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Committee of Ministers : Joint statement on the second European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse issued by 33 member States of the Council of Europe.

Strasbourg 21 November 2016
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Committee of Ministers : Joint statement on the second European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse issued by 33 member States of the Council of Europe.
The following countries have supported this statement: Albania, Andorra, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine.

 

"On 18 November, the Council of Europe will mark the 2nd edition of the European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse.

Figures from UNHCR for 2016 alone show that over 336.000 refugees and migrants arrived in Europe. 34 per cent of them are women and children. A considerable number of these children are unaccompanied and undocumented making them highly vulnerable to sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. For these children, this dangerous situation is further aggravated by the difficulties in detecting and reporting abuse.

According to Europol, more than 10,000 minors have vanished since arriving in Europe, some of whom have in all probability fallen into the hands of organised trafficking syndicates.

This is why, for the second edition of this European Day, we believe that special attention should be paid to the high number of children affected by the refugee crisis that may be or become victims of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.

In this regard, we welcome the Secretary General’s intention to present, in order to provide follow-up to the decisions taken by the Committee of Ministers in Sofia in May 2016, an organisation-wide action plan on the protection of unaccompanied minors and other refugee and migrant children and the fact that the Ad hoc Committee for the Rights of the Child (CAHENF), which was set up by the Committee of Ministers in April 2016 to develop and implement the new Children’s Strategy (2016-2021), decided at its first meeting to work on standards concerning legal guardianship and age assessment to provide appropriate safeguards to children in the context of migration for the period 2016-2017.

We also welcome all initiatives related to refugees and migrant children carried out by Council of Europe bodies, such as the Parliamentary Assembly, the Commissioner for Human Rights, the Secretary General’s Special Representative on Migration and Refugees, the Children’s Rights Division, and the Estonian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.

We wish to commend the Lanzarote Committee for working on a report based on the replies of member States, which focuses on “Protecting children affected by the refugee crisis from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse”. We encourage the Lanzarote Committee to conclude its report and to set out recommendations to the States Parties on the specific steps that might be warranted to effectively protect children affected by the refugee crisis from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse and identifying priority areas for targeted cooperation, bilateral and multilateral, to fully guarantee the human dignity and physical and psychological integrity of children affected by the refugee crisis.

We would also like to invite those countries that have not yet done so, to ratify the Lanzarote Convention as rapidly as possible.

We applaud all efforts made within the Council of Europe member States and beyond, to organise conferences and events in the framework of the European Day and we encourage all stakeholders to join hands in raising awareness and contributing positively to a world free from sexual violence against children. A vital aspect of this awareness raising should also include that victims of child exploitation and child abuse need to be treated by competent professionals in a safe and child-friendly environment.

Finally, we express our firm commitment to continuing to fight against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse so that all children can grow up safely in a healthy environment."