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Trafficking Victims on the Rise

10.03.2008, Source: Politika

Naive women are still tricked by promises of work in foreign countries; criminals recruit minor girls, too.
It may happen to anyone. Recruitment takes various forms. Anyone could be either the victim or the trafficker. Human life is nothing to them. This is how the world of human trafficking, one of three most profitable criminal activities with global profits estimated to be up to 60 billion US dollars a year, works.
Women, children, men… regardless of origin or education level, everyone may fall victim. What is alarming is the fact that the number of victims is on the rise.
This criminal activity, as Jelena Andjelić, officer at the Red Cross of Serbia, is composed of three phases: recruitment, transit and exploitation. Methods for the recruitment of potential victims vary, from classical promises of better-paid jobs in the country or abroad and chats on Internet forums to marriage ads. Transit phase follows after successfully completed recruitment. Many victims have never left their country before and are fully dependant on traffickers. Some of them leave without passports, and if they have one, it is taken away by “the organizers”.

Traffickers know that, because of illegal status, the victim will avoid to ask for help from the police or government authorities. Victims are often tricked to believe that they are going abroad to work as waitresses, nannies, models, dancers… But when they get there, they are forced into prostitution, labor, begging� Physical abuse, including food and water deprivation, rape and forced drug consumption and the cruelest forms of torture are used not only for punishing disobedience, but also as a warning to other girls – explains Jelena Andjelić.

The most effective threat is the one directed at people close to the trafficking victims, who have stayed in Serbia. Since the victim does not want to risk the safety of her loved ones, she agrees to everything. When the police suspect that someone is trafficking victim, they first go to the Agency for Coordination of Protection of Trafficking Victims. This service works 24 hours a day and shall respond to each reporting, do the interview and make an assessment. If someone is confirmed to be trafficking victim, that person is offered possibility to go to the shelter.

We have registered cases of girls who have fallen victims to trafficking several times – says Biljana Zoranović-Avlijaš from Agency for Coordination of Protection of Trafficking Victims.

She says that it takes time and different programs of support in order for victims to be empowered, regain control and, most importantly, personal dignity. Having returned home, victims are faced with the same situation they ran away from – poverty, unemployment, family that expects income from them, judgment from the community and, of course, the same people who recruited them the first time by promising them a job.

For the police, which have passed continuous education, it is now much easier to recognize a potential victim. Last year, our Agency registered 60 victims (48 Serbian nationals, four persons from China, two from Macedonia and Bulgaria, while others were from Moldova, Ukraine, Romania and Croatia). Although the real figure is certainly much higher – says Biljana Zoranović-Avlijaš.

In Belgrade, there are only two shelters for trafficking victims, both of them run by nongovernmental organizations.

Serbia is not only a transit country, as many think, but also the country of origin and of destination. Internal trafficking has been on the rise in recent years, meaning that one person may be trafficked from one town to another, without leaving the country – says Ivana Radović, coordinator of ASTRA Prevention and Education Program, stressing very light penal police. ASTRA is the first organization which raised the subject of human trafficking in Serbia.

During last year, ASTRA registered 25 new trafficking victims, mostly women and children. Although increase in child trafficking has been evident since 2004, minimal penalty in domestic legislation was reduced two years ago from five to three years in prison.

L. Mirković

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