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National Coordinator recognized the importance of the Breakthrough Council formed as part of NGO Atina's program
A meeting between the Breakthrough Council on behalf of NGO Atina, and Mitar Đurašković - National Coordinator for the Fight against Trafficking in Human Beings was held in Belgrade, on December 4, 2019. The meeting was held in the premises of the Reintegration Center of NGO Atina. This was an opportunity for Mr. Đurašković to visit this area and hear more about this part of the program that offers many types of support in social inclusion: training of users to participate in experiential support groups, individual / group experiential support, and legal counseling, assistance in formal education, assistance in alternative education, economic empowerment, and other types of support for victims of trafficking and gender-based violence. The reintegration center is intended primarily for beneficiaries who were previously in the primary care program, and they need systematic support in social inclusion.
From the beginning of the formation and work of the Breakthrough Council, the goal was for it to grow into an Advisory Body, which will be invited to contribute to the formulation and adoption of proposals and recommendations on all relevant documents, legal proposals, strategies regarding the position, functioning of the mechanism. referrals and support networks for victims of gender-based violence and human trafficking in Serbia.
In preparation for this and subsequent meetings with representatives of all relevant institutions on the topic of human trafficking, group members attended trainings dedicated to improving their skills on how to communicate more easily, but also on ways to advocate and be involved in the decision-making process.
The meeting was organized with the aim of presenting the advocacy group, to acquaint Mr. Đurašković more closely with the main reason for its formation, and what goals the group set for itself. The main goals of the group members were to create a system tailored to the person who has suffered violence or exploitation, in accordance with their needs and full respect for all their rights. They pointed out that they want to participate as a group in all processes at the national level concerning the establishment and improvement of regulations and all relevant documents on the topic of human trafficking. They pointed out that they feel very invited to participate in these processes and to expect other professionals to recognize the need to get involved.
The members of the group emphasized that they feel responsible, but also the importance of the task they have chosen and set before themselves.
For this meeting, which came at a time when the Republic Team for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings was working on amendments to the text of the Standard Operating Procedures for the Treatment of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings, they chose to draw attention to their comments. important document, which defines the treatment of the entire protection system in relation to victims of trafficking:
The main comment referred to the fact that victims have no right to a period of reflection, that victims are not even informed that they have the right to a period of recovery and reflection before deciding whether to cooperate with law enforcement authorities in criminal proceedings against perpetrators.
Also, according to them, it is disputable that the presumed victim of human trafficking in the first contact, which in most cases with the police, is not informed about all the rights that belong to her or receives all the information about the procedure and procedures that await and begin.
The SOP states that victims receive information about their rights in the first conversation with an expert from the Center for the Protection of Victims of Trafficking, but in practice this is usually not the first conversation that the victim has with a professional in front of the system.
In connection with all the comments made, the members of the advocacy group made a proposal for the development of an information package that would be given directly to the victim in the first contact with her and she would immediately get acquainted with all her rights and the procedure that starts from that moment.
On this occasion, Mr. Đuraškvić was given the most common experience from practice, that victims do not know how the referral mechanism or the mechanism of victim protection works, and even less do they know all their rights, so they do not even invoke the same.
Some of the topics that opened during this meeting were:
- the role and responsibilities of the national coordinator and the office for the coordination of activities in the fight against trafficking in human beings, and their definition
- practice confirmed the necessity of further education of prosecutors and judges on the topic not only of human trafficking and gender-based violence, but also protection of rights and position of the victim during the court and investigative proceedings
- the dangers of the sensationalist way of reporting on this topic, as well as the publication of too much personal data of victims and their families, were cited by specific omissions made towards victims and how this endangered the privacy and safety of the victim and her family. Atina's statement to the Working Group on this issue was mentioned, which was supported by the members of the Council.
- funds for victims were also mentioned, with concrete examples from other countries regarding compensation schemes that work and give the desired results.
The coordinator stated that he completely agrees that the existence of such a body is extremely important, that it is necessary to hear the voice of those who have the greatest need for concrete changes. He stated that they are working on specifying what the national coordinator is doing, and that he sees such meetings as an essential activity of every coordinator.
He introduced members to the role of the national rapporteur, and how his role differs from the role of coordinator, as well as that his appointment for 2021/22 is planned.
The National Coordinator concluded that he sees the role of the Breakthrough Council in giving suggestions, comments, constructive criticism of the contents of all relevant documents, Strategies, laws, reports of the Office related to human trafficking, Strategy, Laws, reports of the Coordination Office. activities in the fight against human trafficking and to see room for mutual cooperation. Mr. Đurašković's recommendation was to meet with the group once a month, to recognize that it was necessary and that it was the most important task for him for the national coordinator. He pointed out that he would like to consult with them on a monthly basis on numerous proposals for activities aimed at victims, and in that way check their expediency and justification. It is also one of his recommendations that the group be consulted when designing content for campaigns, materials that target victims of human trafficking. According to him, it is necessary to include them in numerous preventive activities that are organized throughout the year.
To the mutual satisfaction, it was concluded that this, hopefully one of the meetings, justified the reasons for its holding, that it resulted in important conclusions and recommendations, which will certainly be useful in further work of the group, but also in further work of the national coordinator.
This article was written within the project funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.