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Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo
Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo
Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo
Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo
Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo
Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo
Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo
Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo
Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo
Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo
Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo
Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo
Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo
Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo
Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo
Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo
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Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo

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Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo

Observation report exploitation of Albanian children in street situation in Kosovo

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  • 1. Protect children on the move OBSERVATION REPORT: EXPLOITATION OF ALBANIAN CHILDREN IN STREET SITUATION IN KOSOVODecember, 20101
  • 2. Protect children on the moveINTRODUCTIONAfter the 1999 Kosovo war, a new phenomenon of Albanian children in street situationsmoving from Albania to Kosovo was noticed. These children and their families, who migrateto Kosovo mainly for begging or collecting metals purposes face challenging socio-economicsituations that compound their further marginalization, social exclusion and deprivation fromproper child protection and access to social services. These children are also likely to beexposed to the risk of exploitation by organized crime circles for sexual and forced laborpurposes.This phenomenon however has not been properly documented by any comprehensive dataand/or analysis in either Albania or Kosovo. In order to address the lack of information onthe exact nature and situation of this phenomenon, MARIO partners in Kosovo and Albaniainitiated a street observation process that was conducted by a Street Workers Team (SWT)composed of one social worker from each Tdh delegation in Albania and Kosovo and onesocial worker working at the Street Children Center, funded by Save the Children Albania.The SWT members have all been trained in investigative street observation methodsthrough the MARIO1 project. Their investigation activities included street outreach work,observation, and meetings with relevant stakeholders (NGOs, institutions etc.) over a periodof two weeks in Kosovo. The aim of this Albania- Kosovo transnational collaboration was tocollect and analyze information on the cross-border movements of these children from onecountry to the other in order to get an overview of their numbers, attempt to identify thepatterns and trends in their movements between the two countries, better understand theirmodes of recruitment and exploitation and offer recommendations accordingly on how toprotect these children on the move in line with the principle of a child’s best interest. Thisobservation research process was also envisioned to serve as a rapid needs assessment toolin order to understand and identify some of the immediate challenges faced by thesechildren.Overall, this observation report reveals that these Albanian children and their families findKosovo to be lucrative and accessible for begging purposes for a number of reasons suchas: the generosity of Kosovo people and immigrants who travel back home on holidays,ease of travel between two countries due to penetrability of borders, the lack of visarequirements, the similarity of language and close family connections across the twocountries. Daily earnings are reported to vary from 30 Euros up to as much as 250 Eurosduring the busy tourist season in the summer.So far, the only actual institutional response considered by the Kosovo authorities toaddress this phenomenon has been deportation. Kosovo authorities themselves recognizedeportation to be an inadequate response as it does not provide an enduring solution to thephenomenon, but also because deportation does not provide proper protection to thesechildren and their families. Legally speaking, begging in Kosovo in and of itself is consideredto be an offense in the framework of disturbing public peace and order. Such definition andunderstanding of the phenomenon of begging may also explain why the various Kosovoinstitutions from municipal social services to law enforcement and border police lack themuch needed information and collaboration to address this phenomenon through a1 Mario project – supported by the Oak Foundation – is a joint effort of influential NGO players in the field of childprotection who formed a joint advocacy platform to enforce better protection of migrant children in Europe and put pressureon European and national decision-makers to better protect children from exploitation, abuse and trafficking.2
