Fighting Trafficking With Pens and Paper

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I have to admit that I was particularly excited to go back to Chisinau. I spent around four years there working with IOM Moldova in IOM’s counter trafficking programme, but since the very beginning the Republic of Moldova meant much more than work to me.

I will not spend additional words on this, but all the people who know me know also that I could be easily appointed as the most passionate Italian ambassador of Moldova in the world.

So, I went back earlier this month for a workshop on combatting trafficking, and within minutes I found myself challenged by a  comment that had long been forming as a question in my mind.

“We fight trafficking in persons on the streets, but also in places like this, with pens and paper, because that is how many things get done”. This was the opening line of Ms. Julie Stufft, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy (pictured below).

It reminded me of all those times when I asked myself if sitting at a desk and revising or drafting documents “is really the best way at my disposal to counter this crime?” The fact that we still need to sit around a table and make the same recommendations for years in a row, does it mean that we are going towards the wrong direction?

Can we really attain the Sustainable Development Goals´ and eliminate trafficking by 2030? When I look at the problem this way, I can certainly say that no, we are not going to make it. But events like the one I attended in Chisinau  can make the difference. It was not just about presenting slideshows and data: participants got really involved and discussed practical cases sharing best – and worst – practices.

Many specialists talked about how in their countries National Referral Mechanisms (NRM) have been designed and some very honestly admitted that things sometimes are not working as expected, especially in the context of mixed migration flows.

The fact that only one-digit number of victims have been identified in the Western Balkans in the last years within the migrant population, against the thousands and thousands of migrants who crossed the region towards Europe or who are stranded still along the route is the clear testimony of a protection gap that needs to be filled as soon as possible, to halt the extensive violation of the rights of those whom we claim to protect

Just to mention one case: Daniela Buruiana from EUROJUST shared her experience on transnational cooperation for the investigation and prosecution of a case of trafficking. It was about a number of Romanian girls from the Pitesti district being trafficked for sexual exploitation. I suddenly remembered that when I was working for an NGO in Romania, I met a young girl from Pitesti, who was deceived by a guy who claimed to love her, and instead took her to the Netherlands and forced her into prostitution. She was rescued by a joint police operation and entered a rehabilitation programme and by the time I met her, she still had serious medical and psychological issues, but she was safe.

So yes, we fight trafficking in persons on the streets, but also with pens and paper.

Chiara Tognetti is a programme assistant at IOM's Vienna Regional Office


Ms. Julie Stufft, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy (right) speaking at the meeting