report: Round table on Trafficking of Roma children in Albania, Strasbourg,
Purpose of the meeting
Mr Henry Scicluna,Council of Europe Coordinator for Roma and Travellers
Ms Eleni Tsetsekou, Administrator
Mr Javier Cabrera, Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights
The purpose of the Round Table was to enhance bilateral cooperation between Greece and Albania on a human rights issue – child trafficking –which in recent years had assumed dangerous proportions. As a hum an rights issue the Council of Europe is particularly interested in this phenomenon and is at the moment preparing a European Convention on trafficking of human beings.
The Commissioner of Human Rights attached great importance to the fight against the trafficking of Roma children
The Round Table was not intended to linger on past mistakes but to focus on cooperation between the two countries with a view to reaching practical solutions. Without cooperation, child trafficking became easier and more widespread. Interest, awareness and goodwill existed in both countries and significant reforms have been carried out. Certain areas, however, required greater efforts: cooperation between the judiciary and the police, monitoring of a child victim’s identity in the media, education and employment opportunities, awareness raising campaign, follow-up by social services.
The Round Table was intended to focus on Roma children. Child trafficking was discernible in vulnerable groups and was often the result of extreme poverty. The Roma community was undoubtedly the most vulnerable one and traffickers picked up their victims amongst this community.
Mr Moschos, Greek Deputy Ombudsman
His Beatitude Anastasios, Archbishop of all Albania
Ms Athanassia Sykiotou, independent expert
According to a European Parliament report in 2000, about 500,000 victims of trafficking enter Western Europe every year. There is however, no reliable data on the exact number of trafficked persons. Reports on south-eastern Europe show that 92 per cent of the victims originate mainly from four countries: Albania, Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria.
Over the last 15 years the opening of the border between Greece and Albania has given rise to a number of illegal activities, including the trafficking and exploitation of human beings. This trafficking happens mostly amongst vulnerable and marginalised groups, and notably the Roma.
The Greek government has taken a number of measures: new legislation, intensive policing in sensitive areas. The Greek Ministry for Foreign Affairs would soon be operating two shelters of anti-trafficking in Athens and Thessaloniki and a 24 hour telephone line in different languages; and in the next few months the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs would be organising training in Thessaloniki on shelter houses, together with the Ministry of Education.
National preventive strategies, however, were lacking, treatment and care of unprotected children was weak and welfare services were inadequate. According to a special research by the Greek Ombudsman on the protection and social assistance of street children, 487 out of the 644 children placed in welfare institutions in Athens between 1998 and 2001 had disappeared, seemingly recuperated by the traffickers.
The Greek and Albanian governments were currently negotiating a bilateral agreement which will provide the legal framework for their cooperation at various levels on the issue of child trafficking. The agreement was very close to being concluded.
There was no information from the Albanian authorities, most of whom were absent from the Roundtable.
The general discussion centred around the following issues:
The role of the governments
The interest of both the Greek and Albanian government is to protect the interests of the child who is being trafficked or risks to be trafficked. This is a job that involves the police, the judiciary, the welfare services and the Roma community itself, particularly the Roma NGOs.
One of the problems identified is the identity of the trafficked child. There is a need for screening procedures for identification and for the police to report on missing children.
Street work needs strengthening and the Greek government should help those NGOs which were already doing a good job in this respect .Once the children are picked up from the streets a number of steps have to be taken
One step frequently envisaged is repatriation of the child. The question arises, however, under what conditions and circumstances repatriation takes place. Should the child just be handed to the police at the border, without checking where the child is going to end? Should the courts retain children in Greece if they know that once repatriated they are going to be worse off than in an institution in Greece? It is the Greek Ombudsman’s view that the only solution is to develop a coordinated multi-level strategy and transnational cooperation for the safe and effective repatriation of the child victims. Repatriation, however, should only take place if the child is being repatriated to an appropriate safe and social environment..
While the children are in Greece, but off the street, it is important that they should be strongly protected in well equipped institutions with a properly trained staff. The training of social workers is, in this respect, one of the priorities
The appointment of a tutor in Greece who would be replaced by another tutor once the child is repatriated would not only protect the child in Greece but also when he is back in Albania..
Police working in the area of child trafficking should also receive training on how to deal with the children, how to act in different situations and on their relations with the judiciary.
The role of NGOs
A coalition of 12 anti-trafficking organisations has been set up to combat this phenomenon more effectively. There is however a need for Roma NGOs to get involved in the coalition.
