Preventing Trafficking and Protecting Victims in Moldova

The Republic of Moldova is a country of origin for human trafficking. In previous years, most victims from Moldova were sexually exploited, at the moment the situation is diverse due to the fact that multiple cases of labour and begging exploitation are recorded and assisted. The victims are women, men, girls and boys. While anyone can fall victim to trafficking, in Moldova women, children and the disabled were especially vulnerable to recruitment. According to actual trends, we should consider men as being the most vulnerable for organized criminal groups, for the purpose of labour exploitation. Hoping to find a better life abroad and to help their families, many migrants are lured by false promises and trapped by traffickers. To combat trafficking, the IOM Mission in Moldova is implementing a comprehensive Prevention and Protection Programme.

Assistance, Protection and Prevention

Identification is the first step in the assistance and protection process. If the identification of a Moldovan victim of trafficking happens abroad, IOM is contacted to arrange the return to Moldova. On arrival, the victim is offered the opportunity to go directly to the Centre for Assistance and Protection specialized in crisis assistance. Referral to the Centre can also come from within Moldova – from the police, from an NGO or, for example, through a social worker identifying a victim in their own community. However, as preventing a person from being trafficked is just as important as assisting and protecting the victims, IOM's counter-trafficking programme also caters for at-risk cases. These potential victims have a profile similar to that of victims prior to their trafficking experience – vulnerable families, children left behind, victims of domestic violence, unaccompanied minors, persons with a low level of education, and those from poor rural areas with minimal opportunities.

Through direct attention and assistance, women, men and children can escape the deceptive scenarios and false promises of traffickers. Catering for a wide variety of circumstances requires efforts from several organizations, institutions and individuals. The framework in Moldova for assistance cooperation was established by the National Referral System (NRS) for Assistance and Protection of Victims and Potential Victims of Trafficking. The NRS was designed to facilitate access to protection services by establishing and employing referral procedures for identified (potential) victims in order to deliver quality services provided by the cooperative actors in the field.

The Cornerstone of Assistance – The Centre

The Assistance and Protection Centre is a place of refuge from trafficking in human beings. Operational since 2001, the Centre provides temporary shelter to victims of trafficking and at-risk cases – women and children – in a safe and welcoming environment. Child victims of trafficking and children of beneficiaries are catered for in child-friendly surroundings. During their stay, beneficiaries are offered a wide range of services including medical, psychological, social, legal, educational and recreational services. Since 2008, the Center was institutionalized and became a public institution, subordinated to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection.

By the end of 2017, the number of victims of trafficking assisted by IOM and the Centre was 3,403, including 337 children. The victims were trafficked to Turkey, the Russian Federation, Cyprus, Serbia, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates and other countries. In addition, a great number of victims of trafficking were identified within Moldova, subject to labor exploitation. The number of potential victims assisted within IOM programme is of 15,190 beneficiaries, in the period 2000-2017.

Priorities for the Future

Due to the hidden nature of trafficking and the stigma attached to victims by their communities, the real number of trafficking victims remains unknown. To combat this ever-changing phenomenon, the assistance programme is constantly being improved as the demand for assistance remains very high. An essential feature of counter-trafficking is raising awareness, including awareness of the changing methods of traffickers. The Government of Moldova is steadily increasing its ownership over the fight against trafficking, including financing of the running of the Centre and partially assisting financially the repatriation missions. However, in order to ensure quality services and effective assistance to identified (potential) victims, the Centre still requires constant support from donors and the coverage of repatriation expenses.