"It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to Tirana for this meeting of the South Eastern Europe National Anti-Trafficking Co-ordinators, jointly organised by the OSCE Presence in Albania, the Deputy Minister of Interior and Albanian National Anti-Trafficking Co-ordinator Ms Elona Gjebrea, as well as the International Centre for Migration Policy Development.
We must further enhance international co-ordination in addressing human trafficking, especially child trafficking. The migration flows that have affected most of the countries represented in this meeting today show the urgency of our efforts. The transnational nature of the trafficking phenomenon can only be effectively addressed in a co-ordinated manner, based on joint planning and joint action.
This meeting is an opportunity to exchange views and good practices on each of your countries' efforts to fight human trafficking. It is also an opportunity to explore ways to collaborate in addressing the highly concerning phenomenon of unaccompanied minors, who are the most vulnerable group towards human trafficking. I am aware of the positive efforts and progress made by you as national co-ordinators, towards increasing co-operation on the identification, assistance and referral of child victims and potential victims of trafficking. We have witnessed and been part of this progress. Since 2008, the OSCE Presence has actively supported regional and bilateral co-operation in this regard. We have been working together with the National Co-ordinator's Office and NGOs to develop and follow-up on bilateral agreements between Albania and the neighbouring countries to address child trafficking in an international perspective.
However, new challenges lie ahead, to effectively respond to the current trends and above all implement international instruments and guidelines. The phenomenon of unaccompanied minors presents new alarming challenges, confirmed by the latest figures of EUROSTAT. For example, in 2015, over 88,000 asylum seekers in the EU were unaccompanied minors. These minors are easy prey for human traffickers and smugglers. There is also a grey zone regarding those unaccompanied minors who do not apply for asylum in the first safe country, or those who disappear from the care facilities.
Let me highlight that durable solutions for unaccompanied minors, based on an individual assessment of the best interest of the child, should guide all efforts in this regard.
The OSCE Presence will continue its support to the Office of the National Anti-Trafficking Co-ordinator, to civil society organisations and other institutions to help address child trafficking in this country. We are working closely with the Albanian authorities to strengthen the multi-agency approach in the identification and protection of victims of trafficking, especially children. Our approach addresses both migration and anti-trafficking aspects of the situation of unaccompanied minors, working both at policy and operational levels. The prevention of unsafe migration and trafficking of children is the first step for effectively tackling the issue of unaccompanied minors. We have therefore intensified our work in addressing the situation at local level.
I hope that today's meeting will serve as a useful platform of sharing concerns and plans to enhance regional co-operation in addressing the challenges of child trafficking throughout the region".
* Florian Raunig, OSCE Ambassador in Albania