Roma children are the most at risk. As a result of extreme poverty they are given away by their parents in the hope that they can get a better future. The Roma community knows better than anybody else the extent and nature of the problem. Not only can that community provide reliable information but it can be used to make the Roma population aware of the risks of trafficking.
There is also a need for Greek NGOs working on child trafficking to get involved in the coalition and for a bilateral cooperation between Albanian and Greek NGOs, including Roma NGOs. Roma NGOs should moreover be involved in the structures envisaged under the proposed bilateral agreement on child trafficking between Greece and Albania.
Anti-trafficking organisations need to be verified to ensure that they are genuinely working in the interests of the children.
The participants at the Round Table agreed that the views expressed and the conclusions reached at this meeting should be brought to the notice of the Greek and Albanian governments and proposed to the said governments to take them into account in the preparation of the bilateral agreement and in any action they might wish to take in this area.
REPORT OF THE ROUND TABLE ON TRAFFICKING OF THE ROMA CHILDREN IN
ALBANIA: FOSTERING A GREEK-ALBANIAN COPERATION
MONDAY 5TH JULY 2004 – TIRANA
Report prepared by
Chairperson: Henry Scicluna –Coordinator of the Council of Europe Roma/ Gypsy Activities
Importance of the meeting
Mr. Scicluna opened the meeting and welcomed all the participants, including the representatives of Roma and other international organisations.. He extended a special welcome to His Beatitude, Archbishop of Albania and to the Greek ambassador to Albania.. He said that this meeting was very important, firstly due to the presence of representatives of various Ministries and secondly because it provides us with the opportunity to tackle the most serious problem that was unfortunately ravaging European countries. The Council of Europe, as a Human Right Organization, is interested in human rights issues and has done considerable work in this area.. At the moment, theCouncil of Europe is preparing a European convention on trafficking of human beings.
This meeting is also important, from the point of view of getting some of the countries together- to discuss on measures to be taken. But it is also important, because it intends to focus more specifically on the problem of trafficking faced by two countries. The bilateral consultation would make solutions more feasible and provide some conclusions on the orientation to take with and on what can be done. As chairman I do not intend to monopolize the meeting. But I would like to pass an important message. We are not here to accuse and criticize each other, for things that have not been done. We are here to talk about the future and what needs to be done . Before coming here I read two interesting reports; one from Terre des Hommes and the second from the Greek Ombudsman. These reports show not only awareness in both countries, but also an interest and good will to do something. In fact few things are already being done. Still, there are shortcomings. There are several reasons for this. The main reason is that this problem has acquired enormous proportions almost overnight and countries are having difficulties in dealing with it. Our purpose is to work together and to see what can actually be done. I think that this is the prime objective of this meeting. Otherwise we can leave this meeting without any conclusions and knowing that things have not been done.
Mrs. Eleni Tsetsekou
Administrator - Council of Europe responsible for Stability Pact and Roma
Ladies and Gentleman, His Beatitude, our meeting today is significant because it shows the good will of the two countries; Albania and Greece to deal seriously with one of the most tragic phenomenon of our times- the child trafficking. Why this bilateral cooperation? Because we believe that in today’s world, most of the problems have transnational dimensions. Few problems are solved without the cooperation or coordination among two or more countries. Child trafficking becomes easy because of the lack of cooperation and joint action by the affected countries. We hope that today’s meeting will mark the beginning of the bilateral cooperation, which could open the way for similar initiatives, not only in the region, but also in Europe. Mr. Cabrera represents the office of the Human Rights Commissioner and he will talk about this subject later on. In January this year, when, the CoE Commissioner Mr. Robles, took the first step to address the issue of child trafficking in Europe, we thought that this could be a very good start for having a practical follow up. And the Roma & Gypsy Division decided to have this follow up, on the bilateral cooperation between Albania and Greece. It is true that over the last decades the trafficking of the human beings has increased and has become one of the most serious problems of the human rights violations in Europe. Despite all efforts at national or international level, creation of special structures,and adoption of legislation, the trafficking networks are becoming more and more flexible and the number of the victims is increasing. Now, why has the Roma Division decided to get involved in this matter? We will all agree, and I hope that our Roma friends will talk about that later on,- that the victims of trafficking come from vulnerable groups. The Roma community is actually the most vulnerable community group in Europe today. The Council of Europe, more specifically, the Roma and Travellers Division have been working on the protection of human rights of the Roma population over the last ten years. From the point of view of policy making, much has been done. Countries are adopting national strategies. Albania and Greece are also moving in this direction. International organizations like the Council of Europe are assisting not only in drafting the procedures, but also in the implementation of the strategies Roma organizations are getting more and more involved in the decision-making process. When we visit Roma settlements around Europe, we are confronted with the paradox that the majority of the Roma communities are still living in unacceptable conditions. This is where the traffickers find their victims . Here I would like to stress to all the community leaders, especially the Roma women- because it is very important and very vital- that they run an awareness campaign within their own community about the dangers that their children may face, when they leave their country in the hope of finding a better life, for them and their families.
