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Belgrade in great need of a Local Team for Prevention and Combating Human Trafficking
In cooperation with the Austrian Embassy in Belgrade, Citizens Association “Atina“ organized a Round table on Friday, April 12, 2019 in the premises of the Embassy on the topic “Importance of the role of local responses to the challenges of human trafficking“, which brought together 40 professionals, representatives of the state and nongovernmental sector, as well as international organizations active in this field.
Belgrade in great need of a Local Team for Prevention and Combating Human Trafficking
Report from the Round table “Importance of the role of local responses to the challenges of human trafficking” held on April 12, 2019, at the Embassy of the Republic of Austria in Belgrade
In cooperation with the Austrian Embassy in Belgrade, Citizens Association “Atina“ organized a Round table on Friday, April 12, 2019 in the premises of the Embassy on the topic “Importance of the role of local responses to the challenges of human trafficking“, which brought together 40 professionals, representatives of the state and nongovernmental sector, as well as international organizations active in this field. This Round table was, on the one hand, an opportunity to discuss about the possibility of forming a local anti-trafficking team for the City of Belgrade, and on the other hand, an opportunity to hear experiences from the City of Vienna, given that the convening was organized within the visit of an expert delegation from Austria. This delegation was made up of ten members of the expert Working group Act.Now, led by Ms. Shams Asadi from the Human Rights Office of the City of Vienna, and Ms. Helga Konrad from the Regional Implementation Initiative on Preventing & Combating Human Trafficking and the former Austrian Minister for equality and equal opportunities, as well as experts from this and other related areas from Austria and beyond, such as Jihane Essaid from NGO ABAAD from Lebanon, Claire Healy from ICMPD, Linda Al-Kalash from NGO Tamkeen from Jordan, Katie Klaffenböck from IOM, Marijana Savic from NGO Atina, and others. Expert Working group Act.Now created a Policy Paper on combating exploitation and human trafficking, which can be found at the end of this report, both in English and Serbian.
Members of the Expert group visited Belgrade and Citizens’ Association Atina on April 11 and 12, and within the visit met with the Secretary for Social Protection of the City of Belgrade (April 11); they were more closely introduced to the work of Citizens’ Association Atina and its Reintegration Center, as well as to the social enterprise Bagel Bejgl shop.
In addition to the presence of representatives of the Act.Now Expert group, the Round table was opened by Austrian Ambassador to Serbia, H.E Nikolaus Lutterotti, Mitar Djuraskovic, National Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings from the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia, and Jelena Hrnjak from Citizens’ Association Atina. The convening was also attended by representatives of NGO Tamkeen from Jordan, NGO ABAAD from Lebanon, Ministry of Labor, Employment, Social and Veteran Affairs, Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, Service for Combating Organized Crime, Center for Human Trafficking Victims Protection and its Service for Coordination of human trafficking victims protection, Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, Secretariat for Social Protection of the City of Belgrade, European Delegation to Serbia, UNHCR, Council of Europe, OSCE, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, IRC, IOM, ICMPD, NGO Astra, German organization Schueler Helfen Leben, a representative of the Ministry of the Interior of Slovenia, who is together with the MoI of Serbia, particularly representatives of the Office for coordination of activities in combating human trafficking, and Austria conducting a joint twinning project, as well as the advisors of the Austrian Embassy and Citizens’ Association Atina’s activists. The main agenda of this event was based on four key topics planned for discussion:
- The need for local response in combating human trafficking and the impact of this response
- The role of civil society and other actors in the local response;
- Combating human trafficking at the local level in the context of migration and refuge;
- Examples of good practice.
In his introductory statement, Austrian Ambassador called for a joint fight against human trafficking, and pointed out that Belgrade and Vienna, cities of similar size, should exchange experiences and view the possibility of mutual cooperation in the implementation of different solutions from practice. He recalled the importance of local response as well as the activities carried out in Austria, particularly at the level of the City of Vienna, where they are directed and implemented by a Working group established for that purpose. The Ambassador also mentioned that Austria has been largely affected by the refugee situation since 2015, and that the context has further complicated work on the issue of human trafficking. At the same time, the National Coordinator for combating human trafficking in Serbia, with the MoI, reminded participants of the activities carried out in the past period in the Republic of Serbia, referring to the implementation of the National Strategy for this area and the adoption of Standard Operating Procedures for the treatment of victims of human trafficking. He also mentioned devastating data from a human trafficking conference organized by OSCE on April 8 and 9 in Vienna, stating that only 1% of the total number of trafficking cases is detected, that the same percentage of traffickers are convicted, and that only 1% of “clients“ who are “using“ services of victims of trafficking are prosecuted. Representative of Citizens’ Association Atina raised the issue of belonging (to a community) and underlined the need to bring combating human trafficking to a local level, while reminding about the activities of Atina in that sense which led to the establishment and operation of seven local anti-trafficking teams in Serbia (in Subotica, Novi Sad, Kraljevo, Kragujevac, Nis, Sremska Mitrovica, and Vranje). She also welcomed the presence of the representative of Secretariat for Social Protection of the City of Belgrade, as this indicates that the local level of government in Belgrade is also interested in this topic, that is, in the establishment of a local anti-trafficking team.
