From 6 to 7 July 2016, a trilateral meeting took place in Tirana among representatives of the governments of Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro to discuss the implementation of the "Cooperation Protocols on the Identification, Referral and Protection of Victims, or Potential Victims, of Trafficking", with a particular focus on children on the move. The respective delegations, headed by the national coordinators on the fight against human trafficking, were composed of experts from various institutions including law enforcement agencies, as well as social and child protection services. The meeting was organized with the technical support of Terre des hommes Mission to Albania and Kosovo and Save the Children in the framework of Mario project - Protect Children on the Move, and the financial support of OAK Foundation.
The bilateral protocols (Albania-Montenegro, December 2014; Albania-Kosovo 2000 and Kosovo-Montenegro: 2014) have been signed to ensure regular exchange of information between parties in order to prevent, identify and document offenses related to trafficking of human beings. In particular, the obligation that States have undertaken to protect and provide adequate and unconditional support to victims, or potential victims of trafficking, is of great importance. In this context, children on the move are one of the most vulnerable categories.
Despite ongoing efforts of the authorities of the three countries, the practical implementation of the protocols remains challenging. Some of the factors relate to the lack of specific and clear procedures for the exchange of information, the nature of information to be exchanged, as well as uncertainty over the categories included as victims and potential victims of trafficking.
To address these and other obstacles, the focus of the trilateral meeting was the discussion of a "Procedure for implementation of bilateral protocols" in the form of a package, prepared by renowned experts of the filed. This procedure requires the completion of necessary documentation for communication, exchange of information and assistance to children and adults at risk of being victims of trafficking, through a case management approach. Once approved, the package will serve as a unified guidance for the authorities of the three countries to implement the obligations deriving from the Protocols. The package consists of several forms with specific questionnaires that must be filled in by the national offices of coordinators on the fight against human trafficking in the countries concerned, based on the information they receive from other national institutions responsible for different areas. This information will then be exchanged between the destination country and that of origin as appropriate.
This new procedure aims to: clarify all categories covered by the protocols, especially in terms of children on the move who are at high risk and potential victims of trafficking; promote effective communication between the authorities and mutual assistance in identifying cases of trafficking and preventing exploitation of children; avoid the sharing of unnecessary and unethical information; ensure rapid and adequate support to persons protected by protocols; document and record actions taken by the parties; and contribute to knowledge sharing of best practices.
Over two days, representatives of the three countries discussed the contents of the package and submitted specific recommendations for its improvement. A special attention received issues related to the protection of children who are victims or potential victims of trafficking. All parties agreed on the urgent need to ensure that the case management and return procedures not violate children’s rights.
In conclusion, the parties agreed to share further recommendations on the contents of the package, with the intention to finally approve it by the end of September 2016.
Mrs. Elona Gjebrea, Deputy Minister of Public Order in Albania and National Coordinator on the Fight against Human Trafficking stressed that "the finalization of procedures for the implementation of bilateral protocols will help to increase the efficiency of the efforts of authorities in the fight against human trafficking. It will also provide us with the opportunity to strengthen bilateral and regional cooperation between our countries in order to endure the necessary measures for the prevention and investigation of cases of trafficking in human beings as well as the protection of victims".