On 4 August 2017, the Serbian Government adopted the Strategy for Prevention and Suppression of Trafficking in Humans, Especially Women and Children, and Protection of the Victims from 2017 to 2022, as well as the respective Action Plan for 2017 and 2018, six years after the previous one had expired. As emphasized in the previous reports, in the last five years, the field of suppression and prevention of human trafficking in the Republic of Serbia has been stagnant, due to the lack of preconditions for planned and systematic problem-solving and establishing a new institutional and coordination framework. The result of this stagnation was shown in applying ad hoc solutions with no long-term plans, which led to Serbia being put on the so-called watch list in the Trafficking in Persons report of the U.S. State Department (for the year 2016, but also 2017).
The work on the Strategy for Prevention and Suppression of Trafficking in Humans, Especially Women and Children, and Protection of the Victims from was initiated in May 2012. The initial text, created during several months in a participative process involving all key anti-trafficking actors, was foreseen to be valid from 2013 to 2018. Due to the fact that the aims were formulated loosely, targeting key challenges in responding to human trafficking in the Republic of Serbia, they have remained current. Fields needing further development, listed in the conditions analysis which is an integral part of this document, are those that the ASTRA has been continuously pointing out in their ALARM reports, for example – 1) the system for institutional and operative co-ordination is not yet fully functional; 2) the police management of the suppression of human trafficking is not consolidated or specialised (several units have the jurisdiction); 3) there is no common and comprehensive system for collecting and analysing data on human trafficking; 7) the system for identification, protection, and supporting the victims of human trafficking, especially children, and vulnerable migrants is not fully developed; 8) the system has not yet developed special programmes of support for risk groups and vulnerable migrants when dealing with the prevention of human trafficking and supporting the victims of human trafficking; 9) the system does not yet have enough human resources at its disposal (those employed in the field of detecting and prosecuting the cases of human trafficking are not fully competent) or the material resources (there are no permanent funds for financing prevention, protection, and suppression of trafficking in humans) for high-quality support to human trafficking victims; 11) a fund to support the victims of human trafficking has not been established; 12) the process for compensation of the victims of human trafficking within civil proceedings is inefficient and does not provide adequate compensation to the victims of human trafficking; 13) the shelter for urgent care of victims of human trafficking, founded within the Centre for Human Trafficking Victims Protection, is still not in function.
It is planned by the Strategy to establish a Working Group for implementing and monitoring the strategy “which will be composed of ministries’ representatives and state authorities who are experts in the fields important for the implementation of the Strategy”, all explicitly listed. This Working Group is supposed to take over the role of the former National Team for Combating Trafficking in Humans. Interestingly enough, CSOs with long-standing expertise in suppressing trafficking in humans were not directly named as members of the working group, but are only mentioned in the next paragraph as follows:“Civil society organisations will equally participate in the process of monitoring, reporting, and evaluating of the Strategy”, despite the previously cited assessment that “the system does not yet have enough human resources (those employed in the field of detecting and processing the cases of human trafficking are not fully competent)”. Five organizations chosen by the Government Office for Cooperation with Civil Society will partake in the thus formulated activity. Other than these being organizations “involved in the human trafficking problems”, no further criteria for choosing were cited, even though this was discussed during the initial process of developing the Strategy.
As for the financing, both the Strategy and the Action Plan will be financed from the budget of the Republic of Serbia, IPA funds of the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange Instrument of the European Commission –TAIEX, with the help of the OSCE, UNODC, ICMPD, as well as the support of the US Department of Labor’s project “Acting and supporting on a national level to reduce the incidence of child labour”. Although these two documents were adopted in the third quarter of 2017, and the Action Plan refers to the period of 2017/18, meaning that only four months are left for its implementation in the first year, there is no noticeable difference in the funds allocated from the budget of the Republic of Serbia. What is also interesting is that most of the funds – more than a fourth of total non-project budget – are allocated for the Ministry of Culture and Information (1,234,000 dinars / around 10,000 EUR for 2017 and the same amount for 2018), while the Ministry of Interior, and the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy as the key state institutions in suppressing human trafficking, were given substantially lesser funds.
AnnualTraffickinginPersonsReportbytheU.S.StateDepartment,issued on 28 June 2017,available athttps://www.state.gov/documents/organization/271339.pdf.
According to the Strategy for Prevention and Suppression of Trafficking in Humans, Especially Women and Children, and Protection of the Victims, for the period of 2017–2022.