Thursday, March 31, 2005

Balkans urged to curb trafficking - BBC

By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Geneva

France has tightened up controls at Calais
Countries in South-East Europe are failing to take effective measures against people trafficking, the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) says.

A Unicef report says that while countries in the region have strict anti-trafficking laws they do not tackle the root causes of the problem.

Unicef found that young people at risk often did not know how to protect themselves from traffickers.

Few knew that traffickers were often friends or even family members.

The report looked at trafficking in Albania, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania and Serbia-Montenegro.

No one knows exactly how many people fall victim to traffickers - it is a secretive and complex business.

But Unicef does know what kind of people are trafficked: young women between the ages of 15 and 17 are sold for sexual exploitation; children under 13 are trafficked for forced labour and begging.

Children ill-informed

Many countries in South-East Europe have harsh laws against trafficking, but they focus on preventing illegal migration or cracking down on prostitution and organised crime.

What is missing, Unicef says, are child-focused strategies to prevent trafficking in the long term.

Children surveyed in Montenegro, for example, suggested that not walking alone at night might protect them.

In Romania, trafficked children returning from European Union countries are simply sent back to their families by the police, without involving the child protection agency and without investigating the situation of the family concerned.

But there are some success stories. Moldova, Europe's poorest country, has set up community services for abused children and introduced family and life-skill classes for those most at risk.

Education and awareness-raising are, Unicef says, the strategies most likely to prevent trafficking in the long-term. Repressive laws alone will not work.

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