Moldova Closer to Anti-Child-Trafficking Blockchain Pilot

Moldova is getting closer to become the first country to test blockchain technology to fight child trafficking.

Moldova, a small Eastern European country, is ready to make concrete steps towards launching a blockchain-based pilot to fight child trafficking, Reuters reports. In March, New York-based ConsenSys won a UN competition to develop an identity platform that is to be used in Moldova.

Last year, we reported that Europe’s poorest country was considering the technology for combating child trafficking, but that the project was in an early discussion stage. Now Moldova is ready to launch the project by the end of this year.

Under the project, children, who may be potential victims of traffickers, will get a digital identity based on biometrics that will eventually be stored on blockchain. ConsenSys intends to develop the digital ID platform to link children’s identity with their family members. The method will help the country reduce the cases of child trafficking, as the criminals tend to target undocumented children by creating fake documents to move them across borders.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), over 40,000 children in Moldova are left on their own by parents who chose to work abroad in order to survive the harsh conditions there.

Lilian Levandovschi, head of Moldova’s anti-trafficking police unit, said:

“A lot of children are staying just with their grandfathers or grandmas, spending (more) time in the streets.”

In the last years, Moldova’s anti-trafficking laws evolved. Currently, in order to exit the country, children have to hold a passport and be accompanied by at least one of the parents or an adult having the letter of permission signed by a guardian.

Under the new blockchain project, children trying to exit the country will have to have their eyes or fingerprints scanned. As Robert Greenfield of ConsenSys explained, a phone alert would notify their legal guardians, who will have to approve the border crossing.

If the criminals would try to move children abroad, the action will be recorded on the blockchain, helping the law enforcement spot patterns to catch traffickers.

“Nobody can bribe someone to delete that information,” noted Mariana Dahan, co-founder of World Identity Network (WIN), an initiative that is also involved with the upcoming blockchain project.

However, even though the project sounds promising, not everyone is endorsing it. Some anti-trafficking groups claim that it won’t make a big difference, especially for children trafficked within the country’s borders and adults who are deceived when they’re looking for work abroad.

“As long as we don’t have job opportunities ... trafficking will still remain a problem for Moldova,” IOM’s Irina Arap noted.

According to data provided by Ecaterina Berejan, head of Moldova’s anti-trafficking agency, children account for less than 20% of the trafficking victims recorded in 2017 home and abroad. Cross-border child trafficking may not be a serious problem in comparison to the whole picture of the human trafficking in Moldova, so the real motivations behind the blockchain project are still unclear. Nevertheless, many aspects are yet to be decided, including funding for the project, targeted groups, the biometrical data used, and where it will be maintained.

Moldova might become the first country to trial blockchain for combating child trafficking. We’ll see whether the approach turns out to be efficient.