Child Helplines: a vital part of building resilience against trafficking

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On 12 December, I delivered an intervention at the European Centre for Legal Education and Research’s conference “Together Against Human Trafficking: Prevention of Child Trafficking in Europe in the Current Practical Context” in Bucharest, Romania. 

The event was held in celebration of the 74th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Human Rights Day and constituted three-panel sessions. 

The first panel focused on the prevention of human trafficking among refugees from a diplomacy perspective; the second panel discussed eradicating child trafficking; the final looked at Europe-specific challenges concerning child trafficking.

Panellists included European Ambassadors to Romania, the Chargé d’Affairs of the United States to Romania, UNICEF and UNCHR, IOM Ukraine, Missing Children Europe, the Lumos Foundation and Child Circle, with notable participation by Siobhán Mullally, UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons; Isaac Espinosa Delgado, Interpol Coordinator Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants Unit and Valiant Richey, OSCE Special Representative and Coordinator for Trafficking in Human Beings. 

My contribution to the panel was a discussion on the special structural vulnerabilities that increase the incidence of human trafficking in conflict, notably in the case of Ukrainian children. I emphasized specifically how economic desperation, disruption of rule of law, displacement of a population and discrimination and marginalization, known risk factors of human trafficking are aggravated by conflict. 

I placed child helplines in their role as part of the puzzle of solutions that can help lower the vulnerabilities of Ukrainians in the current war. I specifically noted that, through their tireless provision of information and counselling of children and their parents in both Ukrainian and Russian, no matter the hour, over phone, email, text, Instagram, Signal, Viber and Telegram, these child helplines have been making sure that some of the immense confusion that war causes are lessened. Mothers can understand where to enroll their children in education and how to access food, shelter and temporary cash assistance. They understand that they now need to be the new social circle for other Ukrainians who have had to leave their families and friends behind. 

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