Albania: Saying good bye to Mario after three years
_*Source: tdh child Protection in Europe
Child trafficking and exploitation has been a prevalent phenomenon in Central and South Eastern Europe (C/SEE). In 2009, funded by the Oak Foundation, project Mario started in response to this phenomenon with an aim to better protect children on the move through the reinforcement of the capacities of national, regional and European authorities, decision and policy makers. Implemented in Albania, Kosovo, Bulgaria and Poland, in partnership with Terre des hommes (Tdh), Save the Children Albania Programme, ECPAT in The Netherlands and in Bulgaria as well as Nobody’s Children Foundation in Poland, Mario project ran its course until the end of April, 2012, accomplishing most objectives on the way. The Mario project implemented many activities at both national and transnational levels. It targeted professionals who come across cases of abuse, exploitation and/ or trafficking of children in Europe or who could bring about positive changes in the lives of those children. It focused on children coming from Central and South Eastern Europe (C/SEE) and who were at risk or were victims of abuse, exploitation and/ or trafficking. Partners also joined forces to better protect these children through enhanced cooperation, interaction and professional exchange.The ultimate goal of project Mario was to ensure the long standing provision of adequate services that meet the needs and wants of children on the move in Europe, at each stage of their migration path.
Mario’s first objective to improve the capacities of stakeholders and services delivered to children was over passed with a total of 1782 persons trained in the course of the project, across all 4 countries. In Albania taken alone, 11 multi-stakeholders trainings were organized with a total of 372 participants. These trainings aimed to address child protection issues at both institutional and operational levels while combining theoretical and practical skills in order to improve case management capacity and responses to deliver quality child protection services within the constraints of the local context, including the limited resources and available services. In Albania, Mario promoted protection standards and rights of children at risk and/or victims of exploitation/ trafficking at national and regional levels through the support provided to the Coalition “United for Child Care and Protection” – BKTF – and by institutionalizing the role of the Child Protection Units with the passing of the 2010 Law on the “Protection of the Rights of the Child”. At transnational leve*l, the project Mario organized *two awareness raising events in 2011 in the European Parliament and at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Human Dimension Implementation Meeting. Supported by the highest political instances of international organizations such as the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Trafficking and its OSCE counterpart, as well as by several Members of the European Parliament and with the participation of the newly appointed EU Anti Trafficking Coordinator, the meetings aimed at raising the awareness of European Institutions, OSCE participating states and other stakeholders on the lack of protection afforded to children on the move being found in other countries than theirs. In all countries, through monitoring visits, steering committee meetings, mid-term evaluations, institutional learning exercises, exchange visits etc, Mario facilitated the development of information sharing systems among main actors of the field of child protection and the mapping of existing activities and capacities. These developments now also provide better mutual understanding among partners of the methods, materials and models of actions needed or available to tackle issues of unsafe movement of children, and more spontaneous exchange of expertise and good practices amongst professionals and their extended networks.
Furthermore, to ensure that effective responses were provided to changing trends of child exploitation and trafficking, in 2010 Albania and Kosovo collaborated on a transnational street observation action with an aim to collect and analyze information on the cross-border movement of Albanian children from one country to the other and to identify patterns and trends of their movement so to also better understand their modes of recruitment and exploitation. This one-month long street observation action resulted in the identification of 91 cases of Albanian children in vulnerable situations in Kosovo. Right after identification, their situation and vulnerability were analyzed, an assessment of the available services was performed and recommendations for action were put forward. As a direct outcome of the evidences brought forward by the observation action and to the several efforts made to ensure the protection of children on the move in Europe, Mario with the OSCE facilitated the meeting between Albania and Kosovo on “Enhancing cross-border cooperation on anti-trafficking issues”, held on October 14th 2011. This meeting led to the adoption by both governments of a “Additional Protocol to Intensify Cooperation in Combating Trafficking in Human Beings Across Borders and on the Enhanced Identification, Notification, Referral and Assisted Return of Victims and Suspected Victims of Trafficking, including children” which entered into force on June 12th, 2012.
Finally, the work of Mario was capitalized through a series of Situational Analyses developed in all 4 countries, focusing on issues like Prostitution-related crimes and Child Trafficking in Poland, Situational Analysis of the Action Against Sexual Exploitation of Children in Bulgaria, Situational Analysis of the Child Protection System in Albania, Summary of Law that Protect Children’s Rights in the Republic of Kosovo, Situation Analysis on the situation of foreign unaccompanied minors that do not seek asylum and others. These reports provided insightful and comprehensive information on the situation of children in Europe as well as on various preventative programmes focusing on topics such as commercial sexual exploitation, child trafficking, unsafe migration of children, etc. Having offered a unique expertise to the service of national and European authorities to address child protection concerns in C/SEE, efforts will continue in order to secure funding and support for the return and continuation of the project Mario.