The conference however clearly showed the existence of this most disturbing trade in children in our region. The extent of this trade is not known due to its extremely clandestine nature. To come closer to and reveal the whereabouts of the children victimised by traffickers, unorthodox investigative methods have proved successful.

The international and regional dimension of the problem of unaccompanied and trafficked children makes enhanced regional co-operation imperative in identifying, protecting, assisting and rehabilitating the children victims of trafficking. Time is an essential factor in assisting children in their reintegration into normal life. The present delay in sending legal documents to authorities in other countries is unacceptable.

Documents regarding the children are needed both in the prosecution of traffickers and in the reintegration of the child victims.

The ongoing co-operation through the WGCC on Unaccompanied and trafficked children in the region of the Baltic Sea States and Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova form a regional base for increasing multilateral co-operation as well as competence and capacity building. The conference pointed to the need for a comprehensive approach where the legal authorities and the social, psychological and medical expertise need to co-operate closely with each other and with the NGOs.

In order to intensify and solidify the work on this issue, the task force on organised crime should specifically, in its mandate include a reference to the situation of trafficked children, and the special measures needed to improve police and border co-operation on this issue in the member states. Such a mandate should ideally also include the need for intensified co-operation with social, psychological and medical resources to improve the fast rehabilitation of individual children. To effectively combat the trafficking of children in the region there is a need for strong co-operation and co-ordination on the national as well as on the regional level. Such co-ordination needs to include police initiatives, social, psychological and medical measures along with legal initiatives. A number of national authorities and agencies are involved in the fight against trafficking in children and in the reintegration of victims of the crime and consequently several ministries are responsible. The conference speakers argued that there need to be a strong and unambiguous political commitment.

Regional co-operation needs to be built on the commitment of the political leadership in formulating a strong call for co-operative action. In the region of the Baltic Sea States the CSO of the CBSS should take on board the initiative to intensified co-operation fighting trafficking in children in order for the member countries to better include the different national actors in the common fight against this heinous crime.