Serbia is source, transit, and destination country for children, women, and men trafficked for the purpose of sexual and labour exploitation, coercion to commit crimes, forced begging and forced marriage. Serbian citizens are equally at risk of all forms of exploitation at home and abroad. Within our country, they are most commonly exploited up to 100 km from their place of residence, and abroad our citizens are most frequently trafficked in the EU countries and Russia. For some time now, Serbia has not recorded cases of foreign citizens in Serbia who we recognize as victims of human trafficking, and the largest number of identified victims are our citizens. It is important to note that the official statistics are not reliable enough, because they do not show the real extent of the problem, nor the real situation in terms of the number of trafficking victims in our country.
There are as many traffickers as there are ways to exploit people. According to the analysis of identified cases of human trafficking, traffickers are persons of trust, parents, relatives, acquaintances, partners, friends, but also strangers whom the victim comes into contact with. Beside coercion, intimidation and violence, other means that people use are misguidance and holding in error, confiscation of identity documents, abuse of trust and dependency, as well as abuse of a difficult position of other person. Traffickers often do have criminal past, but it is not a rule. In Serbia, we record cases in which parents gave their own child in order to repay debt, or sold it for money. There are two factors which encourage human traffickers: low risk and high profit. This combination encourages an explosive spread of human trafficking, making it one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world.
This implies a situation when a society is not sufficiently aware of this problem, when state institutions and communities are not sufficiently prepared and able to respond to this problem, when laws are not effective, when there are no safety networks for victims, when police does not investigate, nor prosecute, perpetrators, when traffickers are not afraid because they assess their criminal operations as low-risk. In fact, the risk of detection and detention of offenders, and their criminal prosecution, is significantly lower compared to risks faced by the perpetrators of other crimes. On the other hand, the victims are often not ready to report the traffickers because they are confronted with the danger of deportation, threats, fear of revenge and other consequences. As long as there are individuals willing to pay for sex, there will be a market that is profitable for traffickers who sexually exploit children and adults.
Human trafficking brings huge profits, given that one person can be exploited over and over again, during a longer period of time. A victim, like any other commodity, can be resold several times to different traffickers in different cities, states. Human traffickers place responsibility on the victims, making them stay in debt bondage, constantly owing them money, so that they are forced to pay it back at all costs. Human trafficking profits are also harvested by criminal organizations, but also individuals who work independently and traffic persons for profit and personal gain.
The most common causes that precede the situation of human trafficking may be poverty, experience of neglect and domestic violence, previous experience of marginalization and discrimination. Lack of educational opportunities, high unemployment rate, lack of social and health care, as well as the lack of timely and effective protection of persons from violence and discrimination, place a large number of persons in our society in potential danger of human trafficking. Most victims in search for a different, better and happier life, and in lack of alternative, become easy targets for persons who can abuse their vulnerability.
Human traffickers use violent methods such as coercion, extortion, violence, including both physical and emotional abuse, but they also use subtle methods, such as blackmail or even seduction of the victim. Most often, they establish direct contact with the person or members of his/her family through impersonation as a prospective employer or a love interest, through misleading ads that promise jobs and opportunities to earn money. It is not rare for victims to be recruited via the Internet.
Human trafficking is often hidden behind legal activities, and therefore difficult to detect. However, there are ways in which it can be done, and there are also clear indicators of this criminal act, which suggest that a person has absolutely no control over their life and destiny. Victims are controlled or intimidated, monitored or accompanied by someone, not allowed to speak for themselves, they have no identity documents,are not familiar with the neighbourhood they live/work in, have injuries/bruises from beating and/or weapons, show visible signs of torture, cigarette burns, cuts, show signs of malnutrition, express fear and intimidation through facial expressions and/or body language.
Information can be obtained from the offices conducting investigations, non-governmental organizations and state institutions, international organizations dealing with human rights protection, the public who reports suspicious activities, including reports of missing persons and children to the police, employees at border crossings, and also by health and social services which may, and do, come into contact with the victims.
Role of the support system in this area is of utmost importance for persons who are in a situation of trafficking. Identification and investigation of criminal elements and circumstances, and the requirement to prosecute persons involved in the trafficking situation, as well as referral of victims and potential victims to specialized non-governmental organizations that can assist in providing safe accommodation and fulfilling various needs, including medical, psychological, legal assistance, education and employment, is a pressing need; Close cooperation of all relevant actors involved in the provision of services that ensure the protection of victims, including children, is lacking in our system, as well as identification of children and adults who are at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking.
If you recognize that someone is a victim of human trafficking, it is important not to remain silent and not to close your eyes! Call and report the crime of human trafficking to the following phone number: NGO Atina – Citizens’ Association to combat human trafficking and all forms of gender-based violence – hotline number (24/7): +381 61 63 84 071,