It is a well known fact that the elderly people and children enjoy a privileged position in the Roma community. But, very often, the culture of poverty is stronger then tradition. The first aim of today’s meeting should be to establish a close cooperation between the competent institutions of both countries, including the Roma community. The second one would be to formulate a common strategy. But as I said earlier, no strategy can be successful without the involvement of the Roma community. The Council of Europe can play a role of the facilitator in this process..
Mr. Scicluna thanked Mrs. Tsetsekou especially for underlying the fact that the question of trafficking of children is very much linked with misery and poverty. In fact, if we go back in history not so long ago, we find examples in some countries like France, Switzerland, and Italy where children were farmed out to work and earn money.. This is more a question of living conditions, which sometimes, force people to engage in criminal activities. I would now like to give the floor to Mr. Cabrera.
Mr. Javier Cabrera – The Commissioner of Human Rights Office Strasbourg
The Commissioner’s priority
I am addressing this meeting on behalf of Mr. Alvaro Gil-Robles who was unable to take part in this meeting because of his participation in another meeting in Barcelona. The enjoyment of human rights by Roma individuals and the community constitutes one of the Commissioner’s priorities. Even though improvements have been noticed, the Roma population is still facing obstacles in the enjoyment of the basic rights such as access to health care, housing, education, and employment. Discrimination, racism and violation remain a serious concern. The Commissioner attaches significant importance to the fight against trafficking of Roma children, especially at this juncture, when, there is a possible increase in child trafficking due to the forthcoming Olympic games in Athens. Significant reforms have been made in order to criminalize the numerous offenses related to the trafficking. However gaps still exist in many countries. Greater effort needs to be made to harmonize national and international cooperation between the judiciary and the police. It is necessary to coordinate actions of specialized agencies, within the framework of the stability pact, which works on the trafficking of human beings. The Commissioner of Human Rights considers that all efforts must be concentrated not only on the prosecution of the traffickers but also in the recognition of the victims’ rights. It is evident that Roma children are particularly vulnerable. Existing legislation requires more regular application, and practical mechanisms are not as effective as they should be. The following areas have been identified as requiring greater efforts:
• Criminal proceedings relying on the testimony of the trafficked children should be taken, keeping in mind their vulnerability; and weakness protection procedures need to be incorporated accordingly.
• The exposure of the child victim’s identity in the media should be monitored. It is necessary to establish mechanisms and infrastructure for receiving returned victims;and special attention must be paid to the victims who are in transit or in the country of destination .
• Education and future employment opportunities can play an important part in the rehabilitation of the trafficked child.
• Education and awareness raising campaigns play an important role in preventing the trafficking of the Roma children.
• Follow up by social services for the abandoned children; the school could contribute towards the prevention of the Roma child trafficking.
Trafficking is an international activity that requires an international response. I hope that this international event will reinforce the cooperation between the Albanian and Greek governments and would become an example to be emulated by the rest of European states.
Mr. Cabrera ended his speech by thanking all the participants on behalf of the Human Rights Commissioner.
Mr. Scicluna thanked Mr. Cabrera for underlying the role-played by social conditions and also that it was not simply repression and prosecution that will solve this problem, but also the improvement of social conditions. I would like to mention that Mr. Guy-Michael Brandtner who is the Secretary General’sSpecial Advisor in Albania will attend later. Mrs Kostantina. Bezhani is not here so I would now like to give the floor to Mr. Moschos who is the Deputy Ombudsman in the Department of children’s rights in Greece.
Mr. Moschos – Deputy Ombudsman , Head of Department of children rights Greece.
