Summary of conversation with Silvia Berbec, Asociatia Pro Refugiu
Asociatia Pro Refugiu, (Pro Refuge Association) work both to offer legal support through a network of 10 lawyers and psychosocial support to members of their target groups; trafficked persons, asylum seekers and refugees throughout Romania. They recently ran a successful campaign in schools with young people to offer training in how to use their National Online Platform which helps young people identify the risks of trafficking in terms which are accessible to them which equips them to avoid the dangers and share these lessons with friends.
Can you tell us about the human trafficking situation in Romania and its impact on peoples’ lives?
Romania is considered to be a country of origin, transit and destination for victims of human trafficking where statistics show that almost 1000 victims are identified annually, however of course the real number of victims is much higher. According to statistics provided by the Romanian National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons in 2011 around 743 victims (from a total number of 1048 identified victims) were subjected to human trafficking outside the country where the majority were trafficked to Spain, Italy, Greece and Germany, although there is internal trafficking as well. Around 30% of victims in Romania are children. Data from 2011 and 2012 reveal the most common forms of exploitation experienced by trafficked persons were sexual exploitation, labor exploitation and forced begging. As is the case for many victims of human trafficking the recovery is very slow and there is a need for a long period of specialized support such as psychological, social, legal counseling and assistance during the rehabilitation process.
How does Asociatia Pro Refugiu work with trafficked persons, asylum seekers, refugees or other groups or individuals to identity their needs and make sure these needs are met?
In order to identify the needs of trafficked persons, asylum seekers and refugees our organization works closely with the Romanian General Inspectorate for Immigration, National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons and other NGOs. We are privileged that through our close partnerships with the Romanian authorities we are allowed access to the special centres where refuges and other target groups we work stay. From there our staff can offer services and we can also offer the services one of the 10 lawyers in our network. These lawyers provide legal counsel to explain the national legislation processes and offer legal representation if it is desired. The refugee or other target group member will then have the same lawyer that initially offered them counsel to represent them and so we provide a comprehensive support system. NGOs in similar fields of work also refer to us trafficked persons or those from other target groups we work with so the reach of our network of lawyers can extend further throughout different regions in Romania. We keep files for the individuals we support so that we can remain updated about the services each member of the target group is receiving and we can monitor progress in order to better provide for this person’s needs.
How does Asociatia Pro Refugiu’s legal work and campaigning in schools with young people address the issues of human trafficking? What are some of your achievements and continued challenges in these areas of work? What role do you see for young people in challenging some of the issues of human trafficking?
As mentioned, Asociatia Pro Refugiu has a network of 10 lawyers who provide necessary assistance to prepare victims of human trafficking, asylum seekers and refugees for their interactions with authorities such as Immigration authority, police, prosecutor or national courts. Our work with young people addresses the concern that they are a group who are vulnerable to trafficking and one which responds well to online information dissemination. Therefore following a national campaign in 2012 to raise awareness in schools of our National Online Platform http://youth-against-humantrafficking.org/, we offer continued training on the use of the Platform so young people are able to obtain relevant information in order to be able to identify the risks of trafficking, protect themselves and also to transmit the message to other young people. We are pleased that this is a success as we currently have over 400 participants using the Platform, some from different regions of Romania which proves young people are good communicators for this positive work.
As an Alliance GAATW are always interested to learn more about the networking and collaborative work our Members do. Please could you tell us more about your experiences working with public authorities, Romanian or foreign associate ions and foundations with similar interests. What have been some of the benefits and challenges of partnering with others?
Asociatia Pro Refugiu has a good relationship of communication exchange with relevant authorities such as the Romanian General Inspectorate for Immigration and National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons. We work with them in our workshops and round table discussions to discuss and identify useful strategies and tactics to improve the specialized assistance for the target groups we work with. Special collaboration protocols have been established with these as well as fellow NGOs in order to refer victims of human trafficking, asylum seekers and refugees to our services. Additionally we maintain record of which other national and foreign NGOs or service providers, such as psychologists or legal counselors, we work with in order to exchange data concerning members of target groups that need counseling and assistance and share good practices among our fellow specialists. We hope this will allow our network to continue to expand as these collaborations and partnerships essentially benefit the groups we work with as well as provide the opportunities for like-minded organisations to learn from each other.
More information about Asociatia Pro Refugiu's campaign:
Since March 2011, Association Pro Refugiu started a special campaign to inform young people about the implications of the phenomenon of human trafficking, the factors that can lead to the recruitment of victims, the applicable law. More than 5000 young people have been trained and continue to invite their friends from other schools to learn about the National Online Platform.
Pro Refugiu also distributes brochures for people who have been victims of trafficking, the aim is to inform them about their rights in criminal proceedings. The importance lies in giving basic legal education to victims and encourage them to access services they are entitled to receive