  • 3. Protect children on the movecoordinated approach. Similarly, Albanian and Kosovo authorities will often cooperate whenthe issue of an Albanian child begging becomes an issue for deportation; however theinstitutional cooperation between the two countries should take the form of an integratedapproach towards managing the cases of these children in order to effectively prevent andaddress this phenomenon. In this regard, some of the local officials that were interviewedsuggested the creation of a joint task force between the two countries to deal not only withthe repatriation issues of these children but also their social re-integration.In both countries, Tdh delegations and Save the Children Albania are working to developcoordinated child protection safety nets that offer protection to children against variousforms of abuse including violence, neglect, exploitation, and/or trafficking. Tdh supports thechild protection work and efforts of the national duty-bearers through capacity-building andvia encouragement of synergies between the various protection actions undertaken by adiverse number of multi-disciplinary actors.Objectives of the research • Observe, evaluate and analyze the condition of Albanian children in street situations in Kosovo • Understand the enabling factors of the phenomenon of Albanian children begging in Kosovo • Identify and recommend possible avenues for transnational collaboration between various child protection stakeholders in both Albania and KosovoExpected results of the research • Observe and interview Albanian children found in street situations in Kosovo. • Compile the individual profiles of each identified children, detailing the difficulties and stresses they face • Cross-check of new data against previously collected data from different sources. • Identify and analyze the children’s profiles and needs • Provide a clear picture on the movement trends and likely modes of exploitation faced by these children. • Formulate clear recommendations on common points and opportunities for transnational collaboration between Albanian and Kosovo authoritiesMETHODOLOGYNumber of children: Through the use of street observation methods, the SWT observed an estimate number of 91 Albanian children who are facing a street situation in Kosovo. The SWT came in direct contact and interviewed 71 out of 91 children identified to be in street situation.3
  • 4. Protect children on the move Third parties such as children themselves, parents and/ or neighbors informed and indicated to the SWT team about at least 20 other children begging.Interviews: Interviews according to a set-questionnaire format were held with Albanian children identified to be in street situations in Kosovo and their family relatives. Interviews according to a set-questionnaire format were held with institutional representatives and other relevant child protection stakeholders from the Kosovo local communities and authoritiesFamily visits: In some of the cities, the SWT visited to the neighborhoods here the families live.Institutions: Social Works Centers, Police Units in the Community, Units against Trafficking in Human Beings, Police Investigation Units, Border Police, The Judges on Minors Offenses Courts, The Embassy of Albania in Kosovo.Targeted towns: The observation took place in the following main towns of Kosovo: Prishtina, Peja, Gjilan, Prizren, Ferizaj and Gjakovë. These cities were selected on the basis that the phenomenon of Albanian children in street situations was noticed to be more prevalent there.Areas of Observation: Observation took place in the towns’ main streets, bars and restaurants where these children were usually found begging and working, as well as the places they used to rest/sleep.Duration: The observation research process took place between the periods of 5 – 18 July 2010.Challenges faced by the Street Work Team (SWT) • The identified children and their adult relatives were reluctant to give out specific information. They feared the SWT members were either police representatives or journalists. • Some children hesitated and did not want to reveal their real names because they were instructed by their parents to keep their real identities secret. There were cases when some children, who were not even accompanied by their parents, gave false names, such as the names of friends in Tirana or typical names of Kosova citizens. • Some children did not hesitate to talk openly about their own situation, while others preferred to describe the situation of other children they knew in street situations. • Due to frequent movements, within the city and from one city to the other and the fear of coming across with police, it was difficult for the SWT to establish an exact number of Albanian children who are actually living in street situation in Kosovo.4
  • 5. Protect children on the move 1. PROFILES OF CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIESThe Albanian children identified to be in street situations in Kosovo come mainly from theRoma community, the Egyptian community and the Albanian majority. These children comemainly from the Albanian towns of Tirana (Selita, Kinostudio), Elbasan, (Rrapishte), Korçë,Bilisht, Fier, Kukës, Burrel.These children and their families cite their difficult social and economical situation to be theprimary motivation for moving to Kosovo for begging purposes.Most of these children had started and then dropped out of school in Albania, while the resthave either never been registered in school or have sporadically attended differentcommunity day centers.A considerable number of these children come from families where