ASTRA is a local grass-root non-governmental organization dedicated to the eradication of all forms of trafficking in human beings, especially in women and children, as well as an efficient search for missing children and protection of children after they have been found, applying a comprehensive approach, with the aim of eliminating this specific form of violence by promoting a society free of all forms of exploitation, violence, discrimination and economic and social inequalities.
– Respecting human rights in accordance with international standards
– Tolerance and appreciation of differences
– Highest standards of work
– Dedication and commitment
ASTRA was established in 2000 as the first actor to raise the issue of human trafficking in Serbia. ASTRA applies a holistic approach to the human trafficking problem, i.e. it deals with all forms of human trafficking and all categories of survivors – women, children and men, focusing its activities concurrently on direct victim assistance and reintegration, prevention, education, public awareness raising, research and networking, advocacy at a strategic and operational level and supporting the building of a functional and efficient counter-trafficking system which fully respects victims’ rights.
Serbia is the country of origin, transit and destination/exploitation of trafficking victims. At the beginning of our work, the whole of society – both citizens and state authorities – were ignorant of the problem and how important it was to fight it. For this reason, ASTRA pays special attention to work on public awareness raising and human trafficking prevention, as well as to the education of all actors – government and civil society – involved in the process of assisting survivors in their recovery and reintegration and criminal prosecution of perpetrators.
So far ASTRA conducted or participated in nine large-scale anti-trafficking media campaigns “Open Your Eyes” (2002), “There Is a Way Out” (2004), “Save the Children from Human Trafficking” (2005), “Child Trafficking – Our Reality” (2006), “Naked Facts” (2008), “Stop Trafficking in Children” (2011), “Labour Exploitation. Human Trafficking. Serious and Organized Crime” and “Stop Labour Exploitation” (2012), “Prevent, protect, compensate” (2014).
Within its Prevention and Education Program ASTRA has organized or participated as lecturer in basic and specialized trainings for police officers, judges and prosecutors, medical doctors, school teachers, social workers, NGO activists, human rights lawyers and media representatives. Special attention is paid to work with young people, who are, although broad and diverse, the category under high risk of trafficking. They are reached out through workshops, lectures, street actions, peer education, etc. and ASTRA’s activists seek to be present at all events frequented by young people.
ASTRA SOS Hotline and Direct Victim Assistance Program was launched in March 2002. In the beginning, it was designed as an info service for the prevention of human trafficking, but its scope was extended only one month later when the first call involving actual exploitation was received. Until the end of July 2018, we received more than 35200 calls from 5440 clients. Of this figure, 503 persons were identified and/or assisted as trafficked persons, 171 of whom were children. ASTRA SOS Hotline is still the only hotline in Serbia specialized for human trafficking problem, both in the area of prevention, direct assistance to trafficking victims and support to their families and communities.
ASTRA SOS Hotline +381 11 785 0000 or 0800 101 201 (free of charge for clients calling from the territory of Serbia) is available 27/4.
Since May 2012, ASTRA has been operating European Hotline Number for Missing Children 116 000 for the territory of Serbia.
Direct victim assistance is provided taking care of the best interest and individual needs of trafficked persons and with full participation of the client in question. As a service provider, ASTRA abides by the principles of trust, respect for differences and individual wishes, needs and pace of recovery, non-discrimination and highest standards at work. All cases are run and monitored based on individual case management plans with full respect of the client’s pace, wishes and needs.
Services available to trafficking survivors and their families through ASTRA SOS Hotline and Direct Victim Assistance Program include counseling and support in the process of search, identification, recovery and reintegration; psychological assistance (individual and group therapy, self help groups etc.); legal assistance (legal advice and representation in court in criminal and civil proceedings); medical assistance (general and specialized check-ups, medicamentous therapy, lab analyses, HIV and STD testing, dental treatments, etc.). Within this program, there is also ASTRA Mobile Team that is in charge of field actions, ready to accompany clients in the field from the moment of their identification until the end of recovery and reintegration process, helping them to successfully overcome all administrative barriers that emerge on the path of realization of their basic civil and human rights. In the process of reintegration, of great importance are also the activities aimed at improving clients’ economic potential and employability. This includes a range of activities – formal and informal vocational and adult education programs, economic empowerment trainings, foreign language and PC courses and job search counseling support.
Reintegration program was additionally strengthened by the launching of ASTRA Day Center in January 2007. It is intended primarily for victims who do not live in shelters and who are thus left outside any victim assistance scheme. For them, ASTRA Day Center is a safe place where clients can attend various activities in which design and planning they participate – creative workshops, sports and the like. ASTRA Day Center is a safe place for adolescents who live in homes for children without parental care and who are under greater risk of falling victim to trafficking.
Besides direct victim assistance, ASTRA SOS hotline also has a preventive role. The calls of preventive nature make up nearly one fifth of all calls received to ASTRA SOS Hotline. Namely, since the recruitment of trafficking victims in Serbia is done mostly through formal and informal job offers, it is only in ASTRA where citizens may obtain information and tips about safe migration, employment and education possibilities in the country and abroad, as well as employment-related legal advice, i.e. checking up the legitimacy of employers, destinations and offered employment contracts.
To provide better help for its clients and to enhance prevention and victim protection mechanism, ASTRA cooperates, through networks or on case-to-case basis with numerous organizations from Serbia and worldwide. As a contribution to local community capacity building and decentralization, ASTRA has also built and provided training to a network of 8 NGOs, all of them independent organizations that work, inter alia, on human trafficking prevention in their local communities.
Research activity is another important segment of ASTRA’s work. When ASTRA was started, the problem of human trafficking in Serbia was not widely known nor theoretically studied. At the same time, human trafficking is a very dynamic phenomenon, while traffickers, in order to maintain high profits, adapt very quickly to changes in the field and risks that result from improved work of all anti-trafficking actors, changing their modus operandi. ASTRA Research and Reporting Program has arisen out of the need to examine changes in human trafficking trends, after they have been detected, for fight against this social evil to be as successful as possible. Also, our wish is to leave written proof of our experience and acquired knowledge, thus helping everybody working in the anti-trafficking area, now and in future. Since 2004, ASTRA publishes quarterly e-newsletter which gives an overview of all anti-trafficking activities carried out in Serbia and is distributed to more than 1000 addresses.