For additional information, see Human trafficking.
File:Europe countries map ee.png

Eastern Europe Post-1992

While Human trafficking has existed for centuries all over the world, it has become an increasing concern for countries in Eastern Europe since the fall of Communism. The transition to a market economy has led to both opportunity and a loss of security for citizens of these countries. Economic hardship and promises of prosperity have left many Eastern Europeans vulnerable to trafficking within their countries and to destinations in other parts of Europe and the world. Unique to Eastern Europe are some of the situations that support trafficking, such as organized crime, and the recruitment strategies that perpetuate it. While some generalizations can be made, the countries within this region face different challenges and are at varying stages of compliance with the rules that govern trafficking in persons.

Causes[edit | edit source]

The collapse of the Soviet Union has been identified as one of the main contributing factors in explaining the recent increase in human trafficking in Eastern Europe. It provided both human capital and new regional opportunities to fuel the expansion.[1] After this period, trafficking victims, primarily women, expanded to include more diverse forms, aided by the rise of organized crime, corruption, and the decline of borders.[2] Porous borders and close proximity to Western Europe have made it easier and cheaper to transport victims within the region and abroad.[1]

Another factor contributing to the rise in trafficking in Eastern Europe has been militarization and war in the Balkans. The presence of a large number of foreign men in the Balkans after the war in Yugoslavia led to the trafficking of thousands of Eastern European girls for commercial sex exploitation.[3] The connection between military bases and sex work is a well-known phenomenon and soldiers have helped drive the demand for brothels in this region.[1]

Prevalence[edit | edit source]

Although all forms of trafficking exist in Eastern Europe, sex trafficking has received the most attention and exploitation of women in this area has been widely publicized in the media.[2] Between 2003-2004, 85% of the victims that were assisted were victims of sexual exploitation.[4] "The distinctiveness of post-Soviet and Eastern European trafficking is the speed with which it grew and globalized. There was no long-existing trade in human beings or established networks to facilitate this business. Instead, the conditions of the transitional societies created the ideal conditions conducive to trade in human beings. Now, years after initial transition, all forms of human trafficking are endemic in the region, a result of poverty, ineffective counter-measures, the frequent collusion of government officials in this trade, and the rise of criminal entrepreneurship."[2]

Trafficking typologies[edit | edit source]

The following table details trafficking typologies unique to the countries of Eastern Europe.[5] These three typologies, developed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Professor Louise Shelley are useful in developing law enforcement strategies to combat trafficking. Because Eastern Europe encompasses many countries with diverse political histories, three typologies apply to this region. Similarities exist between these three categories and when compared with typologies of other regions and countries, it is evident that trafficking in Eastern Europe is more likely to involve women, violence, and be connected with other forms of organized crime.

Eastern Europe Post-Soviet Balkans
  • Single leader
  • Clear hierarchy
  • Internal discipline
  • Named group
  • Social/ethnic identity
  • Violence integral
  • Influence/control over a particular territory
  • Participate primarily in the trafficking of women
  • Use victims like a natural and expendable resource
  • Sell to nearby trading partners
  • High violence and human rights abuses
  • Often “break” women before they leave the country of origin
  • Almost all trafficking in women
  • Middlemen for Russian organized crime
  • Increasingly integrated as take over sex businesses in destination countries
  • Involvement of top level law enforcement in home countries
  • Use profits to finance other illegal activities, and invest in property and business elsewhere
  • Considerable violence

Recruitment[edit | edit source]

Crime groups in the Balkans and the former Soviet Union have achieved success by being flexible and altering their routes and methods to suit the rapidly changing global market.[2] Previous work experience and high education levels have enabled traffickers to "produce fraudulent documents, utilize advanced communications technology, and operate successfully across borders."[2] Their personal connections and ability to utilize advanced technology has posed a challenge for many governments and law enforcement agencies seeking to investigate and prosecute traffickers. Also unique to Eastern Europe is the advanced education of many of the trafficked victims. Although well qualified for employment in their home countries, victims often seek better opportunities or pay abroad. Many ploys have been used to recruit more educated victims including marriage and employment agencies, fake modeling agencies, film production studios, and work and study abroad opportunities.[2] Because legitimate opportunities exist in these areas, it is often difficult to separate the fraudulent advertisements from the credible opportunities. These printed advertisements are rarely vetted.