parents are divorced,one of the parents is deceased or alcoholic, or the children are simply abandoned.Out of the total number 71 of identified children 35 were girls and 36 boys.The children’s ages vary from 0 to 17 years old, with 21.1 % (15 children) being of age 0-3, 19.7 % (14 children) are of age 4-7 years old, 19.7% (14 children) are from 8-10,18.3% (13 children) are from 11-14 and only 7% (5) are of age from 15-17. For 10children identifying the age was rather difficult.12 children out of the 71 with whom the team was in contact were babies only a fewmonths old or up to 3 years old found in hand of their mothers while begging. Children upto 5 years old are usually accompanied by their mother or another parent/relative. Childrenover 5 years old usually operate accompanied by their peers or older children.Several of the children and the families interviewed said that they had previously been toand begged in Greece. They said that they moved to Kosovo because their residentialpermits in Greece expired. According to their testimonies, some of them will continue tostay in Kosovo after the expected visa liberalization for Albania takes place, because Kosovois perceived to be lucrative with the advantages of using similar language, the closegeographical proximity to Albania, low cost of travel and ease of movement between thetwo countries. While others declared that with visa liberalization they will try to go toSchengen countries but they declared not to want to go back to Greece. 2. WHY AND HOW DO THEY COME TO KOSOVO?Why do they come to Kosovo?These children and their families come to Kosovo because they face an extremely difficulteconomic and social situation at home in Albania. According to them, this is the primaryreason that forces them to find themselves in street situations in Kosovo.5
  • 6. Protect children on the moveThe children admit they are talked into coming to Kosovo either by their family members orneighbors, who believe and perceive Kosovo to be a better place than Albania for generatinghigher incomes through better work opportunities. They also admit living conditions to bebetter and more affordable in Kosovo than in Albania. According to their testimonies, thehigher incomes that they manage to secure in Kosovo enable them to pay for rent andprovide food for their families with much more ease than in Albania.Interestingly, a majority of these Albanian children in street situations in Kosovo admit tohave never begged in their home country before. According to their testimonies, theirprincipal money-making activities back in Albania included buying and selling second-handclothes, and collecting and selling scrap metal and aluminum cans. They state they wouldfeel too ashamed to beg in Albania, but Kosovo for them is different. They say that beggingoutside of Albania and away from their home communities is a lot easier for them to do.According to the testimonies of these childrens relatives, another reason why these familiesand children come to Kosovo is to run away from having to pay back significant bank loansor family debts accumulated as results of either failed efforts at establishing/running a smallbusiness or large medical bills incurred. They state that their inability to repay thesedebts/expenses forced them to move the whole family to Kosovo in order to escape thepressure of having to pay back the bank or their family creditors.ProfitsThe children report that the summer months and public holidays are the most lucrativetimes for begging as this period sees an increase in the number of Kosovo immigrantsabroad returning home for the holidays. Their reports on daily earnings during this periodvary between 30 and 250 Euros. During summer, children beg almost every day, meanwhilein winter the begging days are reduced also due to the cold weather.Their reported earnings during winter time are significantly lower at an average of 10 Europer day. Yet a majority of children state that they will continue to remain in a streetsituation in Kosovo despite low temperatures and hard weather conditions duringwintertime, in order to make the estimated 300 Euros per month.The most lucrative towns for Albanian children in a street situation in Kosovo are Prizren,Prishtina, Gjilan and Peja.6
  • 7. Protect children on the move Working team observations - Some of the Albanian children who beg are accompanied by their mothers and relatives. Children beg in bars, in and around the main streets and near traffic lights. The children are expected at every 20 minutes to report and hand over their profits to their parents, relatives or elderly brothers or sisters (this was due to the fear of older children stealing their profit) - Kosovo children in a street situation do not mix with the Albanian children; they have their own separate “working areas”, and they often hesitated to reveal information regarding the Albanian children. The Albanian children avoid hanging out with the Kosovo children because they stick together in groups therefore making them an easy target for the police. - It is noticed that generally the Albanian children look after their personal hygiene and appearance better than the Kosovo children, and this makes it easier for them to enter bars for begging purposes. - The Albanian children have adopted and use the Kosovo dialect because they believe people are likely to give them more money if they perceive them to be Kosovo