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(E) Trafficking in Women and Children
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  06/17/2002 | News | Unrated
(E) Trafficking in Women and Children

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 
tourism.

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 
enforcement,

· 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 
country.

Larry Cirignano, Esq.
CatholicVote.org   
PO Box 70695
Washington, DC 20024
609-781-0090
202-318-0789 fax
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