Frontex publishes VEGA Handbook: Children at airports


How can border guards and other people working at airports spot children who may be victims of trafficking? How does one talk to them? These are just a few questions answered in VEGA Handbook: Children at airports, which was published this week by Frontex.

The handbook is the result of years of cooperation between Frontex, border guards, non-governmental agencies and international organisations such as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organization for Migration (IOM) to create a set of guidelines for border guards to help assist children at risk.

For most victims of human trafficking, the moment of passing through an airport may be the only time they will come in contact with law enforcement officials before they disappear into the world of exploitation.

“For a border guard who has only a few seconds to spot a potential problem at an airport, detecting children who may be victims of trafficking is difficult, to say the least. Now they will have a printed manual in hand to help them”, said Sascha Liedtke, a police sergeant working at Frankfurt Airport.

Lívia Styp-Rekowska, Senior Immigration and Border Management Specialist at IOM added: “The handbook is an excellent guide on how to treat children even in an ordinary situation. During my deployment, officials followed guidelines in the handbook to help make some difficult situations less stressful for the children”.

Some of the other issues covered by the handbook include how to make the child feel comfortable during an interview, how to spot trouble signs during passport control and other checks at the border, and how airline staff can notice and share unusual behaviour of children and the accompanying adults during a flight.

“VEGA Handbook: Children at airports is part of a wider effort by Frontex to tackle the problem of smuggling of children. And there are signs that cross-border crime involving young people has been on the rise”, said Nick Garlick, Frontex Coordinating Officer in the Air Borders Sector.

The publication of the VEGA Handbook coincides with the launch of the second phase of Operation VEGA Children 2015, coordinated by Frontex at nine European airports. During the next six weeks, border guards and experts from five international organisations and NGOs will form joint teams to identify children who are at risk and target thecriminals involved.

The teams will then refer the children to child protection institutions while applying the standard operational procedures based on VEGA Handbook: Children at airports. 

In the future, Frontex plans to prepare similar programmes for border guards working at land and sea borders.

This operational activity represents part of Frontex’s commitment to the EMPACT (European Multi-Disciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats) THB Operational Action Plan for 2015.