children. Children often report to have been told by passersby to go back to Albania, in cases these have recognized them. - Most of the bars in the main areas will allow the children to beg in the bars. Only if a child spends more than 5 minutes in one table, the waiter will approach the table and ask the client if he/she is being disturbed by the child begging, still allowing the child to attempt one last begging negotiation.How do they come to Kosovo?Based on the childrens testimonies and statements from border police representatives,2 thechildren come into Kosovo through on of the following ways: a. Legal crossing of the border checkpoints b. Illegal border crossings through secondary and other routesa. Legal Entrance – In most of these cases, children and their families are organized andtravel together to Kosovo. Border police at the border checkpoints of Qafa e Morines,Bajram Curri, Qaf Prushi will allow them to enter the Kosovo territory even in cases whentheir identification documents do not satisfy the proper legal requirements or when theyseek to hide some of their documents.If an Albanian citizen seeks to enter the Republic of Kosovo for tourist or business purposeswithout a passport the competent body for the control of state border crossings may granthim/her permission to cross the State border on the basis of a document which confirmshis/her identity (such as Identity cards). Entry permission granted pursuant may have a2 Border Police in Qafe Prush, Morine and Bajram Curri7
  • 8. Protect children on the movevalidity of up to ninety (90) days. If the person wants to stay more than 90 days in theRepublic of Kosovo he/she has to apply for a residence permit to the competent authority. The profits in Kosovo are higher. In Albania we have never begged because there everybody knows us while here no one does. We have crossed the border on a bus filled with Roma families. The police asked where we were going and what were we going to do there. We have told them we were going to Peja to gather scrap iron. The police did not say anything and we proceeded. – A 13 years old child in Peja.b. Illegal entrance – The children and families that cross the border illegally will travel bybus towards the border and get off before they reach the border checkpoint, to thenproceed across on foot through mountain paths. This is done to avoid being discovered bythe border police as their names will likely be included in the list of people banned fromentering/returning to Kosovo. Residents of the border areas or people smugglers willarrange and facilitate their illegal crossings for a small amount of money, accompany themacross the border, meet them on the other side, put them on a minivan and take them totheir final destination. Many deportees will likely return to Kosovo through illegal entry.3 Itis difficult to pinpoint the key illegal routes into Kosovo used by these children and theirfamilies as a result of the varying strategies they will utilize depending on the situation.“The Albanian families have sophisticated their methods, they do not cross the border ingroups anymore, now they travel separately on different buses in order to avoid beingnoticed and picked by the border police.”4 At the border checkpoints, the Albanian citizensare not necessarily required to show their passports they can pass with their ID cards orbirth certificates instead. In order to avoid getting entry/exit stamps on their passports bythe border police.5Children’s movementsChildren and their families move regularly between the major towns in Kosovo, such asPrizren, Peje, Gakova, Ferizaj and Prishtina.Children say they are constantly on the move because they:1) fear being caught by the police and as a result being deported2) follow the fluctuation of emigrants and tourists during the changing seasons and holidayperiods.Children say their movements from town to town are well-coordinated and organized. Theytravel mainly by bus and sometime taxi if they are working during the late night hours.Their families will split to cover different towns, for example, the mother will beg in Prizren,while the father and children will beg in Prishtina.3 Interview with the Vice Commandant of the Border Station in Vernice, Prizren, 14/07/20104 Interview with Vice Commandant of the Border Station Vernice, Prizren, 14/07/20105 The border between Albania and Kosovo can be crossed with a passport or ID8
  • 9. Protect children on the moveThe children and their families say they regularly travel to Albania in order to collect thesocial benefit entitlements they receive in Albania or to sort out their identificationdocument (i.e. the biometric passports, ID cards, birth certificates etc.).Sometimes they will return to Albania during the winter months to avoid the harsh coldweather in Kosovo.With the pending visa liberalization, the majority of these families expressed that theywould like to emigrate to Italy, Germany, France and Holland and other western Europeancountries but not to Greece. Some of the families have been themselves in Greece or theyare aware of the situation there through family, friends and acquaintances. In any case,staying in Kosovo is seen as a preferable and lucrative option. 