Trafficking in human beings is the modern-day form of slavery. It commonly affects countries undergoing significant economic and/or political transition or conflict. Links have been found between criminal networks involved in the trafficking of human beings and those trafficking drugs and weapons. Individuals facing economic or social problems, and thus keen to seek a better life, oftentimes satisfy the existing demand for cheap labour and sexual services in more affluent regions or countries. Traffickers use threats, force, and other forms of coercion, including fraud and deception to manipulate their victims. Victims are exploited for the profit of the traffickers and are often forced to perform work to which they do not agree due to inhumane and humiliating conditions.
IOM operates from the outset that trafficking in persons needs to be approached within the overall context of managing migration. Its broad range of activities is implemented in partnership with the governmental institutions, NGOs and international organizations. The approach is based on three principles that govern all its counter-trafficking activities:
- Respect for human rights
- Physical, mental and social well-being of the individual and his/her community
- Sustainability through institutional capacity building of governments and civil society
Building on its individual commitment and global presence, IOM strengthens the capacities of its partners in government and civil society and sets operational standards to achieve sustainable results that will:
- provide protection and empower trafficked women, men, girls and boys;
- raise awareness and understanding of the issue; and
- bring justice to the trafficked persons.
IOM has been working hard to counter the human trafficking since 1994. In this time, it has implemented more than 800 projects in over 100 countries, and has provided assistance to approximately 20,000 trafficked persons. Its primary aims are to prevent trafficking in persons as such, and to protect victims from the trade while offering them options of safe and sustainable reintegration and/or return to their home countries.
IOM Minsk CT Activities
IOM Minsk has been active in the sphere of combating trafficking in human beings since 2002, cooperating both with the Government and non-governmental and international institutions to strengthen the country’s counter-trafficking capacity as well as to raise awareness and understanding of the issue and provide protection to the victims of trafficking.
IOM Minsk CT activities are based on four integrated and interrelated components:
- Protection and reintegration of the victims of trafficking (VoTs)
- Prevention and advocacy via increasing awareness of THB among at-risk groups
- Prosecution, criminalization and technical cooperation
IOM Minsk implements the following activities in the CT sphere:
Reintegration of victims of trafficking
IOM Minsk reintegration activity is based on the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime. Victims are identified and referred to IOM by various organisations.
During the initial phase of the process, the referred persons are interviewed in order to establish whether they can indeed be qualified as VoTs according to the definition specified in the Protocol.
The assistance to VoT may include the following:
- Airport reception and transfer upon arrival in Belarus;
- Escort and travel assistance to the final destination in Belarus;
- Overnight accommodation while receiving healthcare or while in transit;
- Legal assistance in civil matters (e.g. divorce, retrieval of property, civil liability etc.);
- Legal consultation services to VoTs serving as witnesses in criminal lawsuits;
- Healthcare treatment;
- Psychological counselling;
- Reintegration grants to support the victims for the first three months after their return;
- Employment counselling and grants for vocational training;
- Other required assistance determined on a case-by-case basis.
Since 2002 2336 VoTs received reintegration assistance from IOM Minsk and its local NGO partners, almost 30 % of them being males.
Rehabilitation Centre was opened by IOM Minsk in July 2006. The centre bacame the primary place where VoTs returning to Belarus receive comprehensive reintegration assistance and protection. The centre offers accommodation for VoTs and their children upon request. All services at the Rehabilitation Centre are provided with due regard to the patient’s freedom of choice, privacy and under strict confidentiality. Since 2006 425 VoTs received access to rehabilitation and reintegration assistance at the centre. Both male and female VoTs may be hosted there.
National NGO/PA network support
A national NGO/PA network engaged in prevention and reintegration activities was established with IOM Minsk assistance. IOM supports the counter-trafficking initiatives of NGOs, targeted at “at risk groups” as well as activities focusing on reintegration assistance to VoTs in their places of residence.
Economic empowerment of vulnerable groups in Belarus
IOM Minsk in cooperation with NGO/PA network provides assistance to vulnerable groups by conducting trainings and seminars aimed at ensuring sustainability in their future life. Network trips, round tables, participation in summer camps, job-seeking trainings are focused on economic empowerment opportunities and individual’s personal development.
