Setting up Roadblocks for Human Traffickers within Kosovo
Friday, August 25, 2006 3:41 PM

Human trafficking - luring vulnerable people with false job promises only to force them into the sex industry, marriage or domestic labour - usually involves smuggling victims across borders. But as criminals in Kosovo try to stay one step ahead of the authorities, trafficking within borders, or internal trafficking, is quickly becoming the main concern.

A new problem

"We are now seeing a growing number of victims originating from within Kosovo," says Alma Begicevic, a Human Rights Adviser at the OSCE Mission in Kosovo. From 2000 to 2004, she adds, most trafficking victims found in Kosovo came from Moldova, Ukraine and Bulgaria.

Because the problem is relatively new, few assistance organizations are able to identify internal trafficking victims, limiting the support they can provide.

Human trafficking in general was not made a criminal offence in Kosovo until 2001. "Social workers, police, victim advocates, health workers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) devoted to helping victims have faced many uncertainties," says Begicevic.

Since early 2005, the OSCE Mission has also been working with local and international actors to develop a comprehensive referral mechanism to ease the reintegration of trafficking victims in Kosovo, which was finalized in March 2006.

Creating a standard procedure

To ensure social workers, police and other relevant groups help internal trafficking victims as best they can, the Mission has taken the lead role in creating a standard operating procedure for identifying and assisting victims. It is currently delivering a series of training workshops to promote the document's implementation, which will run until September.

The procedure outlines the roles and responsibilities of every organization and local actor involved. The workshops include role-playing, simulations, small working groups and interactive discussions.

All major actors involved in Kosovo's anti-trafficking efforts - the OSCE, the International Organization for Migration, the UN Mission in Kosovo's Victim Advocacy and Assistance Department and the Ministries of Justice, Interior, and Labour and Social Welfare - as well as local NGOs, signed the procedure in March 2006. Albanian and Serbian versions were distributed soon afterwards.

Breaking new ground

"This is the first procedure dealing specifically with internal trafficking," says Basri Kastrati, a Victim Assistance, Support and Training Officer at the Ministry of Justice.

"Staff members have been trained in combating external trafficking, but with domestic trafficking, approaches to identifying, protecting and reintegrating victims were still blurred," he says.

The 15-page standard procedure includes detailed explanations, charts and illustrations so that those involved in assisting victims know what to do in any given situation. One example explains how adults and children need to be assisted differently.

"We know that someone from the Centre for Social Welfare must be present when we are assisting a child, but the procedure outlines exactly how victim advocates can come in and advise during the process," says Kastrati.

Encouraging co-operation

A central goal of the training workshops is to encourage greater empathy and improve co-operation among all actors. For example, at the first workshop in Prizren on 19 June 2006, police officers and social workers swapped roles.

Mexhit Bajrami has been a social worker in Prizren for 30 years: "After the role-playing, staff members from other organizations can better relate with the difficulties social workers face, just as I now better understand their roles."

Setting up focal points in each agency and regional office will help to ensure these new networks continue to function.

First step

For Begicevic, the standard procedure is the first step towards reducing trafficking within Kosovo.

"We have to bear in mind this is only the first training project dealing with internal trafficking," she says. "While it's an achievement, it also shows how much further we need to go.

"The aim is to create, by the end of 2007, an institutionalized system where ministries and NGOs will have specific roles in combating human trafficking," she adds.

Published in: Case, Dillon; Setting up roadblocks for human traffickers within Kosovo, 25 August 2006