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Protecting the Rights of Trafficked and/or Asylum seeking Children Zagreb, November 2016

Hotel Dubrovnik, Gajeva 1, Zagreb, Croatia,

24 -25. November 2016


On the 24th and 25th November 2016, the conference hall of the Hotel Dubrovinik in Zagreb, Croatia, hosted the fourth event organised in the context of the Separated Children in Judicial Proceedings Project, funded by the European Commission and led by the AIRE Centre in collaboration with Child Circle (Belgium), the Centre for Women War Victims, ROSA (Croatia) and the University College of Cork (Ireland).



The Separated Children in Judicial Proceedings Project aims to promote the exchange of good practices among actors working on different aspects of children protection, raising the awareness as to the importance of child-centred justice and the fundamental role of a child-protective approach in procedures involving separated children.


The 2-day conference in Zagreb successfully followed on the Project’s events held in London and Brussels in April, September and October 2016, which engaged legal and judicial professionals, experts and practitioners working in the field of children protection in a compelling discussion on emerging legal issues in this realm.


On this occasion, the discussion explored:

  • The legal and practical implications of the growing phenomenon of asylum seeking children and children who fall victim of human trafficking networks.

  • How to promote and apply ever-higher levels of protection to these children in view of the changes occurring in the field of EU asylum and migration law and the increasingly dangerous routes refugees are increasingly forced to take

  • The multi-disciplinary and inter-agency response provided as these issues materialise, examining the role played by legal and civil society professionals who tackle this phenomenon at the domestic and European level.


The speakers to the 6 panels, spread among 2 days, included representatives from the judiciary in Croatia, as well as academics, civil society actors and distinguished international experts, thus creating a synergy between different skills and experiences in the field of child protection.

The event attracted a diverse and engaged audience, with approximately 70 participants for each day, confirming a growing public interest for the issues being addressed.


Representatives of all partner organisations took the floor during the two days. Nuala Mole, Senior Lawyer and Founder of The AIRE Centre, Markella Papadouli, Legal Project Manager of The AIRE Centre, Rebecca O’ Donnell, Lawyer and Co-Founder of Child Circle, Sanja Bezbradica Jelavić, Attorney at Law and member of ROSA and Maria Hennessy, Legal Officer from the Irish Refugee Council Legal Officer and representing the University College Cork, opened the event and made precious contributions to several of the panels.


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The valuable presence of academics, legal experts and civil society professionals operating in Croatia, including psychologists and UNICEF and Red Cross local representatives, provided the precious opportunity to open up the debate to address substantive points and practical challenges related to the reception and treatment of asylum seeking and trafficked children in the country.


The event also presented an overview of the legal tools and litigation avenues available to safeguard asylum seeking and trafficked minors before national and international judicial bodies, with special regard to the EU legislation (the Trafficking Directive, Return Directive and the Common European Asylum system) as well as to the operation and case-law of the Court of Justice of the EU and the European Court of Human Rights.




"This event, generously funded by the EU Commission, DG JUST, gave the opportunity to numerous professionals from diverse backgrounds to come together looking at the rights of asylum seeking and trafficked children from the vantage point of the children themselves, as the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU requires. The event highlighted that EU law must and should not be viewed in isolation but always in conjunction with the relevant Council of Europe and international framework, to ensure that the rights of those most vulnerable, are vindicated".

Markella Papadouli                      

AIRE Centre Legal Project Manager