3. ALBANIAN CHILDREN IN A STREET SITUATION IN KOSOVOOver 91 Albanian children have been identified to be in a street situation in Kosovo, theSWT got in direct contact with 71 of them. Among the children with whom there was someinteraction, 12 were babies who were observed to be begging with their mothers, duringlate night hours and during high day temperatures, thus seriously putting their infant healthin jeopardy.Of the 59 children with whom interviews were conducted, they revealed that they beggedduring the day and sold small items (such as cigarettes, chewing gum, etc.) during the latehours in and around the main streets of the towns, near traffic lights, sat on the streets, orknocking door to door through different neighborhoods. The latter activity of knocking doorto door occurs mostly in the town of Peja, or in cases of major police action in main areas oftown.39% (23 of the 59 children interviewed) said they collected and sold scrap iron togetherwith their families, aside from begging. Collection of scrap metal and fortune tellingactivities are usually pursued as alternative income-generating options following theincreasing pressure from government structures against the phenomenon of begging.9 children said they preferred to use a particular method of begging by holding a writtenpiece of paper along the lines of “Please help me with what you can, thank you” or “I am anorphan, help me with what you can, I have a family to look after, may God bless you,” in anattempt to elicit feelings of pity and empathy from citizens passing by. These children didnot know how to read or write; they had no idea what was written on the piece of paperthey were holding thus adult relatives had written the pieces of paper for them. Alsochildren held in hand medical prescription bills in order to elicit sympathy from peoplepassing by.7 children were observed to physically approach people in the street by seeking to kissand/or grab their arms/hands, wishing them good health and begging for money, thusseriously exposing themselves to verbal and physical abuse by the passersby.9
  • 10. Protect children on the moveGirls over the age of 12 and their mothers told the SWT that they were wearing black and aveil covering their heads so as to give the impression that they are Kosovo women strickenby some great tragedy, in order to make more money. When I beg people tell me I am too old and must go and find a job. When we beg in bars people will shout abuse at us using the worst words possible. I wear a veil on my head when I go out to beg as I earn more money in this way. I feel scared and stay close to my mother to avoid bad things happening to me. I do not earn much more than 20 Euro. A 13 years old girl from Tirana identified in Ferizaj.EducationNone of the Albanian children who were interviewed attend school in Kosovo because theydo not possess the most basic documents6 needed for school registration. Most of thechildren that were interviewed expressed the wish to register and attend school.Health conditions4 children were found to be in severe health condition with high fever. Rheumatismproblems were common to many of the children met. They were not able to receive theappropriate medical care due to lack of financial resources and parents negligence. Thesechildren and their families had approached the local communes for medical, economical andsocial support and they reported to have been told: “Return to your home country becauseyou are not Kosovo citizens”.Given that many of these children are not registered in Kosovo, they do not have a medicalfile/record that would enable them to receive free medical assistance. They have to pay forevery single medical service they receive. The babies amongst these children are the mostendangered health-wise as they are exploited by their mothers for begging whilst having toendure high summer temperatures and prolonged periods of time without being fed. Themothers say they avoid breastfeeding their babies in the street because men will approachthem thinking they are prostitutes.I asked for help in the commune because some passersby told me I could seek economicassistance from the municipality. But the municipality told me to go back to my homecountry. Sometimes even people passing by will say the same, “Go away, go back to yourcountry.” A 33-year old mother from Elbasan with her 2-year-old baby girl, said whenidentified to be in a street situation near a commune building in Peja.Parents maltreating their childrenBased on several testimonies, there are cases of some of these Albanian children in streetsituations in Kosovo who are physically abused and maltreated by their parents and adultrelatives, when the children fail to bring back the amount of money expected of them.6 Birth Certificate, Vaccination Records10
  • 11. Protect children on the moveMy neighbor punched his child on his stomach so much that the child started to throw up.I have heard of cases when some of people will not feed their children or will lock themup because the children have not made enough money. The grandmother of fourchildren, Prizren 07.07.2010Suspected sexual exploitationTwo Albanian parents originally from Fier who were interviewed in Peja reported they wereaware of 2 Albanian minor girls, respectively aged 16 and 17, from Fushë-Kruja and Selita,Tirana, that were being exploited in prostitution in some of the bars in town. However, thisinformation has not been verified by the Police and the Kosova Police has under observationsuch cases of girls who enter Kosova with the justification to work as singers and dancers. 