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Jun 21, 2019

Bring the Justice


‘’I thought that offenders should be brought to justice, but even though he and his collaborators committed a serious crime, they escaped justice without any satisfactory punishment. This is so devastating for me, ‘’ said ASTRA beneficiary.

This strong feeling of injustice and helplessness that have overwhelmed the survivor of human trafficking overlaps with the trend that occurs in criminal cases in the last few years. There has been an increase in the number of pre-qualification of the criminal offense of trafficking in human beings, to mediation in prostitution, or the increase of the plea agreement that the prosecutor's office arranges with traffickers, which gives them lower penalties. The victim is treated as a person who voluntarily engages in prostitution, not someone who was exploited and forced into prostitution, whose rights were seriously violated, who still suffers from the consequences of those traumatic experience. Victims are exhausted through the whole procedure, they are re-victimized by passing through the system of social protection and judicial procedures as at the end, the justice is not achievable for the survivors.

In addition, compensation for victims of trafficking in human beings remains an unresolved problem, as a property claim in the criminal proceedings is not used. Instead, the victims are referred by the decision of the first-instance criminal court to seek compensation in civil proceedings which is expensive, long-lasting procedure and is a further trauma for them. Since 2003, when human trafficking was introduced into Serbian criminal code, only 3 judgments for compensation for victims of trafficking were awarded, with only one implemented in practice.

ASTRA client, presented above, said that she doesn’t want to lose a few more years in another court process. According to her, offenders cannot compensate for what they've taken away from her and ''what they did is unforgivable, but the state let them with almost no consequences, so I do not have time for one more letdown ‘. She gave up on further prosecution in the lawsuit.

ASTRA strongly advocate and push institutions to adopt the practice of judges’ deciding about compensation in the criminal procedures, even partially, and introducing the Fund for Victims of Violent Crimes which would be able to respond immediately to the needs of the victim.

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Apr 3, 2019

Who really protects the children and their rights

A mother of a 6-year girl contacted European number for missing children in Serbia. By a court decision, she was appointed as a guardian, but she is not in position to exercise her rights, because the other parent is holding and abusing child rights. In addition, the child is grossly neglected because she does not attend school, and is deprived of seeing her mother and brother for several months. Responsible local institutions failed to intervene several times already and to return a child to her mother.

A mother from abroad addresses ASTRA with the case of parental abduction. A former partner who has no custody left the country of refuge with a child and entered Serbia. Both parents are foreign citizens and although in cases of international parental child abduction, cooperation is the key to successful investigation and support for the child, the local authorities are still reluctant to react and to check whether the father and the child are still on the territory of Serbia.

In both cases, the European number for missing children in Serbia, operating by ASTRA, serves as a unique support to children and parents whenever the local context is not providing the support and/or is breaching their rights.

Both mothers in those case, suffering tremendously for the loss of their children and who cannot directly exercise their basic right as parents, are supported by ASTRA and European number for missing children in Serbia in linking with institutions, making pressure to authorities to react and proactively searching for the information through its CSO local and regional network. The search and return of the child to her mother is still on………..  Stay with us and help us to find children and help their parents…

Apr 3, 2019

Labour exploitation is real

Besides the direct victim assistance, the important function of ASTRA SOS Hotline is prevention of human trafficking and violation of workers right.

More and more citizens are contacting ASTRA on different and suspicious job offers for work in Germany, Slovakia, Czech, Croatia, Slovenia, China. Based on these calls, ASTRA has sent many written notifications to the labour inspectorate in order to check work of the agencies for mediation in employment and business entities, portals and Facebook page which are advertising job offers abroad. In many cases, these mediators were unregistered, and based on ASTRA warnings, Market Inspectorate and the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Police started a procedure before the misdemeanor courts against these companies for violation of the Law.

Recently, ASTRA SOS Hotline received calls from two workers who complained against a local agency offering allegedly legit job abroad to a larger group of workers from Serbia. However, due to the difficult and hazardous working conditions, without any protection and poor accommodation, workers have developed serious health problems. They contacted the employer, but unfortunately, they were not provided with health care. Wanting to return, they asked for their salaries, but the employer threatened them with migration service and detention if they do not leave in 24 hours.

ASTRA informed immediately the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take measures with relevant diplo-consular institutions regarding the safe return of workers, as well as to organize/provide adequate services to the workers upon their safe return.  Shortly after returning to the country, workers gave a statement to the police and prosecution, as well as to the market inspection. They were pleasantly surprised and grateful that all relevant sectors with their services were immediately and jointly reacting to the problem.

This case is a good practice that shows that without closer inter-state cooperation and cooperation with civil society organization there is no effective fight against trafficking in human beings for the purpose of labor exploitation or degradation of workers’ rights. ASTRA is very proud that after long and consistent advocacy activities, such joint cooperation is happening more often. The ultimate goal is to provide quick and adequate support to victims and with valuable support of many people who cares and help us with funding of these lifesaving activities, we will continue our fight against trafficking and labour exploitation. 

March was an important month for us, as we launched the portal 'Labour exploitation is real'  . This site is created as an initiative for informing and protecting young people and citizens generally from abuse and labor exploitation. Another purpose of this portal is to help in a situation where the rights of workers are violated or if workers were exploited. We invite you to take a look and to contact us if you have questions. We will be happy to advise you, to check your contracts and help you, as exploitation is not a story – it is real and it can happen to all of us!

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