On March 12th and 13th in Belgrade, NGO ASTRA organized a regional conference “IMPORTANCE OF NATIONAL RAPPORTEUR AND EQUIVALENT MECHANISMS ON TRAFFICKING IN HUMAN BEINGS.” The meeting was part of the regional project Balkans Act Now! 3. The conference participants included local and international experts in the field of combating trafficking in human beings, representatives of the Serbian civil sector and partners organizations from Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Macedonia, Albania and the Netherlands, as well as government organizations and institutions from all five countries where the project is being implemented.
The first, introductory, session of this event was open to media representatives. The focus was to introduce the National Rapporteur institution and its role in combating trafficking in human beings. The speakers were Anni Valovirta, Senior Officer, The Office of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, from Finland; Frosina Kiprovska Lukich, The National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings, from North Macedonia; and Zoran Pašalić, Protector of Citizens / Ombudsman of Serbia. Speakers and attendees presented their opinions and experiences on the National Rapporteur in general, as well as ways in which this body functions in Finland and Northern Macedonia − mandates, conditions for their creation, influence on other actors engaged in fighting THB, added values etc.
The following session presented the findings of five national pilot reports on the state of affairs and trends in the field of combating trafficking in human beings in countries of the BAN region, created in the previous year by national expert teams. All partner organizations participating in the BAN3 project in their home countries have brought together teams composed of experts in the field of trafficking in human beings from the prosecutor’s office, MIA, social welfare centres, CSOs, as well as independent experts. Their task was to draft reports on the actions and results of governmental and non-governmental actors in the field of combating trafficking in human beings. Reports were written according to a predefined methodology and based on officially available data. They also included data considering models of available protection for potential victims, and description of rights and services available to victims who have managed to escape a trafficking situation. These reports differ across countries from one issue to another. Still, the following are common tendencies: unavailability or complete lack of data, inconsistent methods of work of actors in the field of combating trafficking in human beings, as well as non-cooperation of state bodies and institutions dealing with the problem of trafficking in human beings with the civil sector. All led to the conclusion that it is necessary to establish the Institute of the Independent Rapporteur in all BAN region countries, or, in the case of Northern Macedonia, to improve his work.
Third session was dedicated to the presentation of the “Comparative Study on National Rapporteurs in the Field of Trafficking in Human Beings and Equivalent Mechanisms”, by Marjan Wiers, who presented various models of this institute and pointed out their disadvantages and advantages. The overall conclusion is that the National Rapporteur should be as independent as possible, that is, not to be part of the institutions and state bodies whose work it should monitor. Otherwise, it may affect the objectivity of the periodic reports on the work of governmental and non-governmental actors in the field of combating trafficking in human beings, which NR should produce.
The following sessions were devoted to exchange of experience, best practices and common challenges related to cooperation between different actors in the field of combating trafficking in human beings in the BAN region; presenting the work of national coordinators from BAN countries, priorities in the future fight against trafficking in human beings; regional challenges in the fight against trafficking in human beings, as well as the current state of affairs and possibilities of establishing a National Rapporteur in the countries of the region.
In the coming period, the NGO ASTRA will advocate more actively the establishment of a National Rapporteur for Trafficking in Human Beings in Serbia.
The National Rapporteur is an independent body that should at the national level monitor achievements and results in the field of combating trafficking in human beings, the effects of official policies and making suggestions for their improvement. According to the 2011 EU Directive on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings EU member states are obliged to establish a National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings or an equivalent mechanism. For a long time, the Netherlands, with its National Rapporteur established in 2000, was a single case. However, since 2011, almost all EU Member States have established this institute, although most countries have opted for an equivalent mechanism. In 7 EU countries, the national coordinator is at the same time and national rapporteur (or vice versa): in Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Portugal and the Czech Republic; in 8 countries the role of national rapporteur is exercised by a governmental body, ranging from the Ministry of the Interior (Lithuania; Poland; Slovakia; Spain; Romania) and the police / Ministry of Justice (Sweden) to the Equal Opportunities Section of the Council of Ministers Presidency (Italy); while in 4 countries the function of national rapporteur is assigned to an independent body: MYRIA, Federal Center for Migration (Belgium); Commission nationale consultative des droits. Northern Macedonia is the only country in the BAN III project region that has appointed a National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings.