Love146 European Operation Director Gaz Kishere has just completed a week long trip to Chisinau Moldova with Peter Bone, Member of the British Parliament and Chair of the All Party Group on Human Trafficking.
One purpose of the trip was to meet with ministers to see a better collaboration between those working to combat Human Trafficking at a governmental level and to see how effective similar Parliamentary groups are across central and eastern Europe in promoting a response to this global epidemic.
One other reason for visiting Moldova at this time was to look at how specialised care is being given to survivors of trafficking and especially children.
Hosted by the international organisation for migration (IOM) the group met with Mr. Vadim Misin, President of the Parliamentarian Commission on Human Rights and Interethnic Relations, British Ambassador, H.E. Keith Shannon, Ms. Ecaterina Berejan, Secretary of the National Committee on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings. The group also had meetings with representatives of the Centre for Combating Trafficking in Persons and the General Prosecutor’s Office – Ms. Valentina Buliga, the Minister of Labour, Social Protection and Family, Ms. Ana Revenco, National Director of the International Centre La Strada, Martin Wyss Chief of Mission for IOM Moldova and of course our own prevention programme Escape Magazine.
Martin Wyss Cheif of Mission for IOM gave a strong critique of stereotypes and trends followed by anti trafficking groups in relation to migration, cultural diversity and understanding and how critical it is to work our way up stream away from the more emotive care of survivors towards addressing core issues which fuel the exploitation aside from the overstated declaration that it is dependant upon demand and organised crime (“stop this, and you stop trafficking”). It was felt that Mr Wyss’s ability to read in between the lines of widespread anti trafficking thinking, revealed a metta narrative that trafficking victims in most respects were already victims, of poverty, of domestic violence, of ethnic discrimination and gender inequality. Addressing trafficking cannot find successful outcomes without also working hand in hand with these underlying issues.
Peter Bone and Gaz Kishere had the privilege of joining the Escape prevention team in giving Moldova’s first Anti Trafficking talk to healthcare workers at the College of Medicine in Chisinau. Mr. Bone conveyed that ‘Human trafficking is indeed real and that it is critical that you read the signs, that you take nothing for granted and ensure this never happens to you’. Meeting with these 70 student nurses provided a dual opportunity—both to ensure their safety, and to address them as ‘counter trafficking partners’ by letting them know in no uncertain terms that they are also a first line of defence in identifying victims of trafficking and domestic violence in their care.
Whether it is London or Chisinau, there is an increasing awareness that internal trafficking and exploitation within and across our own communities is rising to the surface. This is no longer an issue restricted to cross border exploitation. The anti trafficking community and those addressing sexual exploitation in our own communities, must talk to one another and work more cohesively together.
Ana Revenco, national director of La strada (who specialise in supporting child survivors in prosecuting perpetrators) implored the UK Government and as NGO’s to avoid a black and white approach to working with victims of trafficking, and instead find a way to work effectively with the Grey. Ten years ago there were clear methods of violence and kidnapping associated with trafficking people across borders—these methods are rare in Europe today. It is far more likely to be the case that a girl caught in on street or off street prostitution will not see herself as being there by force as the processes of coercion, manipulation and control are far less overt, and the threats to their safety or well being are expressed far more subtly.
It is quite possible that the reduction in Trafficking victims in Moldova (as suggested by the National Referral Mechanism) is a result of it being far more difficult to identify the victims which will lead to them being repatriated and on the NRM radar. Police and border control workers must also adjust their approach as well, as increasingly victims of trafficking do not know they are victims.
The Trafficking of People has a changing face, and our responses to it must also have a changing face.
Martin Wyss, in his seven years IOM’s chief of mission in Moldova, had seen little to suggest that numbers caught in human trafficking are down to organised crime in the way that seems to be suggested by law enforcement agencies, politicians and the press. Some of it will inevitably reveal that there is a complex web of criminals involved but this is by far in the minority, as it takes very little organisation for one person to invest a period of time in deceiving a girl, for her to get on a plane with the promise of work and be met by a pimp and put to work as is happening in the UK. Martin suggests that whilst any process needs a degree of organisation to make it happen, this is not the same as the stereotype of organised gangs– which has become the popular narrative for what makes trafficking ‘tick’. As such, seeking to stop demand and locking up gangs will not lead to the impact on the victims of trafficking we are suggesting, not when that victimisation pre-existed any involvement with traffickers.
There was much to learn from those working in this hub of east European trafficking and some positive models of operation at a government level that the UK is lacking. One area of progress in the UK which does not exist in Moldova is that government there cannot ‘buy’ services from NGO’s like Love146 or IOM in the way that they can in the UK. This has been born out recently in the funding of the Salvation Army to outsource and manage multiple safe homes for adults across the UK (sadly this further highlights the lack of such provision in the UK for children of trafficking).
This trip was a great opportunity for Love146 to meet with high level government agencies in Moldova who have been developing a cohesive strategy for this issue. In addition, it was also good to give these members of the Moldovan government a copy of our Escape magazine and remind them that while a government strategy has now been developed, it is NGO’s like Love146, our partner organisation Beginning of Life and others we met with who have precluded this response through their commitment to prevention and aftercare at a grassroots level.
Peter Bone is preparing a report on his findings for the British Government and continues to be a strong advocate for the improved care of trafficked children in the UK.