Your Beatitude, honorable participants. This morning I woke up with two vivid images in my mind; one was of course the picture of the celebration of the Greek football team, and the second one was the picture of the children that I have visited last night with the assistance of Mr. Ilir Beqiri. We paid a visit to the Roma community that is living somewhere outside Tirana. We saw that community living next to the garbage; and we saw children living in horrible housing conditions; with no education and no access to proper services. These are the children of the same God and have the same rights like all other children of our society. I would like to express my gratitude to the Council of Europe for organizing this event together with the Albanian co-organizers. They brought us here together to work towards a common goal, which is the protection of human rights of all children who are vulnerable and who are becoming victims. The independent authority of the Ombudsman is strongly committed to defending the rights of every child who lives in the Greek territory. For this reason we place an enormous importance on transnational cooperation.
The Greek Ombudsman and the Department Human Rights of Children have decided to carefully examine the phenomenon of child trafficking and is involved in a number of activities on the national and international level- The Greek government has amended the Law regarding the Greek Ombudsman in 2003, to include special provisions for the creation of the department on the protection of children’s right, following the standards of the internationally approved institution of the Ombudsman for children. Our department is associated with the European network of the Ombudsman for children and is consistently updating the information, in coordination with similar organizations around Europe. Coming to the phenomenon of trafficking, Mr. Moschos said that the opening of the borders between Greece and Albania over the last 15 years has nor only brought changes in immigration patterns, but also created a number of problems and has given rise to a number of illegal activities, exploitation and trafficking of the human beings being one of them. People and government have realized the seriousness of this problem regarding the violation of the fundamental rights of children, who are mostly coming from vulnerable and marginalized social groups. The Roma community is one of them. The government has taken some measures. These are: the introduction of new legislation, intensive policing in sensitive areas and the exchange of information on the courses and characteristics of the phenomenon. However, these measures are clearly not enough. National preventive strategies are lacking and are inefficient wherever these exist. The treatment and care for unprotected children is weak. Welfare institutions and services are definitively inadequate and bilateral cooperation between Albania and Greece is on its way. To be honest, it takes courage to accept that one has not done enough in the area of his/her responsibility. Also it takes courage to open up a debate on issues that are hard to address due to insufficient resources and weak prioritization in our public policies. However, we need to be courageous. That is why we are here today. We need to work together to discuss how we can improve our efficiency and how we can persuade all those responsible on the need of building up a social network. This will prevent any violation against vulnerable children. This is the reason why we have welcomed the initiative of the Council of Europe to participate in these focused activities. I say activities because I expect more to happen after this meeting. As I said earlier, all the institutions will be involved in working together, following today’s meeting. I would also like to say how our institutions work and deal with this phenomenon. According to law one of the duties of the Greek Ombudsman ac is to examine cases of violation of children’s rights on Greek territory and to take any appropriate measures to protect them. The Ombudsman may present to the Prime Minister special reports during the year, which are shared with relevant Ministers. This recommendation can not be imposed but are respected, through the credibility that the institution enjoys in our society.
For us the only solution towards an efficient combating of the phenomenon of child trafficking is the development of coordinated multi level strategies and transnational cooperation for the safe and effective repatriation of the child victims. As far as the Roma children are concerned, some specific measures need to be taken regarding their cultural identity. Of course, preventive measures should be taken in the community where they live, but also when they are brought to their country of destination. Particular care should be taken, so that they can speak the language that they understand and communicate in. Their opinion should be heard and support should be given according to their cultural background and their special educational and social needs. The provision of the guardian is crucial in ensuring that all their rights are protected. Repatriation should take place only after investigation and the reassurance that the child can be brought to an appropriate safe social environment. All this depends very much on the cooperation between the two countries. We are looking forward to a fruitful cooperation between Albania and Greece. Thank you very much.
Mr. Scicluna. Thank you very much Mr. Moschos, for your interesting intervention particularly for the proposals presented during the intervention. I would like to mention one thing that pleased me a lot, when you said that we need courage to admit that things are wrong. If we do not have that courage and we try to hide the problem or even worse, to ignore it, than it only will become worse, until we cannot hide it anymore. I believe that that kind of courage is needed in today’s meeting. Now I would like to give the floor to His Beatitude, Anastasios.