4. THE LIVING CONDITIONS OF THE ALBANIAN CHILDREN IN KOSOVOResidence: The Albanian children and their families were observed to live in some of thepoorest suburbs, in dilapidated buildings that have been abandoned by the local Serbpopulation, often crowded 7 to 25 family members to a room. Their rent varies from 50 to70 Euros per month. They are well organized within their families. They often change theirliving accommodations and area of operation in order to avoid being picked up by thepolice, especially in cases when they have been previously given a police warning.Identification and Residence Documents: None of the Albanian families (from Egyptianand/ or Roma backgrounds) have applied for a residential permit in Kosovo because theyare either engaged in illegal/informal activities or they fail to fulfill the basic criteria for legalresidence such as a regular job, a permanent place of residence, etc. However, there wasat least one case of a family who has been living in Kosovo for years and its members weretrying to naturalize as Kosovar citizens. They came from the northern part of Albania, avillage at the border with Kosova and were found begging in Peje.In addition, the Albanian children who are born in Kosovo are not registered because theirAlbanian parents lack information, are too afraid to approach the appropriate institutions inKosovo. More to that, they are frequently on the move between Albania and Kosovo, or lackthe financial resources to complete the birth registration procedures. “Our children were given birth in Kosovo. We want to register the births of our children, but have not registered them neither in Albania nor Kosovo. The registration should have taken place in Albania. But the traveling is too expensive. We also fear loosing profits in the meantime.” The testimony of two mothers.11
  • 12. Protect children on the move 5. THE INSTITUTIONAL ATTITUDEBased on the interviews held with various institutional representatives7, Kosovo authoritiesdo not have accurate information on the exact number and nature of the phenomenon ofAlbanian children and their families coming to Kosovo for begging purposes. The SocialService Office which acts as the responsible body for providing the appropriate protection8does not posses any exact information regarding these children. No institution has deployeda street team to deal with the identification of these children or their case management. Therelevant institutions have not undertaken an identification and assessment process of thesituation, nor have they managed any of the cases relating to these Albanian children. Theinformation that these institutions have mainly comes from dealing with cases ofdeportation or sporadic street observation made in some of the towns. In view of thecurrent legislation on begging and its strict implementation,9 the police units are mostlyfocused on “cleaning” the streets off the children begging and the subsequent deportation ofthese children.When asked to comment on the situation of Albanian children begging in Kosovo, some ofthe institutional representatives who were interviewed seemed to proceed on the basis ofassumptions drawn from the situation of Kosovo children in street situations, withoutdrawing the difference between the two groups of children and the particularities of theirstreet situations. “The presence of a large number of children in the streets gives a badimage to the city and to Kosovo in general,” stated one municipality official, “such a largenumber of beggars in the streets is damaging the image of our town”.There is no institutional action plan or strategy in place for tackling this phenomenon, apartfrom sets of action relating to deportation processes only. There is no institutionalcooperation with the relevant Albanian counterpart institutions on the issue of the Albanianchildren in street situations in Kosovo. 6. SUSPICION REGARDING ORGANISED CRIMEKosovo police units10 are aware of information coming from concerned Kosovo citizenswhich seems to suggest that the phenomenon of begging may be connected to the largerphenomenon of organised crime. In this regard, the issue of these Albanian children facingthe risk of exploitation and trafficking in Kosovo constitutes a major concern for the localauthorities.A cloud of suspicion without any clear and concrete evidence however characterizes themajority of these reports which makes it difficult for the local Kosovo police to identify thepersons that are suspected of organizing and facilitating the exploitation of these childrenfor begging and other purposes.117 Social Work Unit, Community Police Units, The Units against Human Trafficking8 The Law on Social Services and Family, No 02/ L-179 The Law on Public Peace and Order Nr. 03/L-142, Article 1010 Community Police Units, Anti-trafficking and Investigative Units11 Prishtinë, Pejë, Gjilan and Prizren, Ferizaj12
