Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Community leaders in Romania take action against human trafficking

Source: World Vision Middle East/Eastern Europe office (MEERO)

Community leaders from five communes in Iasi County, northeastern Romania, joined World Vision staff for a two-day meeting in Iasi Area Development Program (ADP) to discuss the issue and prevalence of human trafficking and explore the integration of anti trafficking initiatives into the ADP's development work based on community and World Vision staff capacity.

'I am glad that we joined as representatives of our communities to prevent human trafficking. As teachers, parents and leaders of our communities, we are responsible for the safety and well being of our community and our children. It is up to us to take into account everything that we learned here and make sure these horrible things don't happen to the members of our communities,' said a community member. 'The secret is working together with the local authorities and creating a network of dedicated and responsible people.'

'We took time to discuss and analyze risk factors and identify vulnerable groups in each of our communities - an important step in understanding the problem and in figuring out what we need to do next. We knew that people, especially young adults, are leaving to work abroad but I think that we never seriously understood the risks involved,' said a participant.

'Community awareness of the trafficking phenomenon and their ownership of a response to the issue is exactly the result we hope to see at a grassroots level. By understanding what factors put people at risk, communities like Iasi are positioning themselves to address trafficking where its influence on the community starts,' said Matthew Stephens, regional anti-trafficking coordinator.

As part of the ATAC (Anti-Trafficking Action Committee), an anti-trafficking initiative in the Middle East and Eastern Europe Region, World Vision has assessed three counties in Romania that are vulnerable to human trafficking and is identifying local capacity to develop a pilot project to combat human trafficking.

Survey results showed an association between the risk of trafficking and migration. In Iasi County, poor rural areas appear to be most at risk of trafficking to due lack of economic opportunity.

Children with at least one parent working abroad are considered at risk by the local authorities. These children fall victim to trafficking more easily due to neglect and weakened family relationships. Young men and women who leave foster care centres are also at risk, as many of them are unprepared to live independently and have not been taught how to make wise decisions.

Teenagers coming from vocational schools are in danger of being trafficked. The majority of these students has a lower level of education and comes from families with little to no economic opportunity. With few life prospects, they commonly seek work abroad, which puts them at risk of being trafficked.

World Vision is partnering with both communities and other NGO's in its anti-trafficking efforts. The organization is pursuing a regional and gender integrated approach because trafficking is a transnational problem that requires an international and gender focused solution.

Human trafficking is a major human rights violation that is gathering increasing attention both at a local and international level. The phenomenon has profound social and economical implications, affecting many countries and persons. Each year, an estimated 600,000 to 2,000,000 persons become victims of trafficking, with up to 50% of the victims being children.

According to a report issued by the US State Department, over 800,000 persons are trafficked across national borders each year. Eighty per cent of them are women and 70% are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Still, these are just official estimates; the real number of victims cannot be determined as most victims do not or cannot come forward.

Romania is considered to be a source and also a transit county for victims of trafficking networks.

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