In further course of discussion, experiences from the City of Vienna were shared, along with the steps that were taken to tackle this issue with decision-makers, but also with the wider public, who was not significantly aware of the existence of this problem. Representative of the City of Vienna’s Office for Human Rights has primarily underlined the importance of the role of civil society organizations, and praised cooperation that local authorities have with them, adding that these organizations are financed from the public budget, as decided by the city council. She also mentioned the situation in other Austrian federal provinces, in terms of institutional fight against human trafficking, and indicated that this struggle relies precisely on experiences of the City of Vienna. It was underlined, once again, that the refugee crisis has greatly influenced resolving the issue of human trafficking, that is, the emergence of new challenges and risks that the refugee population faces. In this regard, a representative of the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Social and Veteran Affairs reminded that Serbia is no longer (only) a transit country, but a country of final destination as well, according to which it could learn a lot from Austrian colleagues and Austrian experience in general, bearing in mind that since the beginning of the crisis, it has been recognized as one of the countries of final destination. In the context of the refugee situation, the issue of so-called “tolerated labor“ was mentioned, that is, the need to find a way to enable persons from this population to work and earn some income, as this right is limited by their status, more precisely by asylum procedure.
Furthermore, representative of the City Secretariat for Social Protection stated that they are interested in cooperation and support the establishment of a local anti-trafficking team for the City of Belgrade, and as an example of good practice, that is, the model to be followed, stated previously established local team for supporting children on the streets.
Local anti-trafficking teams in Serbia are said to be facing capacity shortages, some teams have carried out a large number of activities while others were practically inactive, and that they should all have adopted annual action plans. During the rest of the discussion, findings of a research carried out by ICMPD were mentioned, along with trainings and other activities carried out by various actors aimed to improve the protection of refugees and migrants, and additional questions were asked about the experience of the City of Vienna, given that this was a unique opportunity for the local public to get to know them better.
Several key issues, or topics, for further reflection colored this Round table and contextualized future steps toward the formation of a local anti-trafficking team for the City of Belgrade.
1. One of these issues was related to cooperation among key actors in this area at the local level, namely local authorities, protection institutions, civil society organizations, and actors related to the central level of government, bearing in mind the size and importance of the City Belgrade within the Republic of Serbia.
2. The next issue was related to the need to finance specialized civil society organizations from the public budget; it should be taken into account that this issue, in the interaction and communication between civil society organizations and public authorities and state institutions, still represents a taboo and a challenge which must be continuously worked on in the future.
3. In addition, there was a repeated questioning of the awareness of the existing issue of human trafficking, i.e. a need for the implementation of permanent public campaigns in this regard, as indicated by the affirmative experience of the City of Vienna.
4. Furthermore, an important issue is also the need for constant strengthening of capacities of key actors in this field, particularly given that jurisdiction is not always in hands of the same authorities, which was also confirmed by a recent change within the MoI of the Republic of Serbia, after which combating human trafficking was transferred from the Border Police Directorate to the Criminal Police Directorate. These are all important issues that need to be addressed and thought through in order to come closer to the establishment of a local anti-trafficking team for the City of Belgrade, and this Round table was only the first step in the process.
Finally, all the present actors have expressed the need and shown the will to participate in that process, and other instances have a task to turn that will into action. Citizens’ Association Atina reserves the right to call all of the actors who participated in this Round table on an individual basis to design further individual steps in this process, as was mentioned at the closing part of the Round table. A live debate and active participation of the majority of attendees in the discussion has shown, once again, that this topic is of utmost importance, and that it should be further promoted in this, and other ways as well.
Gallery of photographs from the event can be found via the link: http://www.atina.org.rs/sr/okrugli-sto-va%C5%BEnost-lokalnog-odgovora-na...
Policy Paper on combating exploitation and human trafficking, which was created by Expert Act.Now Working group can be found at the end of this report.