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AT Network meeting was held on October 9-11, 2015. The representatives of all 8 organisation were present. We talk about: project presentation (objectives, activities, gantt chart), agreements regarding future actions and obligations, choose 8 local coordinators.

AT Network meeting was held on October 9-11, 2015. The representatives of all 8 organisation were present. We talk about: project presentation (objectives, activities, gantt chart), agreements regarding future actions and obligations, choose 8 local coordinators.

Plans and Arrangements

As well as the work on designing a web site with Hristina Piskulidis, also an interview with the representatives of OCS organizations with our contributor Marija Stojanović, and sharing experiences in organizing actions to help refugees.

Agreed dates:

  • the first general training on human trafficking for 4 representatives of each member – February 5, 6, 7
  • training for SOS human trafficking helplines- February 26, 27, 28
  • training on peer education - March 11,12,13.

Agreed joint actions:

  • October 18 – joint street action
  • October 20 – visit to Preševo
  • December 2 – joint street action
  • December 10 – joint street action
  • December 18 – joint street action

Local coordinators are:

  • Miroslava Despotović from the Human Rights Committee
  • Natalija Pljaskić from SOS Vlasotince
  • Rada Mitrović from the Center for Girls Užice
  • Jelena Milošević from the Center for Women's Rights in Vršac
  • Marija Papić Đurić from PAOR Zrenjanin
  • Anelia Dimitrova from the Independent Women's Center Dimitrovgrad
  • Marija Anđeliković from ASTRA Belgrade
  • Tatjana Nikolić from the Center for Girls Niš

sastanak at mreze

INTERVIEW - Stop Ignoring, Say Yes and Help if You Can

Get Informed, Be on the Alert, Don't Allow Yourself to Become a Trafficking Victim – thus reads a slogan accompanying an Anti-Trafficking Network (AT Network) campaign, mostly during October, the month of anti-trafficking action. AT Network, coordinated by the Centre for Girls from Niš, consists of nine organizations from Serbia dealing with the prevention of human trafficking. One of these organizations is ASTRA from Belgrade, which has been solely dealing with this problem since its foundation in 2000.

Ivana Radović is a coordinator of ASTRA Prevention and Education Program with whom we talked about how much people's awareness of this problem changed and what their perspective is, how to help a victim recovered from a human trafficking chain and what the cooperation with relevant institutions is like after 15 years.

"Human trafficking is loaded with stereotypes, and the majority of public and institutions still seems to live in 2002. What I mean by saying that they live in 2002 is that in that period, when we started anti-trafficking actions, it was difficult for them to accept that human trafficking was real and it was believed that only foreign citizens passing through Serbia and prostituting themselves in kafanas could become victims of human trafficking. Everybody thinks that victims are some Ukrainian, Russian or Moldavian girls, whereas we do not remember having a case of a foreign victim, except, very rarely, women victims from the region", begins Ivana Radović her story and continues: "And the official statistical data from the previous year show that 85% of victims were men whose labor was exploited in construction and building, and it occurs to nobody that that is also human trafficking. Therefore, neither the public nor the institutions are aware of the fact and a problem arises when, for example, we want to process a case of labor exploitation on construction sites in Azerbaijan and realize that neither a judge nor a prosecutor are aware how that could have happened."

Despite that, prosecutor offices dealing with human trafficking are more and more open for cooperation. The reason for enhanced cooperation is a memorandum of cooperation signed between ASTRA and the Republic Public Procesutor's Office.

"The good thing is that we have people in prosecutors' offices who help us, whatever goes 'wrong' or whatever we need, we have someone to count on. On the other hand, there are only 26 people covering whole Serbia. As far as the police is concerned, they have made steps forward regarding the cooperation, but that often depends on political will and actual situation in the country. Having in mind what it all looked like 15 years ago, they have made a giant step forward, not yet to the expected level, but there are certainly some advances. At the same time, centers for social work have not made any change for the better", explains Radović.

One consciously becomes a trafficking victim

The coordinator of the Prevention and Education Program claims that human trafficking is an extreme consequence of global liberal capitalism. While being aware of the fact that our country is a small and insignificant link in that chain, she points out that it is all perceived from that extremist perspective, and not from the perspective how the trafficking occurs.

"The prevailing attitude is that of 'evil traffickers, poor victims', and what remains is a lack of understanding of the complexity of the relationship and the process of becoming a trafficking victim, in what ways a victim depends on a trafficker and who those traffickers are. Because it is not only being naive and uninformed that are the reasons of becoming victims, but also not having another way to survive", says Ivana Radović.
Through its SOS helpline, ASTRA also checks job offers and when a client is advised that a job is not safe, he or she gets disappointed.
"When we give them reasons why certain job offer seems suspicious, they feel wronged, even get angry because their plans fall through. Simply, people have no other choice. When you have no choice and that one opportunity arises, and you have a family to feed, then you consciously accept the risk", Radović tells from her experiences.

Who are the victims and how to help them recover

Statistical data show that, in the past few years, the biggest percentage of victims is made up of domestic citizens, either those staying in the country and getting involved in trafficking among our cities, or those being sent across the borders of our country.
 
"What is extremely important is that the community show more compassion and awareness that a victim is not to blame, and be ready to accept the victim in the right way after his or her recovery and return to the community", Radović points out.

Victims should not be abandoned nor pitied; what they primarily need is support, especially from the family, which happens to be cut off, because victims have to get back on their feet and provide for themselves (and after all that they went through, they cannot manage to work full time for a while), and they have to give testimonies and statements many times, which make them relive their pain and suffering again and again through their stories. Victims have right to free medical assistance, but it is not easy to explain and prove to medical staff what they went through.

Radović claims that there are many other problems in addition to these and that victims are left to manage on their own if they cannot get help from non-governmental organizations.

"Of course, there are positive stories about victims who are accepted and who recover with the support of their families, but that also depends on the very victim, that is, how strong and determined he or she is. However, it is one thing that a victim succeeds on a personal level, and another thing that the system, which has been being built for 15 years in order to help victims, does not help at all. Above all, what I have in mind is a social care system, in which victims are left to themselves and to their own capacities depending on how strong they are, whether they have a family and what that family is like. Then, we are not talking about the system, but about a victim by herself/himself", concludes Ivana Radović from ASTRA NGO.

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