Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia

by ASTRA - Anti trafficking action (ASTRA - Akcija protiv trgovine ljudima)
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
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.

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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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Through ASTRA SOS hotline we received a phone call from our partners who were in contact with a woman who is victim of human trafficking. She had medical problems, so she needed help. The SOS consultants visit it her in order to get familiar with her situation and check which way they can provide her assistance.

Being in contact with her, we found out that she had very tough life and she was deprived from normal childhood. She lived in great poverty, so in order to survive, she had to look for the food in garbage containers nearby. From very early age she had to struggle for her existence, because she suffered family violence. Therefore, she showed us her drawings indicating that she is and she wants to stay a child.

As she was married by force, her husband’s parents took her abroad and that is when the agony of her life started. They took all her documents. They started exploiting her sexually and they made her commit different criminal acts. She was aware of the bad consequences if she didn’t make enough money every day. In the moments when she wasn’t in the street under surveillance, she was locked in an apartment, not knowing the hour or the part of the day. She was physically abused on daily basis, until one day she managed to escape. Afterwards, she sought help from the police. With their assistance she found the shelter, where she is still stays, so that she doesn’t have to go back to her parents’ house.

We accompanied her to all medical examinations to make sure that she gets appropriate therapy and also we helped her take care of her dental health. The silence she lived in didn’t do her any good, moreover it was upsetting her. In order to make her stay in that house more pleasant, the consultants brought her a radio, so that she can listen music. This gesture cheered her up and she was very grateful.

During the period she spent in the safe house, consultants from ASTRA kept visiting her regularly, providing her with all necessities. Apart from that they established a friendly relationship with her. That had a very positive effect on her. These were her words: ‘’ It’s so nice when someone still takes cares of me and cares about my wellbeing. That’s why I was lucky to get to know you”.

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 ASTRA’s client left our SOS telephone number to her friend who was exploited with her, and who helped her to run away. She told us that her friend needed help because she was living in very bad conditions. Soon after that, her friend contacted us. She is a single mother of three children, which traffickers used in their advance to lure her in the trafficking chain. They played on her hope to be able to provide a better life for her children. But she couldn’t predict a hell that was coming.

She and her children were most of the time hungry, because she couldn’t find a job for a very long time. After a while she finally found a job in a factory where her mother was already working. But that was not a good decision. She and her mother were in bad relations. Additionally, she experience mobbing on the job place. She tried to put up with it for a while, until she eventually left the job. The day when she quit her job, she sat in a nearby cafe trying to put herself together and to decide what to do next. While she was sitting there, an unknown man came to her and made her a promise of a better life. He offered a well paid job in casino in another country.

She accepted the job offer enthusiastically because she saw it as a way out of her current situation. When she came to destination country, they took her passport and other documents, and instead of job in a casino she received instructions how to behave and what her job really was. It was then when she realized that she got into a trouble. Since that moment, she was constantly trying to figure out how to get away. In the hardest moments she fantasized about seeing her children again, and that was her biggest motivation to run away as soon as possible.

While we were talking, she told us “I still cannot believe how strong I was back then, and how my children gave me strength to survive.” She managed to run away and save few more exploited girls.

Her friend told her about ASTRA and she contacted SOS hotline. After her telephone call, ASTRA’s consultants went on field action to meet her in person. This lovely young girl was too shy to ask for anything. ASTRA consultants wanted to do something nice for children because they live in poor conditions, so they bought them books for school and notebooks, so that they could be just like other children. Children were very happy and grateful for their gifts, and they were constantly showing their mother what they got. Since our client hasn’t finished secondary school and was very interested to continue her education ASTRA made it possible.

She is a strong woman. She continues to struggle and not to give up. The other day when we spoke to her she told us: “Every day is difficult for itself, but freedom and love for my children give me strength to fight. How do you feel knowing that you made a life better for someone, that you brought back a joy to someone’s life? You proved me that I am not alone. Thank you for that”.

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ASTRA leaflet
ASTRA leaflet

A young woman contacted ASTRA for help. She was in a big problem and she needed someone to help her. She started talking, while tears were running down her face.

She told us her story, a story that seemed like it was from some fiction or a book. She was exploited for couple of years, and the only thing that kept her going was her son and her wish to see him again. "I can hardly believe myself how many things we can all endure". She was far away from her son, locked and tortured, her life depended on someone else, but her memories kept he going. She new that one day she would see him again. It all seemed like a bad dream that would end one day. And it did...

One day, she met a man who helped her escape and return to her family. She found ASTRA's phone number on the internet and she called. She was still afraid for her life, for her son's life, for everything that was coming her way, but she new that she couldn't be able to fight alone. She had a problem trusting people, even ASTRA and the police. She was informed about her rights, and what we can do to help her. At first she hesitated. After the first meeting she said she would think about it and that she would call again. We did not want to pressure her, because we knew what kind of trauma she suffered and that her trust in other people was violated. We knew she needed some time to think and reflect. After a month, she called again...

She said she needed someone to share with her fears and nightmares that have been torturing her. And that's how it all started. She was provided with medical and psychological assistance and other relevant institutions got involved to help in her protection.

She is coming to ASTRA on regular basis now, because she finds a peace and comfort here. Her life is stabilizing bit by bit and one day she will be able to continue where she left off, and a smile in her face will replace tearful eyes.  

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Project Leader:
Marija Andjelkovic
Belgrade, Serbia
$22,611 raised of $30,000 goal
 
351 donations
$7,389 to go
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