Tuesday, 16th October

On Wednesday, 17th October 2018, ECPAT UK will join partners from across Europe to participate in a ‘Day of Action’ for unaccompanied and separated children, as part of the cross-border Safeguarding Migrant Children Across Europe (AMINA) project.

With limited safe, legal migration routes, unaccompanied children are vulnerable to going missing and being exploited as they journey through Europe to destination countries such as the UK. The Day of Action has therefore been designed to provide participants from partner organisations including NGOs, immigration enforcement, police forces and local authority children’s services with new international contacts and vital learning that will enhance their ability to safeguard unaccompanied children in migration.

During the Day of Action, representatives from partner organisations including Missing Children Europe, regional police forces and local authority children’s services will take part in an operational exercise. This exercise will entail a run through of a scenario in which an unaccompanied child has been reported missing in the UK, to identify gaps in knowledge and practice among the UK’s frontline agencies. Participants will use the case study of Qiro, a fictitious Iraqi boy who has gone missing and is at risk of exploitation. Qiro’s experiences are based on the real experiences of unaccompanied and separated children in the UK, and exercise participants will make judgement calls in real time, drawing on their knowledge and experience to respond appropriately to reports of his disappearance.

Civil society and government partners across the UK will be on call to respond to contact from exercise participants, in order to ensure the exercise is as realistic as possible. At the end of the exercise, the participants’ chosen actions will be assessed and feedback will be provided on how their decisions may have impacted outcomes for children like Qiro in the real world. A full, cross-border evaluation will be produced, sharing gaps in response, recommendations for future strategies and examples of best practice. Moreover, a database of transnational contacts will be provided to all participants.

In addition to the event, operational exercises will be taking place across Europe in five other member states and UK response units will be on call to participate in those cases. All exercises are based on children arriving in reception countries (Italy or Greece), transiting through France or Belgium and arriving in Sweden or the UK. This is based on evidence of unaccompanied children’s journeys.

Following the evaluation of the operational exercises, ECPAT UK will collaborate with key project partners to develop a practical toolkit that can be used by frontline agencies across Europe when responding to reports of unaccompanied children going missing. This will include checklists, suggested procedures, modules for cooperation, and a contact guide to facilitate co-operation between services. The AMINA project has led to the development of a network of more than 30 organisations in six countries. ECPAT UK envisages that this network will expand over the duration of the project and lead to real life, positive outcomes for unaccompanied children by reducing their vulnerability to exploitation.

Laura Durán, ECPAT UK’s AMINA project lead, says

‘The current response to the disappearance of unaccompanied children is not proportionate to the risks they face including exploitation and abuse. We anticipate the exercise will shine a light on the current gaps in support and protection for unaccompanied children who go missing.’

ENDS

Press contacts

Sinead Geoghegan, Communications and Media Officer, ECPAT UK: 020 7607 2136, [email protected]

Laura Durán, Senior Policy, Research and Practice Officer, ECPAT UK: 020 7607 2136, [email protected]

Notes

The AMINA project is a cross-border cooperative project that aims to safeguard children migrating in Europe by addressing gaps in the protection of unaccompanied and separated children, and contributing to the enhancement of political and legal frameworks to protect these children across Europe.

ECPAT UK is one of a number of partners from civil society, law enforcement and government departments working collaboratively on the project. Project partners have been selected from six European countries, including two refugee reception countries (Italy and Greece), two transit countries (Belgium and France) and two destination countries (the UK and Sweden). In the UK, the primary partners are ECPAT UK, Missing Children Europe and the Home Office.

Key project activities include collaborative exercises to identify transnational gaps in knowledge and responses to unaccompanied and separated children, relationship building that will lead to enhanced knowledge sharing across borders, and practical toolkits that can be used by frontline professionals across Europe.

Amina means ‘safe’ in Arabic. The AMINA project will run from April 2017 until May 2020.