Strengthening fight against Trafficking in Children

By Martina Liebsch

Part 2: Coatnet Annual Users’ Meeting: Exchange of best practice, raising awareness and looking ahead!
(Read part 1)

The meeting took place in Paris, from 13th – 17th of October and embraced the annual meeting of the network and a public event under the title:” Fighting Trafficking in children: What is to be done in the European Union?”.

The meeting of the network gave space to the exchange of experience and best practice. Personally I always find it impressive to see with how much courage and ideas our colleagues across the globe are struggling with this crime.

First and foremost, Father George Sigamoney from Caritas Sri Lanka, who has produced a little film called “The house of the Arabian child”. It is based on a true story of a woman who goes abroad to work as a domestic worker. The price the family pays  is high – disintegration of the family, violence, rape – the gains are small. The film was broadcast on private television channels in Sri Lanka and had a major public impact. Women, who had had the same experience spoke about it. Authorities and Embassies were under pressure.

Mungreiphy Shimray from India reported that many of those who go abroad to work as domestic workers are minors. Elena Timofticiuc, from Romania, reported about parents who migrate abroad to earn for their living. They leave their children behind in the care of relatives or friends. This increases the risk of these children of being trafficked. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) 1,2 mil. Children are estimated of being trafficked at any given point in time. This alone is enough justification to raise awareness in public.

The public event on the 16th of October in the illustrious premises of the French Supreme Court, was fully packed with around 230 people from 30 countries, among them many representatives of French NGO’s.

Seventeen speakers from Churches, NGO’s, European Institutions and governments, presented their reflections on trafficking in children and on what needs to be done. One of the themes which emerged throughout the whole event, but also the whole week, was the central role of education, education understood as a means for empowerment: education about the phenomenon, about human rights and gender. The still widespread idea that women and children are not individuals with own wishes, needs and rights, seems to be one of the reasons fuelling trafficking. Definitely Caritas can play an important role in this.

The session ended with two quite antithetic messages. According to the representative of the Supreme Court, Mr. Pierre Sargos, the political will to really engage in combating trafficking in human beings is low. Commissioner Barrot on the other hand made some promising statements on behalf of the EU, which are in line with what NGO’s have been asking for. The possibility of the establishment of National Rapporteurs, who would be responsible for collecting qualitative information about the phenomenon. The Council Framework on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings ( would be revised.

Victims need immediate assistance and should not be punished. Two important agencies of the EU, relevant for the issue will be reinforced, Europol and Eurojust. Finally, he highlighted the funding possibilities provided by the EU: a new call for proposals should be out by the end of the year. His cabinet would be available for assistance in case of problems with funding.

But there were also some domestic affairs on the agenda: How should Coatnet develop in the future, in terms of structure and strategic goals? There was a demand for stronger and more transparent ownership by many users. The change from “users” to “members” symbolises the wish for ownership.

There was also a wish to further develop the strategic plan. A first draft of it was provided by Marius Wanders, Secretary General of Caritas Europa. I will have the honour and pleasure to lead the strategic planning process from now onwards. Results will be presented at the next members meeting which will most probably take place in 2009 in Bucharest/Romania.

Part 1: Some of us leave, others just change positions

Hello to all new and old colleagues! I began working for Caritas Internationalis as Advocacy Officer on Migration, Trafficking and Gender at the beginning of October. Before many of you know me for my work with Caritas Europa and Caritas Germany. It’s on trafficking where I will have my first “public appearance” in my new job. Coatnet, the network of Christian Organisations against Trafficking, gather in Paris on Monday 14 October.

At the beginning of the week there will be a training session for the members to find out about and use relevant human rights instruments in their work. After that Coatnet will have its formal meeting, planning the year ahead and giving the network a new strategic direction.

Coatnet started as a pilot project and later as network for almost 8 years now. It has grown from an organisation of five members to a fifty member strong group, which of course implies challenges in terms of management, ownership and output.

The art will be to find a formula which allows for joint actions and a joint Christian (or interreligious) face in this fight without overburdening the participants with too many formalities.
At the end of the week there will be a public event under the auspices of the French Presidency of the EU on 16 October to coincide with the EU Anti-trafficking day. The main focus there will be the fight against trafficking in children. After the presentation on how to fight trafficking, recommendations of the NGOs gathered there will be presented to Commissioner Barrot, the Commissioner for Justice, Liberty and Security of the EU. A challenging week lies ahead.

Trafficking is a crime and involves heavy violations of human rights. One victim is too many, even more so if we talk about children. The problem of trafficking in children – according to some colleagues seems to be increasing and it does not only happen cross-border but also within a country.

Thus trafficking in children is an issue which concerns “us” and not “them”. Scrolling through the blogs what struck me, was that I could often read “enough words, we know the problems, now we need action”. This can be said as well about trafficking.

Governments have to commit themselves to the fight, but also to tangible results. NGOs and other actors in the field lack resources (financial and human). There is a need for better data collection and analysis. The many action plans which emerged – at least within the EU in the past years – have to be evaluated against their implementation.

The fight against trafficking in children can also be linked to the Millennium Development Goals. Colleagues working on prevention say that we need education on gender relations and on human rights.

Finally – and that is a challenge for Caritas – we need to be aware that we are talking about a trafficking chain, involving not only rich and powerful criminals, but also poor people at the end of the chain who are those who supply their children in exchange of money to survive or in exchange of the dream that the child would have a better life. As Caritas reaches out to the poor, it is there where we have to do awareness raising and education and not only with glossy posters in the countries of destination.

1 Comment

Filed under Advocacy, Migration, Trafficking

One response to “Strengthening fight against Trafficking in Children

  1. Thank you, Martina, for these two excellent ‘blog’ entries about the events of COATNET in Paris in October 2008, with as one of the highlights the public event in the Cour de Cassation of the Palais de Justice in Paris.

    I would also like to express my admiration and gratitude to you for having taken on the difficult assignment of moderating this very important event, and for your powers of synthesis, which always amaze me.

    My final comment (and the only thing you have not mentioned in your blog entires): At the end of the session in the Cour de Cassation, there was the official and public opening ceremony of an excellent photo exhibition, prepared by Secours Catholique on behalf of the collective ‘Contre la Traite’ (alliance of French anti-trafficking NGOs) and COATNET. The exhibition shows different dimensions of human trafficking in different parts of the world and provides a thought-provoking testimony about the brutality and despair that go hand in hand when trafficking occurs.

    The phote exhibition is ‘mobile’ and can thus travel. It will be available to members of COATNET or of the Caritas network for display at appropriate occasions. Geneviève Colas of Secours Catholique can be contacted for reservations and transport arrangements, in case any member of the two networks wishes to use this excellent awareness raising tool at an appropriate occasion.

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