His Beatitude, Anastasios- Albanian Archbishop
Courage is the key for resolving a problem
Mr. Chairman, honorable participants, the first word that comes to my mind and to my heart, is the word Congratulations for the collaboration. With the initiative of the Council of Europe, we can see much clearly, the collaboration between the two countries that have common visions for the future. I remember,the first time I came to Albania, this was not so evident. I also see this meeting as a further step for a contribution. I think that it is important to identify one or two concrete steps, that we can work on, in the future. It is obvious that we need to accept that we need a systematic work. We need studies, we need facts, we need analyses and we also need to see our failures as a part of this experiment. Every small child is a whole human being. Nevertheless, we cannot have progress if we do not fail. Education is important not only for the children and their families but also for society as a whole. I would like to give an example. As you may know, in the religious communities, we cannot be responsible for many initiatives, but sometimes we do take some initiatives. I remember, after the crisis in Kosovo, we sent some money for rebuilding a school in one of the cities but not in the center of the town. We decided that the school should be rebuilt in the rural areas where Roma community lives. After this, we did the same thing with a dental clinic. We wanted those children there to be happier and their smiles to be more beautiful. I believe the problem here is graver, because it concerns respect for the dignity of these children. We know that the solution will not come from the good reports which will be placed somewhere in archives; but from the people I remember many times the verse that Eliot said,
“Where is the wisdom that we lost in the knowledge, and where is the knowledge that we lost in the information”.
I hope that you will not lose in the information, the knowledge and you will not lose in the knowledge, the wisdom. Child trafficking is not only a problem for us; it is a challenge to become more human and to become a real human society. Thank you.
Mr. Scicluna. Thank you your Beatitude for your inspiring speech. There are some points that I would like to comment upon. One of the things that you mentioned was that we cannot just ignore things, just because they are difficult. I remember, many years ago, we had a meeting at the Council of Europe and someone at that meeting proposed a particular subject for study One of the delegates said that we should not deal with that subject because it was too difficult . I said that that was the only reason for dealing with the issue. When we have difficult problems we need to solve them together. You also said; that we need to have the courage to experiment and the courage to fail. Small practical steps are more important than theoretical big steps. Nothing can be achieved without compassion and love. It is at the basis of the respect for the human dignity of the individuals. So, thank you very much, your Beatitude. Right away I would like to give the floor to Mrs. Sykiotou who will do a presentation of the facts and data concerning the trafficking of the Roma children between Albania and Greece.
Mrs. Athanassia Sykiotou – Independent Expert on Trafficking
Trafficking in children is undoubtedly an increasing problem
Thank you Mr. Chairman and let me thank the Council of Europe for organizing this important meeting. I would like to speak generally about the trafficking and then I would try to focus on the specific subject. According to the estimations made by UN, UNICEF and the European Parliament more than 4 million persons worldwide are being trafficked every year. Among them, UNICEF estimates that about 1,2 million are children. According to the European Parliament’s report for 2000, each year about 500,000 victims of trafficking enter into Western Europe. Trafficking in children is undoubtedly an increasing problem. Children without guidance and protection of parents are often more vulnerable for becoming victims of violence, exploitation, discrimination and other abuses. Children are often sold by their parents who believe that their children are going to be looked after, learn a trade or be educated. Some of the reasons that contribute to the increase of trafficking as Mr. Scicluna and Mrs. Tsetsekou said, is poverty. Trafficking of children concerns mainly exploitation for purpose of prostitution and pornography and also for begging, forced labor, illegal adoptions, and removal of their organs. The main problem with trafficking is that access to reliable data on the exact number of trafficked persons is not possible. All general assessments are hard to verify, according to the context and source of information. It is also difficult to distinguish between the data on trafficking, illegal migration, migrant sex workers, illegal border crossing etc. Often, the statistical data collected by the police and the border police is neither gender nor age segregated. The victim’s profile, according to reports on Southeastern Europe shows that 92 % of the victims originate mainly from four countries: Albania, Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria. Concerning the victims of trafficking in Greece, the majority appears to come from Albania and they appear to be of Roma origin. According to UNICEF’s reports on Southeastern Europe, more that 80 % of children who have been placed in Albania, in the institutions for children of the streets, had been victims of trafficking in Italy or Greece. According to a special research carried out by the Greek Ombudsman on the protection and social assistance of children in the streets, it seems that from 1998 to 2001, out of a total number of 644 children picked up in the streets and placed in the welfare institutions in Athens, 487 have disappeared. According to the same report, it seems that most of the children were taken by the traffickers who were paying up to 500 euros to take them back from the institutions, in order to push them into exploitation networks of prostitution, labor, or removal of their organs. The Council of Europe has made continuous efforts during the last 20 years, in the fight against trafficking of human beings. The Council Of Europe, taking into consideration the existing shortcomings in national and international legislation and also the fact that EU text do not cover all European States, has taken the initiative to draft a new European binding instrument against trafficking. A new convention is intended in order to contribute to the harmonization of legislation in trafficking throughout the European continent. The future European Convention of the Council of Europe attempts to cover all the above-mentioned shortcomings in the most concrete and precise way. As a conclusion, I can say that trafficking of children demands special handling and a strong coordination of all the bodies involved; be they governmental or nongovernmental, national or international. Combating trafficking effectively demands a combination and coordination of action from all the institutions involved in the problem. I also want to repeat what his Beatitude Anastasios said this morning that first of all we must find people that are willing to sacrifice themselves for the suffering victims. Thank you very much.
