On 30 June 2014, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) releases a handbook to strengthen national guardianship systems for children in Europe, as part of the EU's anti-trafficking strategy which recognises the vital role guardians play in protecting children from harm.
"No child should feel alone and abandoned by the State they live in," says FRA Director Morten Kjaerum. "Guardians exist to protect children in the absence of parents. However, their role and work varies from across the EU. This handbook provides the much needed guidance that should help strengthen guardianship systems across the EU to better protect all children who are at risk."
"We must ensure that all children, particularly children without parental care, are safe from criminals, who violate their rights and deprive them of their childhood. Children are particularly vulnerable and at greater risk of becoming victims of trafficking in human beings. Child protection is a cornerstone of our EU anti-trafficking legislation and guardianship plays a very important role for the prevention of child abuse and exploitation. Regardless of their immigration status, children should be first and foremost treated as children," says EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström.
The EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012-2016 recognises the importance of comprehensive child-sensitive protection systems, for which a robust guardianship system serves as a touchstone. Effective guardianship systems are key to preventing abuse, neglect and exploitation. Yet the roles, qualifications and competences of guardians vary from one Member State to another. This handbook, a joint publication of the European Commission and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, is designed to help standardise guardianship practice, ensuring also that it is better equipped to deal with the specific needs of child victims of trafficking. It provides guidance and recommendations to EU Member States on strengthening their guardianship systems, setting forth the core principles, fundamental design and management of such systems. By promoting a shared understanding of the main features of a guardianship system, it aims to improve conditions for children under guardianship and promote respect for their fundamental rights.
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