On March 26, 2015 the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights organised a round table event on child protection and poverty migration from a children´s rights perspective, at Vienna Kolpinghaus. More then 30 representatives of state and non-governmental organisations from five federal provinces of Austria, as well experts from Bulgaria gathered at this first such networking event in Vienna. The round table took place within the on-going EU funded project "CONFRONT - Countering new forms of Roma children trafficking: Participatory approach" that is carried out in Austria by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights in collaboration with ECPAT Austria.
In recent years the issue of poverty migration has moved to the centre of public debates, though the situation of children and a children’s rights perspective are still widely missing, as well as a differentiated approach in discussions about this difficult and sensitive topic. The Round Table provided – for the first time in Vienna – an opportunity to discuss openly children’s rights with regard to the existing expertise and initiatives and to initiate an exchange among diverse stakeholders in order to foster an effective collaboration.
The multi-stakeholder meeting included representatives from civil society organisations and authorities from the Austrian provinces of Salzburg, Upper Austria, Lower Austria, Styria and Vienna. Among them were social welfare organisations and local initiatives, child and youth welfare services, one Ombudsperson for Children and Young People, Romani NGOs, the National Contact Point for Romani issues at the Austrian Federal Chancellery, members of the Task Force Trafficking in Human Beings / Working Group on trafficking in children, International Organization for Migration, Department of Diversity of the municipality of Vienna, researchers in social work and children´s rights and as well guests from Munich and Bulgaria (Bulgarian Child Protection Authority and Center for the Study of Democracy in Sofia, project lead).
The discussions were centred upon reports on poverty migration from different provinces and questions related to child protection. The participants also talked about the public discourse on Roma and their representation in media, mendicancy and the effects of bans on begging. Furthermore, an exchange on trafficking in children from a child rights perspective and transnational aspects in collaborations took place.
It turned out, that currently, there is – across Austria – a lack of possibilities for exchange and networking among stakeholders on topics related to poverty migration and on the other hand as well as a lack of concrete basic care services in support of children and their families from this target group. For the time being, the existing measures are limited to temporary support during the winter season. Furthermore, the importance of direct engagement of Romani NGOs was emphasized as well as exchange between child and youth welfare services, the police and further stakeholders. In cases of trafficking in children, contact points for a national referral mechanism for cooperation and care should be established. Additionally, in public speaking and media discourse, discriminating and criminalising wording should be avoided.
Finally, the diverse stakeholders expressed their interest in further cooperation and networking. The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights would like to continue to contribute to such informed debates. A continuation of this dialogue and concrete follow-up measures for affected children and their families, particularly in Vienna, are highly desirable and necessary.
The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute would like to thank the interpreters Mira Yordanova and Irina Pandeva, and Tanja Paar (Der Standard) for the moderation of the event.
The Project was co-funded by the ISEC Programme of the European Union,
with support from the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs.