The gate is closed, the gate is open....

A "gate" is something that draws a barrier which could have different and sometimes opposite meanings and purposes. It could be an element that protects an individual from the outside world; but it could also be something that encloses, preventing an individual from feeling safe. It could constrain in one place or hinder access to another place. It could be perceived as a defence, as a threat, as an opportunity or as a means of exclusion.

In the past years there has been an increasing attention around the phenomena related with trafficking in human beings, especially when they involve children. The international definition of human trafficking since the signing of the Palermo Protocol in 2000, has stimulated an array of activities in the field of law-making, criminal justice and recovery actions addressed to victims.

In many cases the overall approach to trafficking tended to focus on prosecution and related criminal aspects of the problem, and less on the structural conditions that make the perpetration of these crimes possible.  Far from denying the importance of repressive activities around trafficking, the present initiative attempted to adopt a wider perspective by including other determining interrelated factors within the analysis and system of actions concerning trafficking.

In this wider perspective, the GATE initiative has attempted to overcome the predominant model which has developed in the last years, with its narrative centred around the stereotypical triad victim-aggressor-saviour. This rigid model failed to consider the complexity of the phenomena involved and diverted attention from  the various contextual elements that determine the levels of vulnerability and risk to which specific migrant groups are exposed.

In the present situation the GATE is represented by the policies of exclusion which are being carried out towards those persons who are reaching Europe from different countries around the world.

Children are among such groups of excluded people. Guardianship and protection systems show a high degree of diversity in terms of definition, legislation and practices while, in many instances, significant incoherence and sometimes a real conflict emerges between welfare and protection policies addressed to separated children on the one hand, and migration and border policies and strategies on the other. This heterogeneous situation is often coupled by a critical lack of competences and capacities of those who are deemed to decide who must get in and out of the gate.

Taking as a starting point the Convention on the Rights of the Child  ratified by all European Member States, with its assumption that the best interest of children should be considered before any other logic or interest, we can assert that every child, no matter what his or her nationality is, should be fully included in the welfare and protection system of any European Member State. Since this inclusion represents the essential condition for any protection strategy or policy, the real problem, beyond and before a specific attention on the dynamics of trafficking, will be then to understand when and how the systems are sufficiently inclusive and flexible to determine a coherent level of safeguard and protection.

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