Mr. Kostas Yiannopoulos from the “Smile of the Child” NGO stated that each country should take care of its children and we can not blame our neighbors for not doing that. This is where the problem starts. We have different national and international organizations that are giving statistics about the trafficking of children but the figures differ. As an NGO, many times we had to do street work. Representing the Federation for missing children and sexually exploited children, we have the same problem all over Europe. If we do not have National Centers we will not know what in reality is the problem.
Mr. Tournecuillert Vincent from Terre des Hommes thanked the representative of the Greek NGO Smile of the child, for stressing that it was very hard to work across borders. He remarked about the absence of the representatives of the Albanian authorities. He sought to know from the organizers as to why they were not present. He stated that the bilateral agreement setting out the legal framework for cooperation between Albania and Greece needs to be signed very rapidly by both countries and needs to be enforced before the Olympic games. He concluded by saying that as an International organization they do not have enough links with Roma organizations, and both sides need to do more efforts in order to establish those links.
Mr. Ilir Beqiri from the Roma NGO remarked about the lack of cooperation between the Albanian and Greek authorities. Cooperation is a very useful tool in sharing information, and identifying the trafficked children. He proposed that the main purpose of this meeting should be to get to know each other and learn from each other’s experience.
Mrs. Eleni Petroula from the Greek League of Human Rights said that she will follow the advice of His Beatitude to be more practical; which means that we need to start with identifying the problem not only in the areas of coordination and cooperation among various institutions, but also in finding the gaps in the Legal Framework. She asked the Greek authorities about the procedure to be followed in case they find a street child. She also wanted to know if there were any screening procedures. She suggested that there should be a screening procedure till the child is identified. Screening process, in her view was very important, which should be done with the input from Albanian NGOs. She also regretted the absence of the Police from the both countries in this meeting.
Arsis (Greek NGO) said that sometimes part of the street work was missing and most of the NGOs had to do that work. It was good that there is funding from the Greek government for street work during the Olympic games.
A Representative of an Albanian Roma woman NGO said that the main cause of trafficking is unemployment and the poverty of the Roma community and the governments are to be blamed for not creating employment for people.
Mr. Moschos replied that we were not here to tell each other what to do, but we were here to inform each other what we were doing in our country and also to form relationships in order to support each other. For example the Greek part needs to know what is the best way to repatriate children. The issue of poverty can be discussed later.
Mr. Istref Pellumbi, representative of a Roma NGO, complained that international and national organizations and NGOs, are not doing enough for the Roma. tThere were about 200 children from Albania trafficked in Greece and Italy , and some of these children were trafficked through the relevant embassies by providing children with visa and passports.
Mrs. Miranda Fenjo explained that not only Roma children are trafficked but also children from Egyptian and Albania community. She also explained that trafficking can be categorized into many categories such as: trafficking when parents sell their own child; trafficking when parents give the child with their consent to the tutors against a monthly payment, and trafficking for selling organs. She suggested that the only way to prevent trafficking of Roma children is to get the help of the Roma community itself, because they know the community better and they are inside the problem.
Mr. Moschos asked if these countries had the care centers or rehabilitation institutions that can take care of the Roma children whose parents cannot take care of. He wanted to hear the response from the governmental side , but the Albanian government representatives were not present. He suggested that subsequently we should see if there are institutions that can help in this area.
Mr Yannopoulos (Children’s smile) if there were any reports from Albanian police on the missing children. If we have information about the missing children we can explore this information together with the European Federation for missing children.