  • 13. Protect children on the move We have had information that some person uses a van to bring a group of children every morning in one of the suburbs of Prizren, and this same person comes back in the evening hours to gather and pick them up. – Head of the Police Unit against The Trafficking of Human Beings, Prizren region.Kosovo police authorities say that they are not connected directly with the process ofidentifying children who are begging as this is primarily a matter of responsibility for socialservice centers at the community level. However, the police will get involved if there issuspicion that their situation relates to organized crime activities and trafficking. Kosovopolice say that it has so far been difficult to argue or prove that organized third partiesfacilitate, manage and exploit these children and their families for begging purposes.12For example, an investigation on reports about some children that were being transportedand brought everyday at 6am into the main square of Prizren amounted to nothing as it wasdifficult to prove that the mini-bus drivers were part of an organized group facilitating andmanaging these children’s begging activities in the streets of town. This was rather a case ofchildren and their families getting on the vans and paying for their transport into town. 13 7. DEPORTATIONAlbanian children and their families will be deported from Kosovo if a) they are found tohave overstayed in Kosovo illegally beyond the allowed 90-days limit14; b) if they are caughtbegging in the streets.15 According to the Kosovo Law on Public Order and Peace16, beggingis an offense related to the disturbance of public peace and order. Courts can issue anumber of penalties for people/children who are caught begging, such as: court orderwarnings, deportation and/or fines, which can vary from a minimum of 30 Euros to amaximum of 500 Euros. Taking into account the difficult economic situation of these familiesand their inability to pay the fines, the Kosovo courts will mostly issue deportation ordersback to the country of origin.Proving that these families have overstayed in Kosovo beyond the allowed 90-days limitpresents a challenge for the prosecution/ court authorities. The judges generally blame thepolice for failing to secure and present in court the full paperwork and documents thatwould enable the issuance of a deportation order. “In the absence of proper evidence toshow when a person has entered Kosovo, the Court can not decide to deport that personback to their country’, states one of the Judges at the Prishtina Court for Minor Offenses.According to the same judge, police will apply pressure on the Courts for the issuance ofdeportation warning although they will fail to bring sufficient evidence that proves aperson’s involvement in begging. According to a Judge in Prishtina 150 cases of Albaniancitizens were identified from the Police to be deported but many of them could not bedeported because of lack of appropriate documentation from the Police. For example, duringa recent case the defendants were not stopped by the police whilst begging but rather12 Head of Anti-trafficking Unit, Prizren13 Interview with the Head of the Anti-trafficking unit, Prizren, 14/07/201014 Interview with the judges from the Court for Minor Offenses in Prishtina and Peja, 16/07/201015 Law No. 03/L-142 on Public Peace and Order, article 1016 The Official Gazette of the SAP of Kosovo”, no. 13/8113
  • 14. Protect children on the movewhilst they were at home sleeping, which ultimately caused the Judge to suspend and annulthe proceedings as it could not be proved that the defendants were guilty of disturbingpublic peace and order.The Courts do have lists with names of all deportees, but the information contained in theselists is not entirely reliable as some of the deportees may have not had proper identificationdocuments on them or they hide them from the Police, as one woman found beggingdeclared to the SWT team. Often deportees will return again and again to Kosovo, despitehaving being banned from entering Kosovo or having been deported back to Albania once,and in some cases, even two or three times before.In cases of deportation, the Social Services Centers complain they do not have thenecessary time to conduct a proper verification process and checks on the deportees astheir deportation will take place within a very short period of time, sometime within a day.In addition, these centers lack the dedicated human and financial resources, as well as thespace to accommodate and help these people. Moreover, ‘the maximum time granted tointerview a child subject to deportation is 20 to 30 minutes, which is not enough to collectthe full and exact information on the child,” says the Head of the Social Services Center inPrizren.All the different institutional representatives who were interviewed agree that deportation isa failed process that offers no solution. They all expressed that a proper and permanentsolution must be found to address the phenomenon of Albanian children begging in thestreets of Kosovo. Some also mentioned that good practices models such as the publicawareness raising campaign against the phenomenon which was implemented in Peja mustbe replicated throughout other parts of Kosovo.According to Kosovo border police, a total of 114 Albanian citizens have been deported fromKosovo from January to July 2010. Deportation data however gives only the total number ofdeportees without specifying age and gender categories, thus making it impossible todetermine how many of these people are actually adults and children.CONCLUSIONS • Albanian children identified begging in the streets in Kosovo are found to be exposed to various forms of child rights violations, including neglect and maltreatment, or even physical abuse and emotional abuse from passersby, lack of access to basic healthcare, lack of access to school, lack of proper housing and in some cases absence of proper birth registration. These violations are complicated by the repressive legislation against begging which leads to continuous movements within the country in order to avoid being arrested. • The forms of begging identified also expose the children to a number of risks, ranging from bad health conditions for the small babies exposed all day under high temperatures, to physical and verbal abuse as children offer to kiss and/or grab the hands of people passing by. The children also beg during the late hours of the night14