Prevention and public awareness raising
IOM Minsk together with its NGO partner network regularly conducts information campaigns which focus on counter trafficking and raising public awareness on the subject. Delivery of lectures in various regions of Belarus for vulnerable groups, seminars, training courses, study trips, production and dissemination of printed materials, placement of bill-boards, creation of public service announcements, work with mass media, including national TV, and other information activities are serving as an effective tool for increasing general public’s awareness about the THB phenomenon and its grave consequences.
Support of the Hotline on safe travel abroad
IOM hotline on safe travel abroad administered by the IOM’s partner NGO “Business women club Brest” commenced its operations in February 2003, while in January 2005 it was converted into a toll-free service, thus ensuring wider access for the population of Belarus to free counseling on safe travel abroad. IOM supports operation of the toll free hotline and regularly promotes the hotline among at-risk groups via all sorts of information campaigns.
The hotline’s telephone number is +375 162 21 8888, for calls from abroad it is: 8 801 201 5555. The calls are toll free for the citizens of Belarus. The working hours are from 8am until 8pm. From 2010 the hotline has also become available for mobile operators. In 2011 the short National number (113) was assigned by the authorities to the hotline.
Over the period of 2003 – 2012 IOM’s hotline processed 20331 phone inquiries. The hotline operators provide information on the following issues: rules of safe travel and stay abroad; rules of signing a contract for working abroad; documents for marriage registration; legalization of documents, apostil; information about the countries with visa free regime.
Development of the National Referral Mechanism and promotion of the social sub-contraction system
The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – is a social and legal framework for the protection of human rights and legal interests of the victims of human trafficking. The key to a well-functioning National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is the solid cooperation between governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, which is the most effective way to assist victims and prevent the least protected members of the society from falling into this misfortune.
IOM Minsk supports the initiative of building the functional and sustainable National Referral Mechanism in Belarus. Effective NRM will allow to provide a wider access to the protection and assistance facilities for potential VoTs.
Social sub-contraction system’s introduction, in particular, the Social Quality Standards (SQS) serve as a crucial element of the NRM. The standards are defined as a “set of minimum norms with which care givers’ services should comply and which can be further used to measure and evaluate the quality of the counter trafficking work” – whether the services provided are adequate, sufficient and professional. The SQ standards serve as a guarantee that offered services for the trafficked persons are fully in line with the international and national rules/legislation. The standards can be used by clients, non-governmental and governmental stakeholders, including those responsible for sub-contracting NGOs.
In its current projects IOM Minsk is involved in promoting the Social Quality Standards through various events involving NGO partners and experts.
Increasing effectiveness and strengthening the capacity of law-enforcement in CT crime investigation process
In order to increase the effectiveness and strengthened the capacity of law-enforcement agencies dealing with CT issues, IOM Minsk organized numerous events such as English Language courses for the Law Enforcement and NGOs, networking visits, trainings. IOM Minsk has also supported specialized academic course in the field of combating human trafficking at the Gomel State University.
Besides, since the beginning of its CT activities IOM Minsk hosted 6 large-scale International Conferences dedicated to this problem which received wide media coverage both domestically and internationally.
Support to the International Training Center for Migration and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings (ITC)
The International Training Center for Migration and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings (ITC) was opened on July 19, 2007 featuring a joint initiative of the Government of Belarus and IOM Minsk.
The Centre received official recognition as a CIS-approved institution for training and raising professional qualification of the CIS states’ personnel in the sphere of migration and combating human trafficking.
At the moment the ITC attracts a great deal of international interest both within and beyond the regioin and hosts yearly a large number of trainings and seminars, all involving leading international experts. The very existence, as well as effective operation of the International Training Center strengthens the capacity of the Government of Belarus and other CIS countries in combating the phenomenon of trafficking in human beings by means of providing continuous specialized education for the counter trafficking personnel from the respective law-enforcement agencies.
IOM Minsk released a number of CT publications mostly devoted to the various emerging trends of trafficking, such as: labour exploitation, child pornography in the Internet, responsibility of clients of sexual services alongside other actual THB-related trends in Belarus and beyond. Publications are intended for professional use and available upon request.