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Children's rights must be upheld, OSCE anti-trafficking Co-ordinator says

( OSCE ) - Police, immigration authorities and other actors should ensure that child trafficking victims are not arrested or detained, but provided with access to justice, the OSCE acting Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, Ruth Freedom Pojman, told a forum on missing children and child trafficking in Thessaloniki, Greece on 8 and 9 May 2014.

"Children are holders of rights. Every child that is missing should be treated as abducted or trafficked until proven otherwise, and all such cases should be investigated. It is critical to empower and support vulnerable and trafficked children, to listen to them and learn from their experiences to better design policies that affect them," Pojman said.

In her keynote address, Pojman urged authorities and experts to focus special attention on strengthening child protection, in particular for missing, runaway, unaccompanied and separated children, children with disabilities, and those belonging to national minorities, such as Roma, and children in institutions and alternative care.

She noted that the OSCE's anti-trafficking Office works to combat child trafficking in all forms, including for sexual and labour exploitation, child begging, forced criminality, and domestic servitude through the adoption of advanced political commitments and assistance to OSCE States in their implementation. Due to the cruelty of the crime and the long-term effect of the trauma experienced by trafficking victims, which can amount to torture, it is critical to prevent trafficking in the first place, especially among vulnerable categories of children.  

Pojman said that the Office has worked to support the implementation of innovative prevention projects by NGOs that provide assistance to vulnerable and exploited children, including through improved psychological assistance and teaching practical life skills.

She emphasized the use of the Internet and other new technologies to improve education and information for such vulnerable children so that they can protect themselves and make informed and safer choices.

"I hope that innovative approaches to the prevention of child trafficking will inspire and inform, leading to a renewed commitment to prevent this terrible crime," Pojman said.

The forum was organized by Greek NGO The Smile of the Child and the Southeastern European Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and held under the auspices of the Greek Foreign Ministry on occasion of the 2014 EU Presidency.