  • 15. Protect children on the movein places often attended by young people and adults, thus putting themselves at risk ofsexual exploitation and/or trafficking, and some instances are suspected. • The local authorities do not necessarily associate the phenomenon of begging as something that can potentially expose the Albanian children to other more severe forms of exploitation such as physical and sexual abuse, and/or exploitation for prostitution purposes, and children and their families are generally treated more as delinquents breaking the law than as children in need of support and protection. Therefore, the local institutions usually get in contact with these Albanian only in case of their deportation. • The Kosovo Police Anti-Trafficking Units generally consider the phenomenon of begging to be an issue for other local authorities/structures to deal with, and they will only intervene in cases of children begging when suspicions about human trafficking arise. These units do not keep in regular contact with and are not well informed about the work of other local authorities/structures in this regard. • According to the Social Services Centers, it is impossible to conduct a full identification process and case management for these children and their families given the limited number of staff at their disposal. • There is a marked absence of cooperation and coordination, especially in terms of information exchange, between the various institutions including the police authorities and the social services centers when it comes to the issue of Albanian children in street situations in Kosovo. • In addition, there is also a lack of cooperation between the relevant institutions in both countries, Kosovo and Albania, in relation to the issues of Albanian children in street situations in Kosovo. • The various institutions agree that deportation is an unsuccessful approach to the issue of Albanian children begging in the streets of Kosovo. However, deportation seems to be the standard action taken when dealing with the cases of these children and their families. All the institutions believe alternative solutions to deportation must be pursued, but these alternatives are not being found and/or offered. • With the pending visa liberalization, the majority of these families expressed that they would like to emigrate to western European countries.ISSUES FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION • Interventions to address immediate needs for assistance and gross child rights violations: a number of difficulties and rights violations have been identified through this observation and measures should be put in place to ensure the provision of basic services to Albanian children found in street situations in Kosovo in order to improve medical situations, access to education, etc.15
  • 16. Protect children on the move • Proactive identification: methods should be put in place by the local government social services and supported by the Ministries of Labor aiming at early identification of children in need of assistance and protection. • Best interest determination: Albanian children identified in street situations in Kosovo should be assisted on a case by case basis, through a normal case management process, based on a proper assessment of the needs of each child, within a rights-based framework and according to the best interest of the child. • Collaboration and coordination with place of origin: in order to be able to identify sustainable interventions in the best interest of the children found, assessment needs to take place in close coordination and collaboration with the place of origin. The Albanian Embassy in Kosovo could also play a key role in assisting cases of Albanian children found begging (and their family members) in terms of both accessing immediate support and facilitating follow up on return to Albania (eg coordination with the local child protection units). • Birth registration: institutions from both countries should be ensuring children are registered at birth regardless of the status of the families. • Systematic approach to protection: further developing the child protection systems and social welfare in both countries in order to prevent the exploitation of children in begging situations, to support children and families. The development of a comprehensive and holistic system to protect all children in both countries would help prevent the phenomenon of child begging and exploitation. This could include a set of family support measures in place to support families and parents with housing, employment and income-generating opportunities combined with psycho-social support. • Awareness raising: Continuous public awareness campaigns must be organized and launched in order to raise awareness of citizens about the phenomenon of begging, its risks and consequences for children.16

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