Reinforcing Cooperation in the (Non-)governmental Sector in Human Trafficking Prevention

On 09.05.2018, Legis organized a one-day training oh human trafficking prevention. The aim of the training was to reinforce the skills and knowledge of (non-)governmental stakeholders who have worked or are working with refugees. The training provided an overview of the concept of human trafficking, the vulnerability of refugees and migrants in particular, with special focus on the gendered dimension in human trafficking. The training included both governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, from the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Macedonian Red Cross, Ministry of Defense, local municipal authorities, individual volunteers from refugee solidarity groups such as Help the Refugees in Macedonia etc.

Mersiha Smailovikj from Legis NGO, co-author of the recently published policy paper “Improvement of Access to Rights and Protection of Refugees and Migrants with Focus on Vulnerable Groups”, presented Legis’s work with refugees and migrants on the ground, as well as made a brief overview of the paper. She also spoke about the present-day predicament and situation of vulnerable groups on the move.

Stojne Atanasovska Dimishkovska, an experienced trainer on human trafficking identification and prevention, held the following sessions, with the opening question: “Is there anyone here that wants to migrate abroad? – There isn’t a single person that doesn’t strive for a better life”. A few brief game-based exercises where participants did role-playing followed. Participants were divided into 2 groups and were asked to identify the vulnerable groups when it comes to human trafficking. They were also tasked to conduct a role-playing game where a person travels from a red country to a green country via a blue country and were thus put in the shoes of refugees and migrants on the move who travel from a given country via a transit country usually headed to an EU-country. In the role-playing game, participants could to learn how to differentiate between smuggling and human trafficking and especially when does smuggling specifically turn into human trafficking. In order to do so, they were given case studies to examine.

Another exercise ensued, during which participants were given the task to jump from one paper stone to another without breaking the chain, that is, they had to make sure that the person in front of them stands on a paper stone and that the person behind them also stands on a paper stone, in other words, to ensure that no stone is left with nobody standing on it. The objective was to realise the paramount importance of stong cooperation between all stakeholders involved in the response to the refugee or any humanitarian crisis especially in terms of preventing human trafficking of vulnerable groups, including cooperation between non-governmental and governmental stakeholders. All participants agreed that while challenging, this sort of cooperation proved to be successful and overriding in the previous and current refugee crisis.

Following the interactive exercises, participants had the opportunity to dive into a more theoretical overview of human trafficking, mechanisms for identification and prevention at different stages. “Human trafficking is the cruelest infringement of basic human rights, where the vast majority of victims are women and children.” Participants gained an overview of the legal aspects as well, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the UNI Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime of 2000, the Convention of the Council of Europe on the Fight Against Human Trafficking of 2007, the Macedonian legislation on Human trafficking etc. The best-case scenario, but also the most difficult one, is to identify human trafficking at the very beginning, in the recruitment phase. Thus, recognizing recruitment methods were analysed through case studies and video materials so that participants could later on identify whether for instance, a job advertisement or other recruitment strategies could lead to future human trafficking. It was highlighted that although the combat against human trafficking initially focused more on prostitution, currently the scope has broadened and it includes issues like forced labour, coercing human trafficking victims to perpetrate crime or to be beggars, organ removal etc. The so-called push factors in the countires of origin were also examined, such as poverty, social exclusion, war an conflict, domestic violence, gender discrimination, lack of access to education and information etc. The pull factors were also looked into, such as the demand for cheap labour force, services or products in industrially developed countries. However, it was conclude that any person can fall prey to human trafficking, regardless of social or financial status, owing to the so-called universal factors in human trafficking.

Common myths and stereotypes were dispelled. For instance, 1) it was emphasized that human trafficking does not only occur when people transit transnational borders, but it can happen within the borders of a country or even within a single town/village; 2) it was underlined that human trafficking does not equal prostitution, in the sense that sex workers who choose to do sex work are not human trafficking victims, but sex workers who are coerced to do such work, fall into the category of human trafficking victims; 3) it was pointed out that not only uneducated people can become victims of human trafficking, but human trafficking victims can be even highly educated individuals etc.

Furthermore, the situation in Macedonia was looked into as a transit country, with specific regions such as Western Macedonia as the places where exploitation of victims occurs most frequently and the victims mostly being within the age range of 13-17 years old.  All ethnic communities in Macedonia are affected, with sexual and labour exploitation in the service industry being the most common type. After looking into national case studies, the Macedonian institutional response, framework and mechanisms were examined.

In the evaluation session, participants agreed that the training was very useful for all of them, especially since it was one of the rare occasions where non-governmental and governmental stakeholders could learn and exchange ideas in mixed group. Participants demonstrated commitment to further reinforce the cooperation and coordination between governmental and non-governmental stakeholders in the combat against human trafficking.

This project is implemented by Legis with the support of the Capacity development for Selected actors working with asylum seekers in Serbia and Macedonia. The Capacity development for Selected actors working with asylum seekers in Serbia and Macedonia was established by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and is managed by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.