Mr. Kostandin Kazanxhi informed about the issue of the registration of Roma children and the work he had done with the Tirana legal aid society association for registering Roma children in Tirana. The British government funded this project.
Mr. Scicluna replied that the problem of registration is a general problem for Roma in the whole of Southeastern Europe.
Mr. Refik Tare Roma representative, suggested that it is about time that the Council of Europe should draw the attention of the Albanian government to the need for a more effective role in preventing trafficking. The fact that the Albanian government is not present suggests their involvement. He complained that the Albanian National strategy on minorities was unfortunately not being implemented, and the cooperation between the Albanian and Greek government should be enhanced to prevent child trafficking.
Mr. Scicluna supported the suggestion of cooperation between the two countries, but he also emphasized that Roma NGOs of both countries should cooperate in the same manner.
Mr. Pellumb Fortuna from the Roma NGO expressed the view that education is the key issue for making the parents and the children aware of trafficking. The community can also play an important role.
Mr. Tournecuillert Vincent, in reply to the question raised by Mr. Moschos; whether there was any institution that was able to take care of children in Albania said that though the Albanian government was not present to answer this question, he knew that the Ministry of Labor and Social affairs had developed a shelter, which is supported by the international community. The social workers working in the shelter, however, need training for developing their abilities.
Mrs. Mavridou Georgia from the Greek Ministry of Health and Social Security briefly presented the work of the Ministry, and said that in the coming two months they would organize a training in Thessaloniki on shelter housing in cooperation with the Ministry of Education.
Mr Sirigos, Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that, during the course of this meeting, they had an opportunity to meet the Albanian Minister who is responsible for signing the agreement between Greece and Albania. They have received the draft agreement, made some amendments and hoped that very soon, both sides would sign it. He further informed the participants that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would very soon operate two shelters of anti trafficking in Athens and Thessaloniki and a 24 hour telephone line in different languages.
Mr. Hercules Moskoff from Greek Ministry of Foreign affairs added that they do appreciate the work of the NGOs. He said that their Ministry has doubled the budget for the anti trafficking activities, which at present was about 3 million euros.
Representative of the Greek Embassy in Tirana asked for the rephrasing of the conclusions of the meeting held in January 2004, as since then, some concrete steps have already been taken. As a first concrete step, he highlighted the start of the negotiations between the two countries on the bilateral agreement. He stated that they were pleased to take part in this meeting but it was unfortunate that the Albanian authorities were not present to exchange ideas and views.
Mr. Scicluna asked the Greek representatives if the bilateral agreement foresees the creation of structures, and if so whether the participation of the NGOs is taken into consideration with regard to those structures.
Mr Moskoff of Foreign Affairs replied that their policy is to work with NGOs, which is why they fund many of their programmes. Regarding the participation of the NGOs in the structure of the bilateral agreement he said that they are asking for their participation because of their better understanding of conditions in the field.
The Representative of the Greek Embassy added that it was quite evident that there will be some structures. As the Greek Ministry of Health has highlighted considerable amount of work has been done in defining these structures. Mr. Tournecuillert also highlighted the necessity of having relevant mechanisms in Albania and Greece. He said that he had some questions but these would only seem rhetorical, as the Albanian authorities were not present.
Mrs. Ballauri, representative of a Human Rights group, criticized the Albanian authorities for not participating in the meeting and said that their absence was not accidental but indicative of their indifference towards Roma problems. She said that this meeting has the objective of examining what concrete steps can be taken. She mentioned that the main problem is the lack of cooperation between Roma NGOs and Greek NGOs . We will not achieve much progress if we do not establish networks and bridges between each other. She proposed that we collaborate with border police and use pressure on the police to prevent trafficking.
Istref Pellumbi Roma representative ,suggested organising a meeting in Greece with Roma families living there as they knew better where these children are likely to be and who are the traffic dealers.
Mrs. Milona- Bakropoulou Chrysa, Greek Prosecutor for minors, explained that there was a problem of competence between the court, the police and prosecutors, which needs to be quickly resolved.
Mr. Moschos emphasized the necessity of having a bilateral agreement between Albania and Greece to make sure that the whole process functions in a safer and legal manner. It was necesarty to organise guardian services in both countries so that the process works in the best interest of the child.
A Roma representative said that they know best how many Roma children are trafficked in Greece. They also have information that one Greek doctor in Greece was involved in the removal of children’s organs. Without the involvement of the Roma NGOs not much can be done.
