Protect children on the move

Background

The project Mario builds on a solid partnership established in 2009 when major child protection NGOs in Europe including ECPAT, Terre des hommes, Save the Children in Albania and Nobody’s Children Foundation joined forces to provide more effective intervention and advocacy for Central and South Eastern European (C/SEE) migrant children at risk of exploitation and trafficking.

The project Mario today aims at improving the level of protection of C/SEE migrant children who are vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and/or trafficking. The project seeks – through transnational outreach research, advocacy, trainings and direct support to professionals and empowerment of C/SEE at-risk migrant children – to find multilateral solutions to the problems that children face prior, during or after migration and that require coordinated protection schemes for individual children. Services which protect at-risk migrant children in Central and South Eastern Europe from abuse, exploitation or other violations of their rights will be provided with a strong emphasis put on child participation. Activities at national and regional levels, coupling field work with a strong research component will also aim at fostering inter-institutional and transnational collaboration while promoting evidence-based and European solutions to the unsafe migration of C/SEE children.

The project Mario is co-funded by the European Union’s Daphne IIIProgram as well as the Oak Foundation.

The Partnership

The project Mario has entered in its second phase in 2013 and its activities have extended to 16 countries with a network involving 19 partner organisations:

The core partners:

Neglected Children’s Society (ECPAT Bulgaria)
Nobody’s Children Foundation (ECPAT Poland)
Save the Children in Albania
Salvati Copiii (Save the Children Romania)
Terre des Hommes (Albania, Hungary, Kosovo, Romania)

The associate partners:

ARSIS (GR),
Associazione 21 Iuglio (IT),
Open gate – La Strada (Macedonia)
Defence for Children International (ECPAT The Netherlands)

The advocacy partners:

Save the Children North West Balkans (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Terre des Hommes International Federation (European Union Office)
ECPAT International (Belgium Office)
The organisation for Aid to Refugees (Czech Republic)
The Children’s Rights Centre (Montenegro)
The Center for Youth Integration (Serbia)
Human Rights League (Slovakia)

Mario in the field:

Reinforcing capacities:

At national level, project partners will provide support to state and non-state actors in order to enable national child protection systems to meet the needs and wants of C/SEE migrant children. A series of training will take place which will allow at least 600 professionals to improve their capacity and confidence to manage the cases of C/SEE at-risk migrant children. Training needs have been and will continue to be jointly assessed by the Mario project partners and the children that benefit from the services provided by authorities.

Child participation:

Following the first phase of the project Mario, partners took stock of the need to better include children’s views into all components of the project, from inception to the monitoring and evaluation of its impact. Child consultation boards, mainly composed of C/SEE migrant children or at risk of unsafe migration, have therefore been set up in 5 countries in order to regularly gather their views on their own situation and what could be done to improve it. The boards will meet every month and share their views on the services they receive which will allow project partners to adjust their activities at national level. Moreover, C/SEE migrant children may also become peer researchers at the occasion of national and transnational researches and offer their own interpretation of the research findings. Finally, children taking part in the boards or other children at risk of unsafe migration may also decide to implement their own advocacy actions and advocate for a better protection of their rights towards States authorities.

Direct support for the most vulnerable children:

Mario partners are keen to ensure that children who have been identified during (and as a result of) the implementation of its activities – or who participate in them – access services that improve their well-being whenever that is needed. Mario partners have therefore undertaken to provide a series of services either directly when children are found in institutions or in partnership with authorities when children are outside a protective environment to ensure the sound management of their individual case. It is anticipated that at least 700 C/SEE migrant children or at-risk of unsafe migration will see their well being improved thanks to the direct intervention of Mario partners.

Advocating for the rights of C/SEE migrant children

In 6 countries as well as across Europe (for the latter, see below), partners will conduct Situational Analyses using a common methodology assessing the capacities of the national Child Protection Systems to ensure the protection of C/SEE migrant children. Each Situational Analysis will constitute a baseline against which the project impact will be assessed but will first and foremost be used as an advocacy tool to improve the situation of C/SEE migrant children. Each year, events at national level will allow project partners and children themselves to raise the awareness of authorities on the protection challenges that children and families face in the field and advocate for an improvement of procedures and practice in the management of their case.
The project Mario is also striving to reinforce civil society partnerships as well as collaboration with authorities at both national and transnational levels. To that end, national coalition of child protection NGOs will be established and/or reinforced in Kosovo and Albania while in Bulgaria, Poland and Romania, group of experts will allow both civil society and government representatives to pool their expertise so as to address national capacity and procedural gaps.

Mario in Europe:

Transnational actions:

Four transnational outreach researches will be conducted in Greece, Italy, FYROM and The Netherlands to document the situation of Albanian, Bulgarian, Kosovo and Romanian children in street situation in targeted cities within those countries. The researches will allow Mario partners to identify migration patterns and the vulnerability factors that subsequently put C/SEE migrant children at risk. Thanks to the Mario research methodology which combines street work with thorough empirical analysis, C/SEE migrant children will offer their views which will be documented and analysed to offer a sound policy making basis to authorities that have been so far unable to protect them.
Based on the transnational researches’ findings, countries of origin, transit and destination’s authorities will link up to explore potential joint actions so as to ensure a better protection of identified children. At the occasion of these meetings, collaboration protocols will be designed to offer C/SEE migrant children protective frameworks in line with their best interest along their migration paths.

Joint advocacy actions

At transnational level, all members of the partnership will design and jointly implement a common advocacy action plan that will address State authorities’ failure to find multilateral solutions to the situation of C/SEE migrant children that concern virtually all countries of the European continent.
To that end, the Mario network of NGOs in C/SEE will implement joint regional advocacy actions underlining the common challenges that all European countries face when facing C/SEE migrant children cases and develop a multi lateral protection framework that will be closely designed with European countries’ relevant Ministries.

The project Mario is co-funded by the European Union’s Daphne III. Program as well as the Oak Foundation.

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