Darija Kisić plans to open a shelter that has already been opened by her predecessor

Photo: FoNet/Milica Vučković

Author: V. Jeremić

Darija Kisić plans to open a shelter that has already been opened by her predecessor

At the end of the election campaign, the Minister of Labor, Darija Kisić, should open the Shelter for Victims of Human Trafficking, demonstrating to the public that the current government cares for the most vulnerable categories of society.

While opening the Shelter, the current Minister of Labor will count on the fact that no one will remember the same facility was opened three years ago by her predecessor, Zoran Đorđević.

As Danas has learned, the Minister is opening an already opened facility because the Shelter has been closed in the meantime. And it was closed because, at the time of the opening, it did not have the necessary license to provide accommodation services.

To make things more interesting, the Shelter was opened by the Center for the Protection of Trafficking Victims, which operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Labor - the ministry in charge of issuing the necessary license.

The Shelter for victims of human trafficking (the address is known to the editorial office, although it should not be) was opened for the first time on February 3, 2019, in the presence of the Minister of Labor, Zoran Đorđević, former US Ambassador Kyle Scott, and representatives of the Ministry of the Interior.

On that occasion, Đorđević pointed out that the opening of this facility was a confirmation of the successful cooperation between the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of the Interior, and added that he was very grateful to the US Embassy for providing such significant support to this project. He mentioned that the opening of the Shelter is an international obligation of Serbia and that it is the result of a responsible policy pursued by this government.

The opening of the Shelter, aside from being an international obligation, is also an indispensable link in the fight against human trafficking. If the victims, most of whom have been subjected to sexual exploitation, cannot be temporarily accommodated, the chances that they will even try to seek help are drastically reduced. Until the opening of the "state" Shelter, the only shelter for victims of human trafficking was run by Atina, a non-governmental organization specializing in this field. Apart from them, the only other options were shelters for victims of domestic violence, which, given the nature of human trafficking, is not an ideal solution according to the experts. In addition to accommodation, the shelter also includes assistance to victims, from sessions with a psychologist to legal advice.

The "state" Shelter has a capacity of six places. Since its opening in February 2019, according to the Center for the Protection of Trafficking Victims, a total of fifteen persons had been accommodated there in the following two years. Six of them were adults, five were minors, and four were children. And then, in 2021, the Shelter was closed.

As we were told by the Center, the Shelter was closed "due to the licensing of the social protection service". Namely, to open a shelter, it is not enough to provide physical space. The Law on Social Protection and the accompanying regulations stipulate a number of items that an institution opening the shelter must fulfil. According to those familiar with the matter, this procedure is highly complicated and takes a long time. Only after fulfilling all these points does the Sector for Social Protection of the Ministry of Labor issue a Work License for a certain period.

The Shelter, which started operating in February 2019, received a license on February 28, 2022. By the decision of the Sector for Social Protection of the Ministry of Labor, which Danas received upon the request for providing information of public importance, the request for issuing a license was submitted by the director of the Center for Protection of Trafficking Victims, Aleksandra Ljubojević, in September 2020. 

This means that the Shelter worked for more than a year and a half before the request for a license was submitted, without which the shelter should not be opened. The decision from February this year, signed by Minister Kisić, states that the Shelter meets all the conditions and standards for providing the accommodation service for the protection of trafficking victims. The license was issued for five years.

For the needs of this text, Danas tried to obtain additional clarifications from the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Social and Veterans' Affairs, but we did not receive an answer. We were also deprived of an explanation as to why the request for a license was submitted a year and a half after the Shelter for Victims of Trafficking was opened.

We were also not told what happened to the persons who were accommodated in the Shelter after it was closed in 2021, or the procedures when it comes to victims who needed accommodation while the Shelter was closed.

Center: No grand opening is planned

After the text was published, the Center for the Protection of Trafficking Victims sent answers to certain questions, denying that the ceremonial opening of the Shelter was planned. We are publishing their official denial in its entirety.

"On the occasion of daily newspapers' Danas writing in the text ‘Darija Kisić plans to open a shelter that has already been opened by her predecessor’, the Center for the Protection of Trafficking Victims denies that any re-opening ceremony is planned in any capacity. The Shelter for victims of human trafficking met the requirements in the field of safety and health at work, fire-protecting and sanitary approvals, as well as other necessary conditions, after which a license for the provision of accommodation services was issued.

All beneficiaries who left the Shelter did so in accordance with individual protection plans. In the period when the Shelter did not accommodate beneficiaries, the victims of trafficking who needed accommodation, based on expert assessment, the necessary level of support, level of independence and their preferences, were placed in other social protection institutions, homes for children without parental care, foster families, assisted housing apartments, and safe houses", it is stated in the Center’s letter.

The original text can be read via the following link: https://www.danas.rs/vesti/drustvo/darija-kisic-planira-otvaranje-prihva...