The Parada Foundation, a member of Dynamo International – Street Workers Network, will carry out a training «Prevention for potential victims of human trafficking in Romania» for young minors (12-18+ years) institutionalized.
According to the data highlighted in the report published in November 2020 by the Parliamentary Committee to assess the situation of trafficking of minors in Romania, according to reports issued in 2020 by the State Department of the States-United and by the European Commission on the same issue, it appeared that more than 40% of Romanian victims of trafficking networks are girls who come from public centres for child welfare, centres that have sometimes become, according to the Romanian media, real hubs for these networks.
Yet, and despite this alarming observation and the appeals launched by field associations and the media, The Romanian authorities seem to be turning a deaf ear and are slow to launch any device intended to stop the phenomenon and prevent potential victims of the dangers represented by the Internet and other strategies used by the returners.
Through this initiative, the PARADA foundation intends to provide an adequate response and launch prevention training for potential victims, namely young teenagers (12-18+ years) institutionalized, using the skills of its stakeholders and the life and anti-trafficking experience of several young women institutionalized until recently, as well as a former victim of trafficking, Larisa Butnariu, who, by age and life experience, is best able to reach the target audience to get the message across.
The pilot project will take place in Bucharest, but especially in Lasi, the city of Larisa, in two institutions of the DASS of Lasi, and will target at least 20 teenagers, potential victims of trafficking.
The pilot project aims to be a project of good practices in this area, which will be replicated and subsequently replicated nationally.
Taking into consideration the voice of victims, or even involving former victims of trafficking to warn and preserve other girls, who are now in their situation, to fall into the same traps, are the strength and novelty of this proposal.
Ionut JUGUREANU, director
Context, general figures:
In 2021, The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) has urged Romania to ensure that human trafficking offences lead to effective and dissuasive sanctions and that victims of trafficking have access to compensation. According to GRETA, “Romania remains predominantly a country of origin of victims of trafficking in human beings. Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom have been the main countries of destination. The number of victims identified by the Romanian authorities has fallen over the years. A total of 2,613 victims were identified in the period covered by the report (2016-2019). Three out of four were women and half of them children, sexual exploitation remaining the most common purpose of trafficking.”
The Global Slavery Index shows that Romania, with 86,000 trafficking victims, has one of the highest rates of modern-day slavery in Eastern Europe and most victims experience sexual exploitation. However, modern-day slavery is common in the following sectors including agriculture, construction, car-washing and housekeeping. Human trafficking in Romania strongly intertwines with migration and encompasses the following activities including prostitution, begging, theft, forced labor and organ cropping. It is especially worrisome that about 50% of the trafficked persons are minors who undergo sexual exploitation, end up in forced labor or have their organs harvested.
At the end of 2020, the Romanian Chamber of Deputies adopted a decision recommending the CSAT to introduce in the National Strategy for the Defense of the Country, as a national security objective, the fight against the disappearance of children and human trafficking. The draft decision is based on the report of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into the situation of missing children. The report reports that 40% of cases of missing minors come from social protection centers, such as foster homes and centers for children with disabilities, and minors are trafficked abroad, being “agreed” by DGASPC management representatives and “removed”. to the product by traffickers”. (https://media.hotnews.ro/media_server1/document-2020-11-24-24439437-0-raportul-comisiei.pdf)
The 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report (https://ro.usembassy.gov/2022-trafficking-in-persons-report/) highlighted that “the Government of Romania does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. (…) However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Alleged complicity in trafficking crimes persisted, particularly with officials exploiting children in the care of government-run homes or placement centers. Many convicted traffickers received either suspended sentences or sentences that did not meet the minimum prescribed penalty under Romanian law, which weakened deterrence, did not adequately reflect the nature of the crime, and undercut broader efforts to fight trafficking. Authorities identified fewer trafficking victims and did not screen for trafficking indicators or identify victims among vulnerable populations, such as asylum-seekers, migrants, individuals in commercial sex, or children in government-run institutions. Moreover, the government did not provide sufficient funding to NGOs for assistance and protection services, leaving most victims without services and at risk of re-trafficking. (…) According to NGOs, in trafficking cases involving foreign migrant victims, law enforcement did not effectively implement the law. Law enforcement often charged suspected traffickers for crimes other than trafficking, such as pandering, to avoid lengthy, expensive, and time-consuming investigations.
