Vulnerability and exploitation along the Balkan route: Identifying victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Implementing Agencies: NEXUS Institute, Fafo, Atina and Centre for Youth Integration
Geographic Scope: Serbia
Project Summary: A dramatic influx of migrants and refugees have moved through the Balkans (often referred to as “the Balkan route”) in recent years in their attempt to reach and resettle in the European Union (EU). This has involved migrants and refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan as well as various countries in Africa and Asia. Many of these migrants and refugees are exposed to different risks, vulnerabilities and exploitation at different stages of their journeys, including, in some cases, human trafficking. And yet, to date, there is little empirical evidence of when, why and how vulnerability to human trafficking arises in mass movements of migrants and refugees, nor how to identify and assist trafficking victims within migrant and refugee populations.
Undertaken in collaboration with the Fafo Institute and Serbian NGOs Atina and Centre for Youth Integration (CYI), this project explores the different ways in which refugees and migrants become vulnerable and are subjected to human trafficking while en route or in transit in Serbia. The project also considers challenges and barriers to their formal identification and assistance as victims of human trafficking. This project will increase the knowledge and evidence of risks to and experiences of human trafficking among migrants and refugees to improve policy and programmatic responses in the fields of migration, asylum and human trafficking.
The project is supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Project Publications and Studies:
This article explores what we can learn about the identification of and assistance to trafficked persons from practitioners in Serbia on the front line of Europe’s “refugee crisis”. Questions arise as to whether and to what extent the anti-trafficking framework is effective in offering protection to trafficked migrants/refugees in a mass migration setting, but also what is lost if the specific perspective of the anti-trafficking framework is set aside or given lower priority. It is important to discuss who is included and who is excluded; whether protection and assistance meet people’s needs; and whether or how the existing framework can be used to greater effect. While it was challenging to operationalize the anti-trafficking framework, both conceptually and practically, during the “refugee crisis” in the Balkans, it remains an important approach that should have been mobilized to a greater extent, both to secure individual protections and rights and to gather information about human trafficking in conflict and crisis, which, in turn, increases the ability to respond effectively.
In recent years, the flow of migrants and refugees through the Balkans has significantly increased. To date, there has been limited empirical evidence of when, why and how vulnerability to human trafficking arises in mass movements of migrants and refugees. New patterns of vulnerability and exploitation challenge established procedures for identification of and assistance to trafficking victims. This paper presents different experiences of trafficked migrants and refugees who have moved to and through Serbia over the past two years, and explores challenges and barriers to their formal identification and assistance as victims of human trafficking. The paper concludes with specific recommendations on how government and civil society stakeholders may begin to work more effectively on this issue to and to better identify and assist trafficked migrants/refugees.
Photograph by Peter Biro/ECHO: Syrian refugees in flight from their conflict affected country. All rights reserved.