The Republic of Serbia ratified Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings on 14th of April 2009. Unlike other international instruments in the field of combating human trafficking, CoE Convention has a system of monitoring implementation and fulfillment of obligations taken by states that have signed it. The monitoring is conducted by Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA), composed of 15 independent experts for different topics in the field of combating human trafficking. The first report for the Republic of Serbia was published today, whereas the set of recommendations for the country is expected in the beginning of February.
The complete report is available at http://www.coe.int/trafficking. Below, you can read executive summary of the report in which strengths and weaknesses of Serbia in combating trafficking and protecting its victims are highlighted.
The Serbian authorities have taken a number of important steps to prevent and combat trafficking in human beings. The national legal framework in the field of action against trafficking has evolved in the light of the country’s international commitments as well as the situation and trends of trafficking in Serbia. The social protection and aliens’ legislation provide for a number of rights for victims of human trafficking.
The institutional framework put in place aims to bring together in a co-ordinated effort all relevant actors. The post of National Co-ordinator for Combating Human Trafficking was created in 2001, and in 2002 the Republican Team for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings was set up as a forum at national level which brings together governmental bodies, non-governmental organisations and international organisations. Further, the Council for Combating Human Trafficking was established in 2004 as an expert advisory body to the Government. Finally, in 2012, the Centre for the Protection of Victims of Trafficking was set up for the purpose of performing the identification of victims and their referral to assistance. GRETA invites the Serbian authorities to continue developing co-ordination and to ensure that civil society is involved in the planning and implementation of national policy.
Concerning prevention of human trafficking, GRETA welcomes the steps taken by the Serbian authorities, in collaboration with non-governmental and intergovernmental organisations, to raise general awareness of human trafficking, through information campaigns, school education and training of relevant professionals. GRETA also commends the measures taken vis-à-vis groups vulnerable to trafficking and considers that the authorities should continue to develop the aspect of prevention through social and economic empowerment measures. In this context, GRETA urges the authorities to secure the registration of all persons. Further, GRETA invites the authorities to strengthen their efforts to discourage demand for services of trafficked persons as regards all forms of exploitation.
GRETA welcomes the efforts made by the Serbian authorities to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to the identification of victims of trafficking through the setting up of the Centre for the Protection of Victims of Trafficking.
Nevertheless, GRETA urges the authorities to take further steps to secure that all victims of trafficking are properly identified and can benefit from all the assistance and protection measures provided for under the Convention. In particular, the Serbian authorities should pursue a proactive approach to the identification of victims of trafficking for labour exploitation by encouraging labour inspection in the sectors most at risk (e.g. agriculture, entertainment, service sector, construction) and pay more attention to the identification of trafficking victims among asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors.
GRETA notes that there is a shortage of accommodation and funding to provide assistance to victims of trafficking in Serbia. Further, there is a lack of long-term integration programmes. GRETA urges the Serbian authorities to ensure that all assistance measures provided for in law are guaranteed in practice, to provide appropriate and safe accommodation with a sufficient number of places for victims of trafficking, including men and children, and to guarantee access to health care to victims.
GRETA urges the Serbia authorities to review the legislation in order to ensure that the recovery and reflection period provided for in Article 13 of the Convention is specifically defined in law and that all the measures of protection and assistance envisaged in Article 12, paragraph 1 and 2, of the Convention are made available during this period. It should be made clear that the recovery and reflection period is not conditional on the victim’s co-operation with the law-enforcement authorities. The authorities should also ensure that victims of trafficking can fully benefit from the right to obtain a renewable residence permit.
Despite the existence of legal possibilities for compensation, there have been no cases of successful compensation claims concerning victims of trafficking. There is currently no possibility for victims of trafficking to obtain compensation from the State and victims of trafficking depend on non-governmental organisations for the provision of legal aid. GRETA urges the Serbian authorities to adopt measures to facilitate and guarantee access to compensation for victims of trafficking, including through the systematic provision of information to victims and the setting up of a State compensation scheme accessible to victims of trafficking.
GRETA welcomes the law-enforcement and prosecution efforts against human trafficking in Serbia and invites the authorities to further develop the training and specialisation of investigators, prosecutors and judges, with a view to ensuring that human-trafficking offences are effectively investigated and prosecuted, leading to proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.
Finally, GRETA urges the Serbian authorities to make full use of the measures available to protect victims and witnesses of human trafficking and to take additional measures to ensure that they are adequately protected from potential retaliation or intimidation in the course of judicial proceedings, including by reviewing the practice of direct confrontation of victims with suspected traffickers in court.