More cooperation needed to fight labour exploitation in South-Eastern Europe

17 July 2023, Vrdnik, Serbia: Cases of human trafficking for labour exploitation are on the rise in South-Eastern Europe but victim identification, investigations and prosecutions of traffickers are hindered by gaps in national, regional and international cooperation.

To address this issue, UNODC’s Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section is promoting and facilitating a multi-sector approach to counter human trafficking in the region. At a recent workshop in Serbia, representatives from all authorities involved in the prevention, detection, investigation, and adjudication of trafficking cases came together to learn from leading criminal and legal experts.

Human trafficking for labour exploitation involves the use of force, fraud, coercion, or any other means to exploit individuals for labour purposes, both domestically and across borders. Victims are compelled to work against their will for little or no salary and are often subjected to mistreatment, degradation, and violation of their human rights. During the three-day event, the participants were instructed on topics including the indicators of trafficking for forced labour, employment rights, providing evidence in cases, financial investigations, and victim support. According to UNODC research, some groups of people, including national and migrant labourers who engage in seasonal or temporary work in the construction and agricultural sectors, are particularly prone to exploitation.

Serbia is currently experiencing an increase in the number of migrant workers from the People’s Republic of China, Turkiye, and India, seeking better job prospects and higher wages. This trend coincides with a shortage of local workers in Serbia's construction and agriculture sectors. Recent trafficking for forced labour cases in Serbia involved victims from Cameroon, Uganda, Congo, and Tunisia. The participants exchanged best practices and acknowledged the importance of a strengthened law enforcement and judiciary cooperation and partnerships for an effective response to trafficking in persons.

The workshop was conducted under the project: UN.Locking Impunity of Traffickers and Supporting Justice for Victims of Trafficking in Persons in Southeastern Europe, funded by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Department of State of the United States of America.