DIICOT and DCCO continued to operate with limited staff and resources. (…) In 2021, the government reported 488 identified victims (378 sex trafficking, 42 labor trafficking, 68 unspecified), a decrease from 596 in 2020. Of the 488 victims, 171 were children (255 in 2020). Authorities identified one foreign victim, the same as in 2020, but observers estimated there were numerous unidentified foreign victims, particularly among asylum-seekers. NGOs reported authorities did not screen asylum-seekers and foreign migrants for trafficking indicators and were reluctant to identify them because of the significant time and resources that an investigation would entail.” Officials also acknowledged that challenges, such as access to assistance and protecting children in government institutions, remained. Assistance was conditional upon a person’s status as an identified trafficking victim. Just two-thirds of identified victims received assistance. (…)
Government funding for NGO assistance and protection services remained limited. While the government relied on NGOs to accommodate and assist victims, it did not allocate grants directly to NGOs due to legislation precluding direct funding. Civil society emphasized the need for a funding mechanism for service providers and other NGOs in the anti-trafficking space. (…) NGOs continued to report the quality of care was overall inadequate, especially medical services and psychological counseling. Despite Romanian law entitling all victims to psychological and medical care, the government did not provide more than one mental health counseling session and did not finance medical care costs. (…) In general, victims lacked adequate support during criminal cases. Reports of victim intimidation during and after court proceedings persisted. NGOs reported many courts did not impose sanctions on traffickers’ lawyers when they harassed and mocked the victims during proceedings. Judges relied heavily on the victim’s in-person testimony, preferably in front of the trafficker, further traumatizing victims.
The Council of Europe found Romanian courts lacked national practices to protect child victims of sexual assault. (…) Romania remains a primary source country for sex trafficking and labor trafficking victims in Europe. The vast majority of identified victims (77 percent) in 2021 are sex trafficking victims. Children represent more than a third of identified trafficking victims in Romania. Government officials and NGOs report increased recruitment of children via the internet and social media as a result of the pandemic. Media outlets allege the online sexual exploitation and abuse of girls as young as 12 years old. Children in government-run institutions, particularly girls living in homes and placement centers for persons with disabilities, remain vulnerable to sex trafficking. Several NGOs note former residents of government-run homes or residential centers serve as recruiters of underage girls from the same facilities. Traffickers exploit Romani children in sex trafficking and forced begging. Child labor abuse continues to be underreported, with children as young as five exploited in child labor. (…)
Since the start of Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Ukrainian refugees, predominantly women, children, and the elderly, who are fleeing Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and crossing the Romania border seeking sanctuary, are highly vulnerable to trafficking; approximately 80,000 are staying in country, and more than a third are children. Many of these migrants may be or may become trafficking victims while in Romania.”
The 2022 Trafficking in Persons State Department Report
- Proactively identify potential victims, especially among vulnerable populations, such as asylum-seekers, migrants, individuals in commercial sex, and children in government-run institutions, through enhanced training for police officers on recognizing indicators of exploitation.
- Significantly increase the quality and availability of specialized victim services for adults and children, such as improved access to medical assistance and psychological counseling.
- Vigorously investigate allegations of complicity – including of complicity in childcare institutions – and prosecute and convict complicit officials under the trafficking statute; hold them accountable by issuing significant prison sentences.
- Adopt legislation to allow for financial support to NGOs for victim services and develop and institute a formal mechanism for administering the funds.
- Increase the number of police officers investigating trafficking crimes and financial investigators specializing in trafficking cases.
- Increase efforts to enforce child labor laws, especially in rural areas and where social welfare services lacked personnel and capacity to address violations.
- Sanction recruiting agencies with criminal penalties for practices contributing to trafficking, such as charging workers with recruitment fees.
- Provide knowledgeable legal counsel and courtroom protections for victims assisting prosecutions, including exempting victims from in-person confrontations with their accused traffickers.
- Train labor inspectors to detect labor trafficking and grant them the legal authority to conduct unannounced inspections at all worksites.
- Expand efforts to train officials involved in judicial proceedings, particularly judges, on working with trafficking cases and victims, sensitivity to trafficking issues, and understanding all forms of trafficking.
- Train law enforcement officials on working with victims, evidence collection, and understanding psychological coercion and integrate that understanding into government-wide responses.
NGOs join and support recommendations addressed to the Romanian Government by the US State Department. These recommendations were also formulated following information provided by NGOs to the US State Department.
The most acute problem currently consists, in our opinion, in the inability of the authorities to ensure the monitoring of the 80,000 Ukrainian refugees who settled in the medium / long term on the Romanian territory, but also of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees who continue to transit our country, from and to Ukraine. Ukrainian children established in Romania are not enrolled in school despite the legislation in force, and their presence and general situation are not monitored by local social services. The risk of labor exploitation or the risk of Ukrainian traffic networks acting freely on Romanian territory are obvious, in the absence of a coherent strategy for the integration of Ukrainian refugees, correctly budgeted and monitored from the central level.
The real number of victims of trafficking is much underestimated, and the protection granted to them is insufficient.
Prevention campaigns initiated by the authorities are insufficient, poorly targeted, and their effectiveness assessment is lacking. Prevention campaigns initiated by NGOs are neither supported nor funded by the state, as are the services that NGOs provide to victims, recognized or potential.
The testimony of traffic victims is ignored. They are not consulted or involved when the government sets its strategy and priorities in the field.
In general, the government continues to underestimate the scale of the phenomenon, and ignoring NGOs and traffic victims, the government seems more concerned with their demands, than to consider them as combat partners in the fight against the phenomenon.