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Mar 23, 2018

"I felt betrayed"

ASTRA's poster from the campaign
ASTRA's poster from the campaign

The problems for victims of human trafficking don’t end when they manage to leave the trafficking chain, nor when they reestablish their physical and mental well being. In ASTRA, we know that some of the great challenges for our clients may come even later- during the exhausting court process.

A young woman came to us last spring, she was a victim of sexual exploitation and terrible abuse for a long period of time. Finally, she succeeded to run away from her abuser, and after being reunited with her family, she came to us for help. She was scared and vulnerable, but with support and psychotherapy, she felt better. This woman was determined, now that she knew that the person who caused her so much pain was behind the bars, to once again take control of her life and leave the past behind.

This winter, a friend of hers informed her that the trafficker was seen in the town. Shocked and confused, she went to the police who told her that the court decided to make the plea agreement with him- he was convicted for facilitation of prostitution, and finally, they let him go until the verdict was effective.

Even though she went through such a remarkable process of empowerment, our client took this news very emotionally. She felt betrayed. No institution reached out to her before making such a decision, nobody let her know that her abuser was released. To make everything worse, this verdict made her feel that, in eyes of the others, she was now labelled as a prostitute, not as a survivor of the human trafficking. During this difficult time, ASTRA was again the main source of support. She needed to be reminded of her strengths, but also someone to acknowledge the fear she felt. There was a threat that he might try to make a contact or blackmail her, but we made sure she knew that she can always call us, or police. In the next couple of weeks, ASTRA was in regular contact with her. She felt encouraged to continue with her everyday life. This young woman was still deeply disappointed with the outcome of the court trial, but we helped her not to let this incident provoke the traumatic memories.

This case serves as a great reminder that even when violence is gone from their lives, people often suffer when they witness their abusers going unpunished, and the institutions, which are there to protect them, or at least provide them the information they have the right to know, fail to do their duty. Having this in mind, we must make sure to be ready to provide assistance and support to whenever there’s need for it and to remind the institutions that they should never forget to work in the interest of victims.

Mar 23, 2018

Whether justice is always fair

Ilustration of the missing babies problem
Ilustration of the missing babies problem

In 2017, European number for missing children in Serbia 116000 received calls regarding missing children, missing babies (suspected to have been abducted from maternity wards from 1960 till nowadays in Serbia) and other calls.

Reports for missing children concerned 11 children: 8 girls and 3 boys. Out of this number, 10 children are citizens of Serbia, and 1 child is a foreign citizen. Information was provided by parents (6), cousin (1), NGOs from abroad (1), Social welfare center (2) and police (1). The reasons for the disappearance are: runaways (6), parental abduction (3) and lost or otherwise disappeared children (2). Six children were found and the search continues for 3 children. We do not have feedback for two children. Also, one child whose disappearance from the institution was reported at the end of 2016, was found in early 2017.

During 2017 159 calls for missing babies were received, and 47 new cases of parents' suspicion that their children were stolen were recorded.

Regardless of the fact that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has sent several requests to Serbia to take the necessary measures to adopt the Law on missing babies, in 2017, there were no significant movements in this direction. A few days ago we have received information from our associates that the Ministry of Justice organized a meeting with some representatives of the parent’s associations, agreed and adopted some changes the Draft Law and after that forwarded to the Parliament for adoption. The process itself was not transparent and until a few days ago this document was not available.

Parents expected justice and that the truth will finally be established. Many of them, feels like again surviving an intimate drama and feel as if somebody again denies human and parental rights. Regarding all this, the role of the SOS consultant is to listen to the parents, support them, monitoring the status of the draft law, when and how it will be adopted and informing parents about that. These days we are facing the situation that parents suspect that the law will not change their situation and they are desperate for it.

Based on previous knowledge, it is certain that in a number of cases happened organized abduction and sale of children, and it would not be good for these cases to remain unclear. It is necessary for the state authorities to consider all the circumstances and to determine whether there was any abuse. The truth should come to the light after all.

Ilustration of the missing children babies 2
Ilustration of the missing children babies 2
Dec 29, 2017

Finding the light at the end of the tunnel

ASTRA SOS Hotline for help and assistance
ASTRA SOS Hotline for help and assistance

Summering up the achievements of the current year, regardless of unfulfilled plans, the feeling that you have helped someone is priceless and the most important thing that it counts at the end.

A few months ago we received a phone call from a young foreign woman who is a victim of human trafficking and who was forced to move to Serbia. She had to run away so that the trafficker, a cruel and violent criminal who was following her wouldn’t find her. ASTRA consultants have to act quickly and calmed her down since she was completely alone and very scared for her life. 

Namely, one cold morning, this girl, a survivor of human trafficking arrived in Serbia and wandered around the city alone for the rest of the day. While she was having coffee at some café, an unknown girl noticed that she was in distress, so she started a conversation. After she told her story, the girl referred her to ASTRA by giving her the number of our SOS telephone. The same evening, we met in the city center and had a very long conversation. We were trying to calm her down and told her that we and our associates will help her and support her through the process of reintegration and recovery. Then we talked about different accommodation options and places where she could feel safe and we found a proper hotel room, near our office where she stayed this night. Since she hadn’t brought anything to Serbia, we gave her some clothes, as well as some other useful things to start with. In the meantime, with her consent, we were contacted Safe House to check if is possible to accommodate her there and luckily they confirmed that they could, so we agreed that she may come there.

The next day she came to ASTRA’s office. She was a bit calmer and she was truly thankful for everything. Regarding the situation and positive feedback about accommodation, we accompanied her to the Safe house where she was taken care of.

After two months, she re-established contact with the family who didn’t know where she is. Also, she starts to go to the psychological counseling and included in activities and daily routine which gave her stability and bring back hope that everything will be fine again. She’s interested in some courses (sewing course or course for hairdressers) and ASTRA together with other organization will continue to provide her support during the process of reintegration.

When the survivors of human trafficking feel safe and free to do what they really want, our main goals are fulfilled. With a little help and the support from all of us, they recovery can be easier and much faster they can be empowered to take life into their own hands.

Prevention event
Prevention event
 
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