Combating Trafficking in Children in the Western Balkans

On June 23 2015, twelve people were arrested in France and Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH) for trafficking underage Bosnian girls. Recruited through physical force, threats, and psychological violence, the girls were then made to commit theft, largely on the Parisian public transport system, earning the criminal network involved around €2 000 000 in profits.

In line with the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which requires victim protection, during the investigation the girls were assured that they would be treated as victims. Further, when they returned to BiH they were placed in a child reception centre where they received a medical examination and psycho-social profiling in order to begin their reintegration into society. They have since begun attending school.

Known as case 'CD', it was successful in large part thanks to the Initial Country Workshop in Sarajevo in 2015, which established a joint investigation team (JIT) between France and BiH, supported by UNODC and Eurojust. This was BiH's first ever JIT and France's first ever JIT with a non-EU country. The Second Country Workshop, entitled 'Enhancing national and regional criminal justice response to trafficking in children in the Western Balkans', and held in Bjelasnica, BiH on 26-27 January 2016, was designed to continue this success through delivering technical assistance as a part of UNODC's Global Programme against the Trafficking of Persons.

UNODC organized the Workshop in partnership with the National Trafficking in Human Beings Coordinator of BiH, the French Permanent Mission in Vienna and the French Embassy in BiH and Serbia. The 29 participants were drawn from relevant authorities across BiH and France, and focused on a multidisciplinary analysis of the 'CD' case along with the development of an Action Plan.

Discussions on victim cooperation agreed that victims were helpful for the case, but cooperation was not as broad as hoped due to insufficient collaboration between victim protection authorities. It was therefore recommended that police and institutions should take an individual approach to profiling victims in needs assessments in order to establish trust and develop a protection plan to increase levels of victim cooperation.

On the topic of effective coordination in France, it was suggested that a newly signed agreement involving a number of relevant actors on collecting information and gathering evidence on victim profiles could serve as a useful tool. Meanwhile, the system for compensating victims in France was deemed effective and was therefore recommended as a model for BiH to adopt.

A number of important measures were identified in the Action Plan including promoting education among the Roma population about rights of women and children to help prevent trafficking in person; capacity building for relevant professionals who could encounter potential trafficking in persons victims, with the possible introduction of a certification system for anti-trafficking in persons professionals; and sharing indicators developed in BiH for identifying victims of trafficking in persons for different types of exploitation with relevant French authorities.

For further information please contact:  

Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section,    htmss AT unodc DOT org