Human Trafficking Prevention and Victims Help Hotline – An Estonian Decade
Support in crisis situations is only one of the functions carried out by a hotline for cases of trafficking in human beings. Estonian organisation Living for Tomorrow shares their experience in an expert workshop within the project “Improved Anti-Trafficking Efforts: Baltic-Russian Cooperation Network”.
The hotline for prevention of human trafficking and assisting victims in Estonia is run by Living for Tomorrow since 2004. The aim of it is to inform people about opportunities, conditions, rules and risks of work, studies and marriage abroad to prevent the crime. In the same time victims of trafficking receive consultations how to act in crisis situations, where to seek assistance in Estonia and abroad as well as how to cooperate with the police.
In addition consultations provided to various groups of the society, the registration of incoming calls and topics discussed form a significant part of the Estonian statistics contributing to the overall view on the situation. Sirle Blumberg, manager of Living for Tomorrow, introduced participants to how monitoring trends in education, origin, interests among other characteristics of callers can be helpful in indentifying trends and by extension improving cooperation with government institutions.
Prevention, identification of potential victims and providing assistance over the hotline are very important in Estonia especially because accessing support services is rather difficult. A person who has suffered from a form of trafficking recognised in Estonia can only benefit from the support system fully if they have been identified as a victim by the Penal Code. Kristiina Luht, Adviser in Equality Policies Department, Ministry of Social Affairs of Estonia, explained that to improve victim identification and ease access to services Victim Support Act will be changed in 2017 to reduce victims’ dependence on the criminal case and give more power to NGOs in identification.
The international workshop on trust-line operation for prevention of trafficking in human beings and provision of assistance in crisis situations brought together experts from four NGOs – the leading project partner “Shelter “Safe House”” (Latvia), “Lietuvos Caritas” (Lithuania), “Living for Tomorrow” (Estonia) and Red Cross St. Petersburg branch (Russia).
The Base of Anti-Trafficking – National Policies
Leading anti-trafficking organisations from the Baltic States and Russia met in Vilnius for a workshop on November 11-13, 2015, to share experience in developing and implementing national policies for reduction of human trafficking. Caritas Lithuania introduced project “Improved Anti-Trafficking Efforts: Baltic-Russian Cooperation Network” partners to a decade of the strengths and weaknesses of national action plans.
Kristina Misiniene, project manager at Caritas Lithuania and Karolis Zibas (Institute for Ethnic Studies of the Lithuanian Social Research Centre)) shared Lithuanian experience spanning more than ten years in developing and enforcing state policy in combating trafficking in human beings. Accomplishments prove the necessity for inter-institutional cooperation in tackling the issue.
Financial resource allocation form the State budget in Lithuania for anti-trafficking efforts was seen as a very positive development. Still the participants of the workshop noted the necessity for increased financial support to organisations that provide assistance services to victims of trafficking in human beings. Public awareness building and education was argued as an especially important area where funds are necessary.
Discussions revealed that challenges tackling trafficking within the policies and incorporating it into legislation, for example the penal code, arise from inconsistency in terminology and lack of common understanding of human trafficking among the stakeholders.
Since Lithuania is enforcing its 2013-2015 action plan, working groups were organized with a look to the future. During those, experts from all organisations involved in the project shared their latest observations regarding trends such as upcoming forms of exploitation, modern technology solutions used in recruitment.
Russian experience complemented the workshop especially as there has not been an anti-trafficking national action plan to base assistance to victims on. Red Cross St. Petersburg branch also shared how the view on forms of exploitation not being regarded as trafficking for example in the fake marriage cases even if they are forced.