INTERACT Handbook: Practical guidance on preventing and responding to trafficking and disappearances of children in migration (2019)



Aim of the handbook

When a child in migration goes missing or is at risk of going missing from care, this situation creates a crossroads of different circumstances, laws and actors. The migration dimension of the child’s situation frequently aggravates the risks of disappearances and exploitation, as the child is often in a precarious situation. It also means the responses to the disappearance and exploitation need to be tailored to this specific context. Child protection principles, migration and asylum laws, and specific responses to disappearances – including law enforcement investigation – need to come together to prevent and respond to the disappearance of an unaccompanied child. In addition, challenges related to human trafficking, including labour, criminal and sexual exploitation have to be taken into account. The often very complex situation of a missing child in migration requires a multi-disciplinary and often a cross-border approach in order for the risks confronted by the child to be mitigated, and their rights and needs to be met.

To prevent and respond to a child in migration going missing or falling prey to exploitation, practitioners with different backgrounds are required to work together in a coordinated and efficient way. These actors include law enforcement professionals, social workers, reception professionals, guardians, employees of 116 000 hotlines and others.

This handbook aims to stimulate and disseminate practices on how to better cooperate in prevention, response and after care of missing or exploited children in migration. This handbook is an updated version of the Summit Handbook “Practical Guidance on preventing and responding to unaccompanied children going missing” (2015), and is hence building on both the results of the report “Best practice and key challenges for interagency cooperation to safeguard unaccompanied migrant children from going missing” (2015) and the Simulations Report “Towards a more efficient cooperation across border for the protection of children” (2019). The latter analysed the outcome of the simulations that took place in six countries1 on two fictive cases of trafficking and missing children in migration: Abena (13, Eritrea) and Qiro (16, Iraqi Kurdistan). The report drew from the conclusions of these cases to formulate policy recommendations 1 Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Sweden and the UK. at the EU and national level for an improved transnational cooperation framework.

This handbook does not comprehensively address general practices in the care of children in migration, but only elements that are linked to preventing and responding to their disappearances and exploitation.