Unaccompanied minors at risk: preventing child trafficking

It is estimated that over the past few years, tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors went missing in the European Union. This is a problem on many different levels: fundamental rights, child protection, managing of migration flows and asylum. From the crime prevention perspective, the fact that children are unaccompanied and the fact that they are off the authorities’ radar are major risk factors. Unaccompanied minors run a significantly increased risk of being trafficked for sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, or criminal exploitation.


Chapter one of this report describes the phenomena of child trafficking and unaccompanied minors going missing and how they relate to migration and migrant smuggling, without disregarding intra-EU trafficking. The report goes on to outline the most important international conventions, protocols and declarations for the fight against child trafficking in the EU (chapter two) and the most important EU-wide, cross-border actions to prevent child trafficking and to safeguard UAMs from going missing (chapter three). Chapter four offers the reader an overview of existing resources of the past few years, including research reports, handbooks, and recommendations. The fifth and final chapter highlights and explains some of the most pressing recommendations regarding the prevention of child trafficking, covering the following five categories, from determining the child’s best interest and child-friendly approaches, over cross-border and interagency cooperation, right through to addressing the offender and demand side.

EUCPN Secretariat, March 2020, Brussels


Table of contents

Executive summary.

1.    Unaccompanied minors going missing.
1.1.     Unaccompanied minors.
1.2.     Unaccompanied minors in migration.
1.3.     Trafficking in human beings and migrant smuggling.
1.4.     Child trafficking within the EU.
2.    Legal framework and definitions.
2.1.     United Nations.
2.2.     Council of Europe.
2.3.     European Union.
3.    EU-wide measures and actions.
3.1.     EU Strategy  towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings (2012-2016) and follow-up.
3.2.     Europol and the EU Policy Cycle.

3.3.     Action Plan on Unaccompanied Minors 2010-2014.
3.4.     116000: EU-wide hotline for missing children.
4.    Existing resources.
4.1.     FRA Handbook on Children Deprived of Parental Care in Another Country than Their Own.
4.2.     EIGE Report on Gender-Specific Measures in Anti-Trafficking Action.

4.3.     Missing Children Europe.
4.4.     OSCE Special representative and coordinator for CTHB.
5.    Recommendations.
5.1.     The best interests of the child.
5.2.     Interagency and cross-border cooperation and information exchange.

5.3.     Training and standard operating procedures.
5.4.     A tailored, child-friendly approach.
5.5.     Addressing the offender and demand side.


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