Forced labour is taking away their childhood

Forced Labor is taking away childhoodAlmost every night, Albion together with his brother of nine, go through Prishtina`s coffee shops to sell chocolates and gain some money. He sometimes hands that money over to his mother, sometimes keeps it for himself,  at least this is what Albion, 10 years old from Vushtrri says. Even though he attends school, he rarely does his homework, since during the time he should be doing his homework, he`s not just far from books but also away from home.

Children such as him, selling or others begging, washing car`s windows, looking everywhere for recyclable materials, can be seen day and night in almost each street and corner of the city.

According to Kosovo Statistics Agency (KSA), 10.7% of the children ages 5-17 are engaged in work, whereas 6.8% of them work in unsafe conditions. Centres for Social Work found that 206 children throughout Kosovo had been involved in hard work 2014.

Samir Shahini, former manager of non-governmental organisation “The Ideas Partnership” says that the greatest number of children who work at an early age are from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian community. This relates to many reasons, the main reason being dire economic conditions.

“Over 80% of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian families, at least at the locations where our organisation works, are on social assistance. Most of the times this is not sufficient, which makes children as well as their parents to take other measures and send the children to work”, Shahini says.

Valentina Demolli, project manager at Council for the Defence of Human Rights and Freedom (CDHRF), says that the number of children who beg in the streets of towns, and as a part of the informal sector is on the rise in recent years, although the overall number of children who beg remains undetermined. Also, the number of beggars coming from other countries is increasing by each day, something that CDHRF  considers organized crime, Demolli added.

She says that this institution considers that forcing children for labour is a violation of children`s rights, which is sanctioned by all international conventions for the protection of children`s rights and by Kosovo laws.

Kosovo`s European Union Progress Report, published early November, pointed out the absence of implementation of the legislation for the protection of children`s rights.

The Coalition of the NGO-s for the Protection of Children`s Rights (CNPCR) supports the assertion that the implementation of the law for the protection of children`s rights still remains a challenge.

According to CNPCR, as for the protection of children who are victims of trafficking and violence, the Progress Report recommends that Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MLSW) provides adequate financing for shelters for children who are victims of violence and trafficking.

Duties and responsibilities of Kosovo Police regarding the phenomenon of children’s labour, are the identification of the locations where children work and reporting this to Centres for Social Work.

“In the first half of 2016, Kosovo Police has identified about 300 grown up beggars who had families, including their children”, spokesperson of Kosovo Police, Daut Hoxha says for KosovaLive.

Furthermore, he adds that Kosovo Police organizes activities relating to the phenomenon of begging, considered inappropriate for children, aimed at taking these children off the streets, since in every moment they risk involvement in different crimes or becoming victims of trafficking and other purposes.

In a single four-day operation (14-18 November), “Identification of beggar children as victims of trafficking”, Kosovo Police arrested 11 individuals suspected of criminal acts “maltreatment or abandonment of the child”, and identified 36 beggar children, 23 out of which were Kosovars and 13 Albanian citizens.

The Albanians were sent to the respective unit of the Department of Citizenship, Asylum and Migration, whereas 12 legal procedures were initiated against Kosovars for “maltreatment or abandonment of the child”.

The expectation is that this operation, one in a range of numerous activities initiated by Kosovo Police, will be followed by the respective actions of other institutions. This is exactly the recommendation from the 2016 Progress Report for Kosovo, in the context of the implementation of the existing law, and of creating new conditions for children’s forced labour.

Gentiana Maxharraj