European Anti-trafficking Day
Belgrade, 18 October 2016
Year after year we welcome the European Anti-trafficking Day on 18th of October, with the devastating numbers of victims and potential victims of human trafficking, unfavorable results in the field of combating human trafficking, inadequate solution to the refugees crisis and identification of victims among this population. ASTRA Anti-Trafficking Action, an organization that is already 15 years engaged in the fight against human trafficking and provides assistance and support to victims of all forms of exploitation, uses every opportunity to use their activities in order to contribute to the realization of the rights of victims, inform citizens about this problem and educate relevant actors, but also to appeal to the state authorities that the area of combating human trafficking should be on the list of priorities, given the long-term period of stagnation in this area.
Therefore, we consider that it is urgent to adopt the Strategy and Action Plan for the prevention and suppression of human trafficking and protect victims, given the fact that the previous expired in 2011. It also needs to work on improving the process of identification of exploited victims, judges, prosecutors and lawyers should apply the approach that will be fully oriented to the rights of victims as they would be exposed to repeated trauma and threats and to enable them to get compensation. Police and prosecutors should respect the period of reflection, and the state needs to finally provide emergency shelter and creates programs of reintegration and social inclusion for victims of exploitation.
Another indicator that there is a lack of political willingness in combating human trafficking is the fact that the Republic of Serbia has not proposed a candidate in this year’s elections for members of GRETA (Group of Experts of the Council of Europe to combat human trafficking), even though the Council of Europe called out our country to so, and civil society organizations reminded national authorities of the final dates for submission of candidaties, and the importance of our country’s membership in the European body.
According to the official data, 32 victims of human trafficking were identified in the first half of the year, mostly citizens of the Republic of Serbia , both male and female, who were exploited on the territory of Serbia. The majority of the identified victims in Serbia are girls and women, whereas in 10 of the cases the victims were under age. During the first eight months of 2016, more than 2000 calls were received through ASTRA SOS hotline, made by 285 new clients, and 12 human trafficking victims were identified who were of age (8 men and 4 women). Two women had been exposed to sexual exploitation, and two cases were recorded of forced marriage. Seven men had been exposed to labor exploitation, and one case referred to forced begging. It is evident that during the first six months of the year more victims were identified than in the entire 2015, but drawing any conclusions should be postponed until the end of the year, when it will be possible to determine whether there has been a more proactive approach to the identification of victims within the police and social welfare system. In addition to that, the police units in charge of investigating the cases of human trafficking are also in charge of irregular migration; it might therefore be possible that closing the borders and reducing the number of refugees into our country during 2016 left more room for the fight against human trafficking.
 The official statistics of the Center for Human Trafficking Victims Protection can be found at http://www.centarzztlj.rs/images/stat/16/Sestomesecni%202016.pdf
 The entire statistics of ASTRA SOS hotline is available at http://www.astra.rs/sos-telefon-i-pomoc-potencijalnim-zrtvama-trgovine-ljudima/statistika/