NORDIC COUNTRIES: Child Trafficking: Rethinking strategies and national responses

Summary: The study was initiated with twin aims: improving understanding of child trafficking and responses in the region; and contributing to the international discourse on child trafficking by examining the linkages between anti-trafficking responses and child protection systems. Although the study was conceived with a primary focus on trafficking, its scope is much broader. Among other things, it analyses how the general principles of the Convention of the Rights of the Child are applied in relation to those children vulnerable to trafficking and other forms of exploitation.

 This report seeks to highlight the major themes and key points identified in the accompanying technical study. It is divided into five main parts, followed by a section on conclusions and recommendations. Each part starts with a general finding, followed by additional specific findings, as appropriate.

Part I of the report outlines the considerations involved in the core finding on the relative protection merits of the child trafficking framework and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It examines the concept of trafficking in human beings and identifies variations in how this is understood in the Nordic region, particularly in relation to children. It highlights difficulties in applying the trafficking definition in a consistent and equitable manner, and also questions the value of determining services for children based on their categorization as trafficking victims or otherwise. Lastly, Part I coversemerging attempts to address the difficulties identified with the trafficking framework and briefly introduces the Convention as an alternative.

The considerable action taken by the Nordic countries in addressing child trafficking and related issues is the focus of Part II. This includes legal reform, establishment of specialized institutions, cooperation and coordination mechanisms, and development of tools and measures for the identification of adults and children who have been trafficked. It also encompasses a wide range of assistance measures for trafficked persons. These have gradually been extended to possible trafficking victims and others who may be vulnerable through the introduction of the concept of ‘potential victim of trafficking’.

Part III examines responses to trafficking and related issues in the Nordic countries against Convention on the Rights of the Child commitments, focusing on the four general principles of the Convention: best interests of the child; right to non-discrimination; right to participation; and right to life, survival and development. Several potential gaps are identified in each area, many relating to differential treatment of children based on nationality and/or legal or other status. The difference in guardianship arrangements for officially identified child trafficking victims and other vulnerable migrant children is highlighted as an example. The importance of strengthening child complaint mechanisms across the region is also discussed.

Part IV of the report outlines issues relating to vulnerable migrant children and the associated legal, judicial and administrative processes. These include the rights of children as victims of crime, the importance of protection from prosecution for offences committed as part of the trafficking process, and concerns identified with regard to the deprivation of liberty among child victims of trafficking and other non-national children. Part IV goes on to examine the question of return or transfer to countries of origin and other countries, with particular reference to the ‘Dublin II Regulation’ (Council Regulation (EC) No 343/2003 of 18 February 2003 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an asylum application lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national). The short and long-term alternatives to return, including asylum, are also addressed.

The study found numerous examples of promising policies and interventions that are worthy of wider consideration throughout the region and beyond. Brief information on selected interventions is included in Part V. Based on the issues raised, the study then concludes with recommendations for strengthening systemic and rights-based approaches to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable migrant children, and to assist children who have already been exploited, including, but not restricted to, victims of trafficking.

Further Information:


Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.