Building capacity of CSOs on combatting child trafficking was the goal of the training held within the Pilot Project for Early Warning System for Missing Children, with trainers from Austria and North Macedonia. CSOs are one of the important stakeholders that can contribute to improving the existing approaches and to find new methods for the prevention, investigation and mitigation of trafficking of human beings and children, as well as to protect or strengthen the rights of those affected by exchanging experiences and acquiring new knowledge.
The project coordinator Aleksandra Radevska emphasized the need for engaging different stakeholders (public and private sectors, civil society organizations, media) and that for the project to be successfully implemented, they will rely on the Austrian experience, because such a system already exists in Austria, as it exists in many other countries in the world.
-It is very important to have a chance to understand the signs of trafficking, and in order to do that it is important to know the differences among different phenomena like children rights violations, child abuse, sexual abuse, irregular migration, and of course what specifically THB represents from the victims point of view – stated Astrid Winkler, director of ECPAT Austria, lead organization in implementation of the project.
Andrea Nakova introduced gender aspects, context of victim and guilt, phases of THB and risks depending on persons or countries while defining human trafficking. She also shared the Macedonian Institutional framework, legislation regarding THB. Participants had a chance to share theirs thoughts and experiences confirming that every one of us can be a victim of trafficking in human beings.
Andrea Nakova gave a description of language and terminology relevant to TIP in context of child trafficking. As she said, when identifying the victims, social care givers play an important part. When CSOs work with children victims, they need to know that in some steps they will discontinue communication after the victim is processed in the system of protection by institutions.
When the topic of child trafficking is mentioned it is often connected to begging, thoughts that come to mind are also labor and sexual exploitation, kidnaping as violent act, which does not necessarily happen, sometimes there is no violence because the family is involved in the trafficking. Terminology is important in reporting on child trafficking and using not adequate terms just to draw attention of public.
Eva Kaufmann, trainer from LEFO-IBF shared the Austrian Institutional frame, the process of identification, the specialized police, the federal crime force that work on cases, further processing the cases to LEFO-IBF, MEN-Via or the Authority for child care. She explained how to recognise differences between TIP and human smuggling and their connection with children, and participants had a chance to practice through group work.
Andrea Nakova presenting the specific risk for TiP among street begging are most at risk to be trafficked in our country she said, and although it is seen very often in the capital Skopje and other cities, there are no mechanisms in place to solve it even when institutions react.
Participants shared experiences that in other cities in our country children refuse help if it does not come in form of money, which is not sure they will use for themselves or give it to the exploiter. Street children sometimes use the money for substance abuse ( sniffing glue to relieve hard conditions of life on the street).
In the discussion Natasha Dokovska mentioned the first shelter for street children in Skopje 20 years ago, giving details how children were educated, taken care of and attempted to be given documents. As the problem is the sustainability of activities like this, she said, there has to be institutional help to solve it to move the kids from the streets.
Eva Kaufmann commented that it is a social problem, a burden on social care services. As she said, also, not every child that begs is a victim of trafficking; sometimes it is the only way for them to make money. What needs to be clear is that sometimes children begging can be targeted and become later victims of trafficking.
Participants were asked to share knowledge of secondary victimisation, where media was mentioned and the need to educate them not to re-victimize the person when interviewing or writing about the case.
CSOs must know what information are necessary for media, protection of data, the country of origin of the victim for example, but also to have in mind a positive approach when interviewing. Asking how they survived is a positive perception, also gives them sense they can overcome it and continue life, said Eva Kauffman.
Natasha Dokovska addressed the access to information and protection of personal data regarding missing children. She spoke about protection of privacy of the victim, respect the presumption of innocence, and stimulated interaction about what is defined as personal data ( nickname, email, IP address, video online with a child in a corner and scenery, photo with a woman holding a child)…
– Victims of human trafficking can be men, women, girls, children, adults, minors, regardless of their ethnic, political or religious group and that they (the victims) are among the most vulnerable categories of citizens for whom CSOs have an interest and duty to protect them. There are, of course, traders, criminal and interest groups, organizers, those who make money … Let me remind you that when you work on such cases respecting ethical standards, respecting the rights of these people, in addition to protecting victims, you as representatives of the civil sector protect yourself – said Natasa Dokovska.
Astrid Winkler spoke about the mechanism of GRETA – who contributes in preparation of report. The monitoring mechanism of the CoE, GRETA scores all countries that signed the Convention, every 3-4 years.
She encouraged CSOs to give comments to the GRETA since it is sometimes difficult to reach institutions, this way you can transfer the critiques through the mechanism of GRETA so they can recommend it to the institutions in the country. So you should use this mechanism to be heard, she said.
Participants commented that it is important to get involved it preparation of reports to GRETA, or a shadow report that can be done as a network of CSOs in the country. The role of the civil sector is to be a corrector of the government, so Natasha Dokovska suggested making a shadow report.
Eva Kauffman confirmed that a shadow report for the CEDAW report is done, as well as for the convention to the right to children, and the national coalition to the convention which LEFO and ECPAT are part of, contribute to the shadow report. For the COE Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by the Parties there is no knowledge that a shadow report is been done but it is a good tool for CSOs, she added.
The participants od CSOs agreed that a shadow report is a good idea, by a network of civil organizations to have a system tracking the situation on national and local level. Participants stressed the importance on working on raising awareness of all stakeholders as a lot of victims and even CSOs working with them are discouraged to report it to institutions in fear of secondary victimization by institutions, media, or the public.