I swore never to be silent...
Trafficking in human beings (THB) is a multi-dimensional issue. It is a crime that deprives people of their basic rights and freedom, increases global health risks, fuels growing networks of organized crime, and is an obstacle to development. The impacts of human trafficking on the individual, family and society are devastating. Victims may suffer physical and emotional abuse, rape, and threats against themselves and their families. Human trafficking undermines the health, safety, and security of nations and has long-term implications for all of society. The proliferation of trafficking in Armenia has been driven by a combination of factors: man made and natural disasters such as war and earthquake; transitional processes that shook social and economic conditions creating an increase in unemployment and poverty; porous borders; and weak legislative protection and legal processes.
Through initiatives by the Republic of Armenia and international actors an effective counter trafficking policy has been developed, legislative changes have been introduced, and many activities have been implemented.The Government of Armenia (GoA) has ratified relevant international counter trafficking instruments, including the UN Palermo Convention and Protocol, and the Council of Europe (CoE) Convention on Actions Against Trafficking in Human Beings. The GoA has introduced important changes in its own legislation, such as strengthening concepts of THB as they relate to criminal legislation and creating better defined criminal sanctions.
In efforts to comply with minimum international standards, the GoA cooperated in a joint UMCOR/United Nations Development Program (UNDP) program that started in 2004. Under this program, UMCOR developed many important components to prevent trafficking: specialized information materials, seminars, awareness campaigns, radio and TV information programs, a hotline, a victims’ shelter and drop-in center. Effective cooperation has been established with relevant state partners, including border guards, police, the Prosecutor General’s Office, social, health and labor authorities on national and local levels, as well as NGOs and international agencies. Victims of trafficking (VoTs), both men and women, have received various packages of assistance including shelter, legal consulting and representation in court; individual and group psychological therapies; medical assistance including hospitalization; and reintegration activities such as vocational skills training, job placement and financial assistance.
A safe, confidential shelter of UMCOR is providing medical, psychological, employment and legal counseling, as well as reintegration services, for victims rescued from trafficking. It can house eight to ten survivors. Victims stay in the shelter depending on the psychological and physical recovery they need.
In 2010, UMCOR was approached by the GoA to develop a joint model for a national shelter for VoTs with financial support from the GoA. This collaboration and the state financial support covers expenses connected with the shelter premise rent and continued in 2012 as well.
UMCOR also provides project beneficiaries vocational skills trainings and covers their living expenses until they would be able to earn money themselves. Reintegration services also include employment counseling, which refers victims to exsting resources such as governmental programs or projects of local and international NGOs for employment or vocational training. UMCOR staff conducts trainings on health related issues (Prevention of HIV/AIDS and STIs; reproductive health, etc.).
UMCOR maintained the toll-free hotline to prevent human trafficking and to assist VoTs by providing a variety of information to clients including advice about laws and rights of migrants in the destination country, how to access assistance in the destination country, and refer clients to available assistance for health, employment, shelter, medical and legal aid issues.
UMCOR anti-trafficking hotline
“I swore never to be silent, whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim…” (Elie Wiesel)
A girl of 15 years old married to a 35 years old man who was connected with a criminal world. The young girl day and night was served to all his family and wasn’t allowed to go to sleep until her husband came home. Usually he came home no earlier than 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning and it was the only time that she could have a rest for 1 or 2 hours. From 7 in the morning all routine home work started again. After two years of marriage she had a child who died at the maternity hospital. Her husband was imprisoned for theft. The girl wanted to return to her parental home, but her family due to the old traditions didn’t accept her back and she was left completely alone at the age of 17 years old.
So called “well-wishers” offered her a good payable work in one of cafés in Moscow, as a waitress, but instead of Moscow she was transferred to United Arab Emirates where she was forced into prostitution. She refused to work and was beaten many times, at the end when they couldn’t break her resistance and just thrown her out of the window from the third floor. The girl didn’t die but had broken her vertebra and became bedridden, her legs and hands as a result of the fracture were paralyzed. Of course there was no medical assistance provided, she was left lying and suffering. After two months when the sensibility of her hands and legs was recovered she was sent without any documents to Kazakhstan. There she was picked up by a man for whom she has been working as a housemaid for six years. Then she managed to escape and was arrested by police, who deported her to Armenia.
In Armenia she was identified as a victim of trafficking by police and was referred to UMCOR shelter for assistance. Although her stay at the shelter was voluntary, it was very difficult to establish a contact with her. All the hardships she went through isolated her from society, she lost her trust in people, faith in future and the meaning of life. Thanks to the efforts of shelter’s psychologists, who used different approaches for psychological rehabilitation, she returned to life both morally and emotionally. As a result of medical assistance with a focus on her back problems she recovered physically. The vocational courses of florist design has opened for her a new world full of colors and beauty, she made interesting compositions of flowers showing the progress of recovery. With the legal assistance she got a new passport that also was a sign of a new start in life. Moreover, for her complete reintegration into society the shelter staff had hardly worked with her family, so that they were able to accept their lost child. The process of rehabilitation was a long one, but successful. Time has passed; she got married again and is going to have a child soon.