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NGO ASTRA’s communication on the ratification of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings

(18 March 2009)

Non-governmental organization ASTRA – Anti-trafficking Action welcomes the ratification of the Convention on action against trafficking in human beings by the National Assembly of Serbia.

Convention on action against trafficking in human beings has as an objective prevention of trafficking in human beings, protection of victims and prosecution of perpetrators. It is applied to all victims equally – women, men and children, to all forms of exploitation (sexual exploitation, forced labor, servitude, organ removal, etc), as well as on all forms of human trafficking – national and transnational, whether it is in relation with organized crime or not.

The main features of the new Convention on action against trafficking in human beings, the first European treaty in this field, include:

  • Awareness-raising for persons vulnerable to trafficking and actions aimed at discouraging “consumers” to prevent trafficking in human beings.
  • Victims of trafficking must be recognized as such in order to avoid police and public authorities treating them as illegal migrants or criminals.
  • Victims of trafficking will be granted physical and psychological assistance and support for their reintegration into society. Medical treatment, counseling and information as well as appropriate accommodation are all among the measures provided. Victims are also entitled to receive compensation.
  • Victims are entitled to a minimum of 30 days to recover and escape from the influence of the traffickers and to take a decision regarding their possible cooperation with the authorities. A renewable residence permit may be granted if their personal situation so requires or if they need to stay in order to cooperate in a criminal investigation.
  • Trafficking will be considered as a criminal offence: traffickers and their accomplices will therefore be prosecuted.
  • The private life and the safety of victims of trafficking will be protected throughout the course of judicial proceedings.
  • Possibility to criminalize those who use the services of a victim if they aware that the person is a victim of trafficking in human beings.
  • The Convention provides the possibility of not imposing penalties on victims for their involvement in unlawful activities, if they were compelled to do so by their situation.

Serbia and Montenegro signed the CoE Convention on action against trafficking in human beings in Warsaw in May 2005 at the 3rd Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe. So far, the Convention was ratified by 20 and signed by another 20 countries.

We consider extremely important that all future efforts which are put into strengthening of institutions and state mechanisms, especially when it comes to work of judicial organs, result in more severe punishment policies for the criminal act of human trafficking.

NGO ASTRA supports previous efforts of both state and civil society in suppression of this problem and appeals to competent institutions and organizations to engage more efficient efforts in actions that would have influence on reduction of the number of (potential) victims of human trafficking.

We would like to remind you that NGO ASTRA is active since 2000, and in 2002 we have opened first and so far unique SOS Hotline in Serbia for human trafficking survivors and their families and relatives. SOS Hotline is basic mean of support and access to information concerning this global problem and up to date ASTRA has received over 8,650 calls from 1882 clients. In this way, ASTRA identified 276 victims of human trafficking wherefrom 111 are children.

(text of the Council of Europe Convention on action against trafficking in human beings can be found on ASTRA website http://www.astra.org.rs/?page_id=47 )

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