Press Briefing Notes
Friday 14 June 2002
International Organization for Migration
CROATIA - Trafficking in Women and Children for Sexual Exploitation - A new
IOM report on trafficking of women and children in Croatia sheds light on
the extent of this practice and underlines the need for the authorities to
take appropriate action to counter this phenomenon.
The report, published by IOM with the Center for Transition and Civil
Society Research, suggests that trafficking in Croatia is more serious than
fragmentary and incomplete official data indicates.
Statistics on illegal crossings into Croatia show a constant increase over
the last five years, with no attempt made to distinguish smuggled from
trafficked persons. Despite this, Croatia is generally considered to be a
transit country for trafficked women on their way to Western Europe.
According to data from the Croatian Ministry of Interior (MOI), the
percentage of trafficked women and children is very small compared to other
types of criminal activity.
From 1998 to 2000, only five criminal offences were reported relating to
Article 175 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Croatia (Establishment
of Slavery and the Transport of Slaves) and 21 offences relating to Article
178 (International Prostitution). These cases involved 24 female victims of
trafficking: 22 adults (10 from Hungary, 7 from Ukraine, 3 from Romania, 1
from Bulgaria and 1 from Slovakia) and two minors from Romania. But
unofficial police estimates suggest that the number of victims of
trafficking could be 10 times higher than those officially recorded.
The data indicates that Italy is the main country of destination for female
victims of trafficking after they leave Croatia.
The report notes that from January 1998 until December 2000, the MOI issued
work permits to 296 foreign women who requested permission to stay in
Croatia. Some 34% were from Bosnia and Herzegovina, 22% from Slovenia,
11.5% Ukraine, some 10% from Romania, and the remainder from the Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), Hungary, the Former Yugoslav Republic of
Macedonia, Bulgaria, Moldova and Albania.
The report reveals that victims of trafficking from Moldova, Romania and
Ukraine are sold to Croatian traffickers at "collecting centres" located in
Serbia and Bosnia Herzegovina. One such centre is the "Arizona market"; a
huge unregulated market situated near the border between Croatia and FRY. A
similar market also exists in Bihac, near Bosanski Petrovac.
Trafficking in Croatia has changed significantly during the last decade
In the first half of the 90s, trafficking was concentrated in Zagreb and
its surroundings. The main and possibly the sole trafficking route was from
Hungary to Zagreb. Trafficked women were mainly employed in nightclubs and
bars on the outskirts of the capital. This first phase was abruptly ended
by a series of raids in 1996-1997.
In the later half of the 90s, several routes from Bosnia and Herzegovina
replaced the Hungarian connection. Trafficking networks also became more
geographically dispersed. The business spread to tourist towns and places
frequented by military personnel.
The most recent trend seems to be seasonal or temporary employment of women
trafficked from Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as wider international sex
No single official strategy or response to trafficking
Interviews with police officers revealed that some tended to ignore or
minimise the extent of the problem whilst others did not recognise
trafficking as a serious issue. All said corruption, lack of training and
resources, and the absence of a clear and decisive plan of action hindered
any policing attempt.
The report recommends a policy change based on efficient policing and on
providing assistance to trafficked individuals. This can be achieved through:
· Special training and additional resources for the police force,
including border officers;
· Regional coordination/sharing of information and intelligence on
organized crime, trafficking routes, etc.
· The establishment of a counter-trafficking unit with regional offices;
· Legal reforms and training programmes for judges and other law
· The establishment of a safe-house/shelter (including legal and
psychological counselling) for trafficked women and children;
· The establishment of a protection and assistance programme
allowing/encouraging trafficked victims to prosecute their traffickers;
· Stronger mass media involvement to ensure trafficked women and
children are perceived as victims, and traffickers as criminals; and
· The setting up of a coordinated network of organisations and
institutions including governmental offices, NGOs, international
organisations and foreign embassies to provide assistance, coordinate
fund-raising and promote research activities.
The reports adds that the general public in Croatia is generally well aware
of trafficking, with almost two thirds of the respondents saying they had
heard of cases of organised prostitution involving foreign women in the
Larry Cirignano, Esq.
PO Box 70695
Washington, DC 20024