Thank you for being here, and thank you for putting children first.
I want to read out something to you. I quote:
“I arrived in Greece from Afghanistan alone, 9 months ago. The journey was very difficult. When the fire started in Moria camp, I was really afraid.
The police told us to leave the camp and we did so. Few hours later I was in a plane leaving Lesvos and now I am at the airport, ready to go to Germany. […], I am really excited and waiting to start a new life.
This is a good day for me. I want to go to school, I want to study and of course sometime in the future to get a job. I like economics and this is the sector I want to follow.”
This is a message from a young teenager, who lived on his own in Moria camp on the Greek island Lesvos. In unacceptable conditions. Without a parent or guardian. An “unaccompanied minor”.
Yesterday people, 139 people arrived in Hannover, relocated from Lesvos. Maybe, he was one of those.
When the fire broke out in Moria, the first thing that we did is move all unaccompanied children and teenagers from Moria to safety, the same day, to the mainland. All 406 of them that were left.
But we already started relocating unaccompanied minors earlier this year. And many of them have already been relocated.
Two days ago, the Greek government confirmed that all unaccompanied minors have been moved to safety from the islands.
Member States have offered 2,000 unaccompanied minors and sick children a welcome.
Since April, more or less every week a plane has been leaving with children to start a new home.
A thousand of these children have already started a new life in another Member State.
But it’s the voice of just one of them, that really tells us, the meaning of solidarity.
To protect children, what we really need is a structured, comprehensive approach. That’s why we launched the New Pact for Migration and Asylum.
We do not have a migration crisis now. But a lot of migrants, and especially migrant children are in a crisis.
Some of them in Europe, a lot of them in other countries.
The European Union must show leadership and defend the right to asylum. And we must work with our neighbours to develop legal pathways to Europe. Both for migrants and for refugees.
There will always be migration. But I would like to see no more children embarking on dangerous and traumatic journeys. That’s why we need to develop legal pathways.
We will step up our efforts on resettlement, as a safe way to bring refugees to Europe. And we will develop community and private sponsorship of refugees. Because integration into society starts locally.
With the pact on Migration and Asylum, we have taken the opportunity, to better protect children.
The rights and interests of children, must always come first. And it does in our proposal
- Swift family reunification; because children belong with their families.
- Decent housing. For a child, a tent is for playing in, not living in.
- Education. Children belong in schools.
- Child-friendly procedures. Adequate assistance, including legal assistance. Because children need a helping hand.
- Guardians for unaccompanied minors. Swiftly appointed, and with enough resources.
- Children under 12, and their families, will be exempt from the new fast track border procedure.
- Children are not allowed to be put into prison; that’s why we must also find alternatives for detention.
And we must protect children – boys and girls – in migration, from sexual exploitation. Especially girls run this risk. But also boys.
In fact, we must keep all children safe, from sexual predators.
In the last ten years, online child sexual abuse increased exponentially. From one million reports to 17 million reports worldwide. And in Europe from 23,000 to 725,000 reports.
It’s getting worse, because of Corona. In the country I know best, Sweden, a perpetrator posted: “Thank you Corona, for making it easy to find the children”.
The predators’ business model fuels this increase. Closed and secret groups on the Internet have an entrance fee: new and unseen material.
To see videos of raped children, paedophiles must rape children. And post these new rapes, new videos online.
It’s overwhelming police.
In one investigation, police captured a mobile phone with 130,000 pictures and 1300 videos. That’s one hundred days of full time work, for one police officer to investigate.
If it’s encrypted, it’s even more difficult.
In one case, it took police a year to decrypt a device. One whole year, to save children from sexual abuse.
Police have to deal with so much content that they have to prioritise. They have to choose, which children they save first.
These predators hide in the dark.
And we are responsible as adults to protect children and are responsible as politicians to put the proper legislative proposals in place to protect children.
In July, I launched a strategy to fight child sexual abuse online. We will work with the big Internet companies. Their voluntary reports already save children, in Europe.
Our police depends on their reports.
That’s why I launched emergency temporary legislation. To stop the electronic communications code from having an unintended effect, when it comes into force in December this year.
Namely to stop companies, from voluntarily reporting, detecting and removing child sexual abuse online.
That’s not acceptable.
If that happens, that would undermine all our law enforcement efforts. If that happens, we would not be turning on the light. We would be switching off the light. And leaving our children alone in the dark, with the predators.
That’s why I put this emergency legislation on the table for the co legislators to work with.
Last year, law enforcement in Europe received 40,000 newly produced images and 100,000 newly produced videos. Images that made it possible for authorities to find children and prosecute perpetrators.
Next year I will present permanent proposals. That will compel companies to detect and report known child sexual abuse materials.
And I want to set up a European Centre to Prevent and Counter Child Sexual Abuse, building on Europol’s expertise in analysis, information-sharing and victim identification.
We will work with experts and industry to find technical solutions to detect and report encrypted online child sexual abuse. We cannot allow paedophiles, to win an online high tech arms race.
And we must tell children: “It’s not your fault. It’s not OK what these adults are doing. ” We need to empower children, to speak out.
And I want Europe to take global leadership. Because abuse doesn’t stop at national or European borders.
I ask you all today: support these proposals.
And put this issue on the top of your agenda as well.
I started this intervention with a true story. Let me end with a true story. I want to tell you tell you about Alicia. Alicia is a survivor of child sexual abuse. She was groomed, kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured and raped for 21 days.
And liberated thanks to a specialised task force doing online investigations.
She later testified before the US Congress.
She said: “the boogeyman is real and lives on the internet”.
We all know that the boogeyman hates the light.
So let’s turn on the light.