Mrs Milona-Bakropoulou Chrysa suggested that if the anti trafficking coalition also included the governmental representatives of Albania, that would allow district attorneys for minors to consult the coalition for the repatriation of children to Albania.
Arben Loka, BKTF replied that only members of the anti trafficking coalition are taking part in the advisory board, and one of their tasks was to work closely with the governmental institutions and organizations and civil society, which were directly involved in the work of the anti trafficking coalition.
A Greek representive mentioned that the organizations carrying out anti trafficking work should be recognized and verified by specific bodies. This was necessary as in many cases the traffickers were presenting themselves as parents of the child or representative of different NGOs and organizations.
A Roma representative agreed with the suggestion that all the NGOs must work together for more efficiency and effectiveness. He added that in Albania the existence of the Roma NGOs is not recognized, and he sought to know the process for becoming member of the NGO Network.
Mr. Arben Loka clarified that the coalition was composed of 12 associations that were engaged in different activities in the drive against trafficking. As far as he was aware there was only one application from Roma NGO “Amaro Carvani” but in order for them to be able to qualify they should have specific activities in one of the four identified fields of anti trafficking. But the cooperation with the Roma NGOs will definitively continue.
Mr. Tournecuillert added that international organizations such as ICMC, Save the children, and Terres des Hommes were also part of the Anti Trafficking coalition. He encouraged the Greek NGOs and organizations to apply, especially the Greek NGO Arsis. He said that there was no application form, but whosoever was interested, can have a look at the status of the coalition and approach the coalition with all the relevant information.
Mr. Moschos stressed the need to examine the ways and means of involving the Roma community in anti trafficking activities and to use their experience and contribution both in Albania and Greece.
Mr. Scicluna called for the inclusion of Roma NGOs in the coalition, or at least that they should be consulted. As one of the Roma representative said, they know the community better and they can be very useful in collecting the data.
Mrs. Ballauri added that the objective of the coalition should be to take concrete action and called for more cooperation and information exchange among various NGOs. She recommended that the coalition publish a webpage on their activities.
Mr. Scicluna proposed to draw some conclusions. The most important fact is the on going discussions between Albania and Greece for the bilateral agreement on the trafficking of children. This would be the main basis for everything that we are going to propose. This bilateral agreement needs to be a special one, because very often-bilateral agreements particularly concerning the Roma, were not to their advantage. . In many cases bilateral agreements between countries can be done at the expense of the people for whom these are intended. The protection of the child should be the main focus, and all the mechanisms that need to be developed should be done in the light of child protection. This bilateral agreement should cover not only activities that are needed for cooperation, but also national activities which are needed in order for the cooperation to function. The bilateral agreement will provide a legal framewor which will make it easier for both governmental authorities and NGOs to carry out their activities.. The following were the most salient issues raised at the meeting;
• the training of staff working with cases of trafficked children.
• appointment of a tutor in Greece, who is replaced when the child moves to Albania. This would require cooperation between the two countries,
• repatriation of children to Albania.
training of police dealing with child trafficking.
• care centers should be well equipped.
• tracing the identity of the trafficked child.
street work- done in many cases by the NGOs.
Mr. Scicluna believed that if they were doing a good job they should be supported rather than have their work taken over by the government .
• establishment of structures that function with goodwill and determination.
• The role of the NGOs within the structures should be well defined.
• good level of cooperation between the authorities of the two countries. The NGOs should be given a role of co-partnesr for developing their network which already exists.
Furthermore, Mr. Scicluna urged that the Roma should not be forgotten. Although all children should be treated equally, Roma children are the most vulnerable because they are coming from very poor families and they are the ones who were at the highest risk of being trafficked.
Mr. Moschos said that Mr. Scicluna picked up all the suggestions that came from the meeting. He did not agree that they should be presented to both governments for inclusion in the bilateral agreement. He believed that the issues were very important for governments. Some of these proposals may involve a long-term process for implementation and require a change in legislation.. That would delay the conclusion of the bilateral agreement. He suggested that the findings of this meeting should be presented as recommendations and it should be left to the responsible authorities at the governmental level to decide which recommendations they want include in the agreement.
Mr. Scicluna agreed to send the recommendations to the authoritiesof both countries, proposing that these should be kept in mind in the preparation of the bilateral agreement.
The Chairperson ended the meeting by thanking all the participants for their time and contribution.