Child trafficking[edit | edit source]

Child trafficking in Eastern Europe is mostly likely to occur in children younger than twelve (for begging, theft, and other street crimes) and older than 15 (for commercial sexual exploitation).[3] Cultural taboos generally prevent the trafficking of young boys for sexual exploitation, however, some cases have been noted among Romanian children trafficked abroad. Susceptible to trafficking are children with disabilities and children belonging to specific ethnic minorities, such as the Jevgjit in Albania and the Romani people in other parts of the region. A UNICEF report conducted in 2006, noted that children meeting these criteria were not generally the victims of outside traffickers, but members of their own community, who sought to generate an income from their sale abroad.[3] This report also highlighted five common characteristics of children at risk for trafficking in Eastern Europe. These included:[3]

  • children who suffer domestic violence
  • children who lack family support and protection (ex. children living in institutions)
  • children who have dropped out of school
  • children belonging to ethnic minorities (ex. Roma)
  • children who have been previously trafficked

Challenges[edit | edit source]

Although anti-trafficking campaigns over the past few years have led to improvements in some forms of trafficking, data collection and management has continued to be a problem for countries in Eastern Europe.[6] Data collection is an important tool for monitoring country and regional trends and its analysis is often used to shape anti-trafficking policies. It is important to collect data on both the victims and their traffickers and information on investigation and prosecution rates are often utilized when assessing a country's performance.

Some of the data collection problems identified in this region are:[6]

  • the percentage of crimes committed versus those identified, investigated, and prosecuted is not well understood
  • cooperation is needed by a wide variety of actors and reported statistics need to be standardized across organizations and agencies
  • a lack of trust between NGOs and the government may prohibit the open sharing of information, especially if NGOs feel that sharing information about their clients will put either the victim or the organization at risk
  • there may be linguistic, cultural, and inter-personal barriers that lead victims to underreport occurrences
  • some incidences of trafficking are investigated as smuggling, prostitution, etc., which keeps them from being captured in databases
  • incidents investigated as trafficking may continue to remain classified as such, even if they are reclassified as a lesser charge

To address these issues, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, in cooperation with national governments and NGOs, has begun the process of forming a standardized approach to data collection and reporting in Eastern Europe.

The Role of NGOs[edit | edit source]

See Further Reading: 'Second Annual Report on Victims of Trafficking in South-Eastern Europe' for a list of NGOs working to combat human trafficking

While there are a multitude of factors that limit the ability of NGOs to respond to trafficking, such as lack of funding, extensive mandates, and lack of government support, NGOs play a critical supporting role for victims in Eastern Europe.[7] Most NGOs, which emerged during the 1990s, initially struggled to hold their ground against increasingly predatory traffickers.[8] While their success varies from country to country, NGOs are often credited with stepping in and taking initiative where governments have failed. Victims are often more likely to trust NGOs because "many trafficked persons fear and distrust state-based organizations as they frequently enter destination countries illegally, or have had their documentation removed on arrival."[8] Fear of deportation, being forced to testify, or retaliation by their traffickers also contribute to their reluctance to approach statutory agencies for support. NGOs have risen to fill this gap and provide services to victims. Services they offer include:[7]

  • legal, social, and psychological counseling and reintegration support
  • education and awareness about the risks of trafficking
  • informational and statistical support and research
  • lobbying for victims rights[8]

Country Snapshot[edit | edit source]

Countries Source/Transit/Destination Country Tier
Albania source 2
Bosnia-Herzegovina source, transit, destination 1
Bulgaria source, transit, destination 2
Croatia source, transit, destination 1
Kosovo source, transit, destination 2
Macedonia source, transit, destination 2
Moldova source, transit, destination 2 WL
Montenegro source, transit, destination 2
Romania source, transit, destination 2
Serbia source, transit, destination 2


TIER 1 Countries whose governments fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards

TIER 2 Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards

TIER 2 WATCH LIST Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards, AND: a) the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing; b) there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or, c) the determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year

TIER 3 Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so

For Country Specific Information[edit | edit source]




References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Kligman, Gail; Limoncelli, Stephanie (Spring 2005). "Trafficking Women after Socialism: To, Through, and From Eastern Europe". Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Society 12 (1): 118–140. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Shelley, Louise I. (2010). Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. pp. 174. ISBN 978-0-521-13087-5. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Dottridge, Mike. "Action to Prevent Child Trafficking in South Eastern Europe: A Preliminary Assessment". UNICEF. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  4. Surtees, Rebecca (2008). "Traffickers and Trafficking in Southern and Eastern Europe: Considering the Other Side of Human Trafficking". European Journal of Criminology 5 (1): 39–68. 
  5. Kelly, Liz. "Data and Research on Human Trafficking: A Global Survey". "You Can Find Anything You Want": A Critical Reflection on Research on Trafficking in Persons within and into Europe. IOM International Organization for Migration. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Handbook on Anti-Trafficking Data Collection in South-Eastern Europe: Developing Regional Criteria". International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD). Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hoff, Suzanne. "The role of NGOs in combating human trafficking and supporting (presumed) trafficked persons". The International La Strada Association. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Tzvetkova, Marina (March 2002). "NGO Responses to Trafficking in Women". Gender and Development 10 (1): 60–68. 
  9. "Trafficking in Persons Report 2010". The U.S. State Department. Retrieved 11 April 2011. 

Further reading[edit | edit source]

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