NOW Working Group Exploitation and Human Trafficking
Meeting in Belgrade
The local response to human trafficking with the involvement of all relevant stakeholders is an important topic for the NOW Working Group Exploitation and Human Trafficking. From 10 – 12 April, the group visited Belgrade, to get to know the local context, exchange experiences with local stakeholders and continue working on their projects.
Local Responses to Human Trafficking
One important purpose of the visit was to support local civil society organisations in their effort to advance the formation of a local anti-trafficking team in Belgrade. Therefore, the NOW Working Group met with the Secretary for Social Protection of the City of Belgrade, exchanging experiences on the subject and attended a round table on the “Importance of the role of local responses to the challenges of human trafficking” organised by NGO Atina and hosted by the Austrian Embassy in Belgrade.
The round table was attended by 40 people including representatives of several Serbian Ministries and international organisations as well as local NGOs and other institutions in the field of combatting Human Trafficking.
In his introductory statement Nikolaus Lutterotti, the Austrian Ambassador to Serbia, 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.
The National Coordinator for combating human trafficking in Serbia, Mitar Djuraskovic, outlined the recent adoption of Standard Operating Procedures for the treatment of victims of human trafficking in Serbia and introduced as twinning between Austria, Serbia, Slovenia project aimed at strengthening the response of local police to human trafficking.
The four key topics of the discussions that followed were:
- The need for a 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
Shams Asadi, Human Rights Officer of the City of Vienna and Host of the NOW Working Group Exploitation & Human Trafficking, answered numerous questions on her experience in bringing together all the relevant local actors on human trafficking. She underlined the importance of the role of civil society organisations, and praised cooperation that local authorities in Vienna have with them, adding that many of these organisations are receive public funding, allocated by the city council.
It was further discussed that the seven local anti-trafficking teams that already exist 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.
In her statement, the 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, stated previously established local team for supporting children on the streets.
Overall the round table gave space for a diverse and lively debate with the attendees showing genuine interest in learning from each other’s experiences.
Field Exposures to Atina’s Reintegration Center and Bagel Bejgl
The group visited Atina’s reintegration center for victims of human trafficking where beneficiaries receive legal and psychosocial counselling, mediation, medical assistance as well as various educational offers adapted to their needs and wishes. The group also learned more about Atina’s shelters and exchanged experiences about how they are organised. It was particularly impressive for the group to learn about Atina’s approach to empower their beneficiaries and give them as much independence as possible. The women in the shelters live in small groups and have to manage their own budgets for their everyday needs.
Bagel Bejgl is Atina’s social enterprise which aims at providing economic sustainability to Atina’s programs and training to its beneficiaries. While eating a tasty variety savoury and sweet bagels the NOW Working Group learned more about how it was founded and how it works. The shop has trained more than 55 of Atina’s beneficiaries in preparing Bagels. Next to the culinary skills they learn in a protected environment how to handle cash and how to interact with customers, skills which are valuable also for future employments.