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The majority of the signals received from the National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings come from Greece

18 July 2014 / 13:07:31  GRReporter
3421 reads

Polina Spartyanova

According to the annual report of the U.S. State Department on combating human trafficking, in 2013 Bulgaria remained in group 2 for the thirtieth consecutive year, along with Greece. According to the same report, Bulgaria is a transit country and final destination for, and to a limited extent a source of, women and children, victims of trafficking and forced labour. Although the Bulgarian government makes significant efforts in terms of the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, the majority of last year’s sentences for trafficking in people for sexual and labour exploitation were conditional. In 2013, 85 people were convicted in Bulgaria for trafficking for sexual services, 55 of them received suspended sentences and 30 will remain in prison for a period of between 3 and 10 years. According to Eurostat data, since the beginning of 2014, Bulgaria has remained the leading country of origin and transit of victims. In 2013, the main countries of destination of the victims, including minors, were Western European countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, and such as our southern neighbour Greece, where a scandal associated with the blond angel Maria broke out a few months ago.
     According to Dobriana Petkova, who is a senior expert at the National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and who constantly works with victims of traffickers, there are two main reasons, namely social and political, for the growing problem of human trafficking from Bulgaria. The social factors mainly relate to the poverty of the people who usually become victims and to the lack of information on the safe ways to migrate from one place to another, regardless of whether it is for work or a stay for some time. According to the expert, the most vulnerable group in society is that of the less educated citizens and of those who live in isolated ghettos of Bulgarian cities.
    Experts consider as particularly vulnerable the age group of younger people, as being in a stage of life when they fall in love and make friends and thus can easily be misled. Dobriana Petkova believes that the political factors also play a significant role in the problem of human trafficking in Bulgaria, because the policy of each country determines how people feel about it and if they are forced, due to their lifestyle, to look for better livelihoods elsewhere.
     Separately, the problem comes from the destination countries of trafficking where there is a demand for people in three main categories, including babies, women for prostitution and cheap labour, as they thus create conditions for the development of the problem. According to the chief expert at the National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, the preventive measures regarding this problem should be taken in time, not only by the country of origin of trafficked people, but also by the country of their final destination. "For example the majority of the signals submitted to our administration come from Greece, as a neighbour country to Bulgaria, as there is a constant demand for cheap labour there," Dobriana Petkova said in an interview with GRReporter.
     The National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings aims to define and guide the implementation of the national policy of the Bulgarian state and the strategy relating to combating human trafficking by organising and coordinating the interaction between the separate institutions and organisations in the implementation of the law. The Commission is also engaged in organising various prevention activities aimed at public awareness on issues related to human trafficking. It also offers training of various types of professionals who work on the problem in order for them to be able to adequately address the ever-evolving strategies of traffickers.
     According to Dobriana Petkova the key to preventing trafficking from Bulgaria is the coordination between the various institutions of the countries that are affected by this problem, the synchronisation of the legislation of each one of them with the European legislation being of paramount importance. The expert believes that the European Union Member States need to develop a common strategy to deal with the problem of human trafficking, based on the exchange of experiences and different practices in each country. "There is no way to solve the problem of human trafficking without coordination and clear cooperation between the countries. Traffickers are much more organised compared to institutions and in addition they have more material resources," added Dobriana Petkova.
     She gave the example of good international cooperation between the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including Greece and Bulgaria, which have joined forces in the VICTOR (Victims of Child Trafficking - Our Responsibility) project and work on the prevention of trafficking in children. The project involves both public institutions and non-governmental organisations in the recipient countries, which work together to identify, protect and help the victims of human trafficking. The partner from the Greek side is "The Smile of the Child" foundation, the homes of which shelter abandoned or abused children, and from Bulgarian it is the "Nadia Centre", which is one of the first organisations in Bulgaria to combat human trafficking. Currently the Bulgarian foundation supports an information centre for children and young people who want to be aware of how not to become victims of traffickers and of their rights if they have already become victims.

Tags: Trafficking in babiesWomen for prostitutionCheap workersCentre NadiaThe Smile of the ChildVictor project
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