Balkan countries join effort in battle against human trafficking

15/11/2012

At a recent regional initiative, volunteers handed out leaflets and posters reading, "Human beings do not have a price," aiming to reach the entire region with its message.

By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 15/11/12

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"Let's stop human trafficking!" is painted on the side of a train that ran from Zagreb to Serbia and Montenegro. [Nada Bozic/SETimes]

According to the International Organisation for Migration, about 120,000 women and children are annually trafficked in the Balkans. Many are forced into prostitution, working as servants in private houses, agricultural fields, forced to beg for money, forced into marriages, commit crimes and other forms of exploitation.

Along with drug dealing and weapon trade, human trafficking is one of the top three lucrative criminal business activities, authorities said.

Red Cross volunteers from Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia are working to raise public awareness on human trafficking, since anyone can become a victim. According to the Red Cross, vulnerable target groups are individuals whose human rights are somehow already violated, who belong to a marginalised group -- children without parents, people of low social status, refugees in refugee camps -- facing a poor economic status.

A human trafficker could be anyone that is ready to take advantage of poor economic conditions of the needy, to benefit economically by taking that person into a chain of exploitation.

"Since human trafficking is not only a national but regional problem, it requires a regional response. To point out the seriousness of this issue, Red Cross organisations of Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia organised a joint action," Jelena Tolic, a Red Cross volunteer, told SETimes.

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The European Commission sets aside October 18th each year as European Day against Human Trafficking, in an effort to raise general human trafficking awareness.

This year the event included a train from Zagreb to Serbia and Montenegro, with a message painted on the side: "Let's stop human trafficking!"

Nina Olbina, 26, a social work student from Mostar, joined the journey from Zagreb to Belgrade.

"What I didn't know before and learned just today, is that [human trafficking] income is much bigger than I thought, which makes this issue serious, since [money] causes higher interest," Olbina said.

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