Working street children in Greece

The trafficking of children from country to country is seen as one of the worst forms of child labour, according to the International Labour Organization. As ILO TV now reports from Greece, youngsters often end up working and living on the streets, but the reasons behind the phenomenon - and the children’s legal situation - are complex.

Date issued: 14 February 2002 | Size/duration: 00:02:44

Finding victims of the international trafficking trade is far from easy. But Nathalie Heppell from NGO Terre des Hommes is doing exactly that. In Albania she heard children were mysteriously disappearing. Rumours spread they were out of the country - Italy or Greece were the whispered destinations. So Nathalie went to Greece to see for herself. During visits like this one, she has traced an estimated 3000 children brought from Albania to Greece for profit.

Nathalie Heppell, Terres des Hommes

As you meet one child, you ask them other places where the children go and they tell you such a market... further down on such a street. There are many children there and that’s how basically it went.

But finding these children is only half of the challenge. To get them to admit to being trafficked, is another ball game altogether. They have been drilled to tell lies and warned that people like Nathalie want to harm more than help.

Nathalie Heppell, Terres des Hommes

These children feel very responsible to their family towards helping their family to do better, so the more they work and earn money, they believe they will help their family, so that would mean staying away from any kind of help that could be provided either by the social services or non-governmental organisations.

The last time Nathalie met this Albanian girl, she said her name was Maria. Today, she calls herself Christina. The money she earns goes to her so-called aunt, her bosswoman in charge of her daily earnings.

With the money you earn, what do you do with it? Do you buy something for you or do you give something for your aunt?


I give it to my aunt. Because if I earn a lot of money, I will go back to Albania.

Christina might return sooner than she thinks. When Greek authorities suspect children have been trafficked, they send them back to Albania. The reason, says State Prosecutor Irini Chrisogianni, is that Greece does not have the jurisdiction to apply Greek law to an Albanian child.

Irini Chrisogianni, State Prosecutor, Greece

We know that we lack of laws, of a system of laws and we have to adapt to the new situations that occur. We have to modify or even to establish some provisions in order to include all these circumstances. These situations develop so rapidly that the legislator cannot keep up.

The trafficking of a child is deemed one of the worst forms of child labour by the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 182. According to Nathalie, if these children are not found in the first three months after they hit the streets to work, they will be trained by their bossmen and become traffickers themselves.