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Unconditional residence permit – A condition for respecting the rights of victims of THB

Granting a residence permit to victims of trafficking of foreign origin without conditional participation in investigative and judicial proceedings is one of the key conditions for building a system that respects the rights of victims of trafficking and supports the individual needs of victims. It was concluded at today’s side event of the 22nd Conference of the Alliance against Trafficking in Persons – UNCONDITIONAL SUPPORT AND ACCESS TO RESIDENCE ON PERSONAL GROUNDS IS NEEDED TO UPHOLD TRAFFICKED PERSONS’ RIGHTS. The event was held online on April 5 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

The event is organized by La Strada International − a European NGO platform against human trafficking in cooperation with LSI’s member LEFO IBF and the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented migrants (PICUM), and with the support of the Council of Europe / GRETA Secretariat. Speakers at the event were: Petya Nestorova – Executive Secretary of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings; Marija Andjelkovic – CEO of ASTRA; Merci Obade – Cultural social worker at Hope Now, Denmark and member of the OSCE International Survivors of Trafficking Advisory Council (ISTAC) and Michelle Mildwater – Director of Hope Now.

Petya Nestorova explained the connection between the unconditional granting of a residence permit and the phenomenon of trafficking in human beings and noted GRETA’s observation that difficulties in working with victims of trafficking deepen by granting a residence permit to victims of trafficking.

Marija Andjelkovic spoke on the results of the REST project, which aims to improve the implementation of the right to residence and protection of victims of trafficking, and which is coordinated by LEFÖ-IBF and implemented in cooperation with partner organizations located in other five European countries: Comité Contre l’esclavage Moderne (CCEM) in France, Proyecto Esperanza in Spain, CoMensha in the Netherlands, La Strada Moldova in Moldova and Astra in Serbia.

In her presentation, Andjelkovic paid particular attention to the divergence of theory, i.e., legal solutions and practice when granting a residence permit to foreign citizens – victims of human trafficking. Namely, victims of human trafficking in the identification process have the opportunity to reflect for 90 days when they are granted a temporary residence visa and thus prevent forced deportation. In addition, as a social institution, the Center for the Protection of Trafficking in Human Beings is the only one to grant status to victims of trafficking in human beings based on findings or opinions and can initiate a residence permit for an identified victim. These legal solutions are good, but they are often not used in practice. Already identified victims, who also testified in the process against the perpetrators, sometimes are left without a residence permit because the Center does not start the process of obtaining a residence permit from the Ministry of Interior. Such examples are bad practices and bring additional insecurity to victims of trafficking and distrust in the work of relevant institutions.

Unfortunately, the presentations and comments of other participants confirmed that examples of good practice in this area are rare in EU member states also. There is still much work to be done to sensitize employees in institutions, lawyers, law enforcement officers, and judicial staff. As a positive example, Finland stood out, where an insured residence permit protects victims of human trafficking.

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