Vrdnik (Serbia) 17 July 2023 - Cases of human trafficking for labour exploitation are on the increase 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.
“Multi-sectorial cooperation plays a crucial role in fighting labour exploitation,” said Marko Milicevic, UNODC’s National Programme Officer in Serbia, who led the workshop.
“By combining their expertise and resources, stakeholders from different sectors, such as law enforcers, labour inspectors, prosecutors and judges, as well as governmental agencies and victims support organizations, can effectively address the complex issues surrounding this crime in a coordinated manner.”
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 the 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.
Joining forces and sharing expertise
Slobodan Josimovic, a Public Prosecutor from Novi Sad, was one of the 24 participants at the event. “I believe that collaboration and information sharing are key in addressing the issue of human trafficking. During this workshop, I was able to actively engage in discussions to explore the obstacles faced by other professionals,” he said.
“These could include limited resources, insufficient training, lack of interagency coordination, and other barriers. By understanding these challenges, I strive to develop targeted solutions to overcome them,” added Mr. Josimovic.
According to UNODC research, certain 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, Turkey, 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.
“In an interconnected world, migrant workers are increasingly willing to cross borders in search of employment opportunities, but this also exposes them to higher risks of trafficking and exploitative practices,” said UNODC’s Marko Milicevic.
These could include low wages, hazardous working conditions, and limited access to legal protection and health care, he added.
Workshop participant, Dr. Ljiljana Stojsic, Head of the Labour Inspection Department in Novi Sad, said in her job, she must pay “close attention” to signs that indicate cases of human trafficking and report potential cases to the authorities.
She added that the workshop gave her an “invaluable opportunity” to exchange experiences with professionals from various anti-human trafficking organizations.
“I was particularly interested in learning about any cases of human trafficking that I may not have been aware of previously, as well as discovering new methods and indicators for identification.”
Moving forward, Dr Stojsic said she plans to implement the knowledge and experience gained from this workshop into her daily work. This includes strengthening cooperation with judicial authorities and the police.
“By fostering these partnerships and leveraging the expertise of different organizations, we can collectively work towards eradicating human trafficking and ensuring the protection of victims,” she added.
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.