ASTRA SOS Hotline and Direct Victim Assistance program was started in mid-February 2002 by launching the first and still the only SOS line in Serbia specialized for the problem of human trafficking.
SOS Hotline has a double purpose: the provision of preventive and educational information (information on the problem of human trafficking and the possibilities for safe migrations and legal work abroad) and direct communication, for the purpose of assistance and support, with (potential) trafficking victims and their families, persons who are currently in the trafficking chain or who managed to get out without adequate psychosocial assistance.
Types of assistance available to ASTRA’s clients and (potential) trafficking victims include:
– Providing information on available assistance and support programs that exist in the Republic of Serbia and abroad, as well as contact with organizations that deal with the problem of human trafficking and direct work with (potential) victims of trafficking.
– Legal assistance, i.e. the provision of comprehensive information regarding status, rights and relevant legal procedures, as well as legal representation of trafficked persons in court proceedings.
– Psychological counseling and/or psychotherapy.
– Medical assistance.
– Support and accompanying through institutional procedures helping clients gain effective access to their rights (obtaining personal documents, assistance in realizing the right to child allowance, state benefits etc.)
– Long-term assistance in the process of (re)integration and social inclusion.
– Assistance in the process of return (voluntary return to the country of origin).
– Interpretation if ASTRA’s client is a foreign national or does not understand Serbian.
ASTRA Mobile Team
ASTRA Mobile Team has been formed for the purpose of field actions from the moment of identification of a trafficked person through recovery until their full (re)integration and social inclusion. Through Mobile Team, ASTRA provides technical support and transportation necessary for the realization of different types of assistance (legal, medical, psychological, etc.), as well as support during voluntary return and transportation to their place of residence.
ASTRA Mobile Team’s field actions are aimed at:
– accompanying clients through different institutions and organizations within the provision of the basic types of assistance;
– making home visits to clients, especially those who live outside Belgrade;
– establishing personal contact with trafficked persons’ family in the process of searches for missing persons.
Our practice shows that it is much easier for clients to contact ASTRA than official institutions. For this reason, accompanying them through institutions, such as social welfare centers, courts, municipalities, police, health institutions etc. is one of the basic forms of assistance directed at psycho-social support, overcoming administrative barriers in the realization of their rights and preventing secondary victimization.
ASTRA provides to trafficked persons information about their legal status as well as support during legal procedures.
ASTRA’s lawyers represent victims in the capacity of attorney throughout the proceedings against traffickers.
Further, since ASTRA’s clients are exposed to very stressful circumstances by participating in criminal proceedings not only as victims but as witnesses too, they have permanent support from both the lawyers and SOS consultants throughout the court proceedings.
By providing funds for lawyers and for court fees, ASTRA enabled its clients to file first compensation claims. Since victims’ damage claims so far are referred to litigation, ASTRA actively participate in the organization of arrival of foreign victims of trafficking, who have been repatriated in the meantime to their countries of origin and whose presence is necessary during litigation for the purpose of giving testimony and expert witnessing. Like in criminal proceedings, ASTRA’s attorneys and consultants monitor the whole process and accompany clients on all occasions where their direct involvement is required.
Having in mind the seriousness of trafficking experience, ASTRA provides psychological assistance and support in order to strengthen clients’ capacities to overcome PTSP.
Through ASTRA SOS Hotline, the consultants run informal counseling which includes maintaining regular contact, support in the situations of crisis, learning about and responding to clients’ needs and informing clients about the activities that take place at ASTRA Day Center. This is also an important channel for communicating with clients who live outside Belgrade and Serbia, for which reason it is difficult to maintain regular contact.
Professional psychological assistance in the form of professional counseling, psychotherapy, psychiatric sessions and group therapies are available to all trafficking victims as a basic form of assistance.
In cooperation with a private polyclinics, specialist doctors’ offices and, when needed, the Institute for Forensic Medicine, ASTRA provides necessary medical services to (potential) victims of trafficking. Our clients have the following types of services at their disposal:
– general health check-ups, specialist check-ups and lab analyses;
– anonymous HIV, HBV and HCV testing (including confidential pre- and post-test counseling);
– medical examination for the purpose of collecting documentation that is admissible in court.
ASTRA provides all services free of charge.