Eliberare and Atina together in the fight against human trafficking

Eliberare and Atina together in the fight against human trafficking

With support from the Trag and OAK Foundations, two organisations, Eliberare, which operates in Romania, and Atina, which operates in Serbia, had the rare opportunity to meet in person in Brașov, Romania, during a study visit conducted at the end of May 2024. Both organisations, the Child 10 award winners for outstanding work and contributions in the field of preventing sexual exploitation of children, focus on the protection of (potential) human trafficking victims.

It was a unique opportunity for the organisations to directly and personally exchange experiences and firsthand knowledge of their efforts in this field. The meeting points of the two organisations in various areas and domains of work are numerous, including opportunities for learning and experience exchange, as well as joint actions, especially in the field of working with refugees from Ukraine, particularly those at risk of human trafficking, and providing direct support to professionals to meet the needs of the most vulnerable population groups. Additionally, Eliberare focuses on digital violence, recruitment, and coercion for the purposes of human trafficking, which is particularly important for Atina's work, especially in the domain related to cyber human trafficking and the exploitation of children for pornographic purposes.  Eliberare organisation, focused on the prevention of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Romania, provided Atina representatives with valuable insights into the current state of human trafficking in Romania, upcoming trends, as well as appropriate responses and existing strategies, including a systematic response to combat human trafficking.

Romania is a country that, according to the State Department’s TIP report, is placed in the second group of countries, which has long been a country of origin but has also become a country of transit and destination for victims of human trafficking. On average, they identify about 500 victims of human trafficking annually, the vast majority of whom are Romanian nationals, with approximately 60% exploited within the country. In contrast, about 40% of them have been exploited in Western Europe. Useful information heard by the colleagues was that the National Referral Mechanism in Romania is regularly revised, that they have developed a series of so-called sub-sector indicators (including for health centres operating on local levels), and that they are already collecting official statistics on the number of recruitments for human trafficking in the online sphere, which is not the case in Serbia. What is impressive is that in Romania, 23 specialised organisations operate against human trafficking within a common platform, which is an indicator of greater civil society and community involvement in addressing this problem.

Also, no less impressive are the achievements of the organisation Eliberare itself, which has managed to inform over 140,000 pupils in about 800 schools on digital abuses through a project they conduct in cooperation with the Ministry of Education. The trainings they conduct contributes to greater readiness of children to protect themselves from digital violations. Special efforts Eliberare has made towards parents to better prepare them for opportunities to protect their children and to whom to report suspect situations and abuses that their children may have. Also, there was a discussion about the role of IT and other companies in protecting the privacy and safety of all those who use the internet and how Eliberare has approached them to work on all these topics.

Another way of raising awareness about this problem is through trainings for various professionals, especially those who work in education, health, and social protection. The trainings is focused on indicators of human trafficking and handling potential cases of human trafficking. Besides, the focus is also on the trauma of the victim, ways to build trust between the professional and the potential victim, and methods of self-help for professionals to reduce the risk of burnout.

The trainings that health workers have gone through represents one of the most comprehensive endeavours Eliberere has conducted and is related to operators working on emergency lines, such as those at numbers 112 and 119, which specialise in assisting abused children. Besides these, Eliberare focuses on training police officers and persons working with refugees and migrants. In addition, training has been conducted for workers in beauty salons, fitness centres, and with tourism staff. According to the victims of human trafficking, these are people who can often be in close communication with the victims without even realizing it. The Eliberare team emphasised that there has been an increased number of reports following the training from these systems. They plan to cover labour inspectors and all those working with the migrant population more extensively, given that the identification for labour exploitation of citizens of Sri Lanka, Nepal, Ukraine, and Bangladesh is already taking place in the country.

When it comes to direct support for victims of human trafficking, Eliberare provides it through various services. These services include interventions in crises, providing food and accommodation in emergency cases, counselling for victims and potential victims, psychotherapy, legal assistance, and medical protection.

During the past year, the organisation has created a handy online guide, "Kompass," which covers four areas and serves, among other things, to map the vulnerabilities to which they are exposed and also for:

1. raising awareness among Ukrainians through a telegram group, Instagram, and YouTube about possible risks and ways in which people can be exploited,
2. raising the capacity for displaced persons, which includes info sessions where more can be learned about the rights guaranteed to them,
3. individual safety plans through which each person received the necessary information, as well as contacts of organisations they can contact on their journey to the final destination,
4. The last step involved providing continuous assistance to people travelling to another country by setting up support points throughout the journey. This would provide more significant support for these people in less familiar environments.

The discussion could have continued for hours and days, but the colleagues from Atina continued their journey towards Bran Castle, known as Dracula's Castle, after their whereabouts became unclear.