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CoE: How are children protected from sexual exploitation and abuse during the refugee crisis?

The Council of Europe’s Lanzarote Committee evaluated legislation, services and other measures implemented to protect the children affected by the refugee crisis from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. The evaluation took place in 41 state Parties to the Lanzarote Convention.

The situation has been evaluated against the recommendations of the Special report “Protecting children affected by the refugee crisis from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse”. The recommendations, made in 2017, are still relevant with around 2 million child refugees that have fled Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

“When a large number of migrants and refugees arrive in new countries, after undergoing extremely difficult and potentially traumatic journeys, the most vulnerable persons, especially children, are often hit the hardest, and exposed to further risks, including the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse”, said the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) on Migration and Refugees, Leyla Kayacik. 

The Committee published ten compliance reports. They focus on such topics as: protection of child victims, coordination between different actors and agencies, providing information to children, and child-friendly proceedings. The reports also cover the problem of cross-border missing children (e.g. the usage of 116 000 hotlines for Missing Children, used in 29 of the examined States) and the issue of prosecuting offenders, which demands international cooperation on information exchange among the State Parties.

The documents highlight significant efforts of the States in the exchange of information on awareness-raising and in creating support services, i.a. helplines for child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation. Many States offer multilingual services for children affected by the refugee crisis, e.g. Italy, with its 114 Childhood Emergency Helpline (Telefono Azzurro) in 20 languages.