Shelter Assistance to VoTs in Armenia 2013
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
Shelter Assistance to Victims of Trafficking in Armenia
Project Implementation Period: January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2013.
Donor: UMCOR, MOLSA
The UMCOR-operated shelter is a secure and comfortable place for victims of trafficking to begin their reintegration process. The shelter staff, including the medical personnel (doctors and nurses), psychologists, a lawyer, security and administrative staff have all passed specialized trainings on working with victims of trafficking. In addition, the medical staff is also trained in conducting HIV voluntary counseling and testing, which can be relevant for victims.
Victims are referred to UMCOR for assistance by law enforcement, social and medical agencies, local NGOs, UMCOR’s hotline, and the consular departments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. UMCOR provides assistance to both national and foreign victims of trafficking. Those victims who prefer not to stay at the shelter receive the same package of the assistance. All victims are provided with medical assistance, including a general medical examination, surgical and gynecological treatment and psychological therapy. The medical examinations and medical interventions are arranged at regional hospitals. Psychologists regularly conduct individual and group therapy sessions with the victims at the shelter. The UMCOR lawyer also consults them about their rights and helps those with problems with documents or other legal issues. During court cases, UMCOR provids victims with an attorney and escorts them to court.
UMCOR’s toll-free telephone hotline, which started in July 2004, is an effective means to reach vulnerable people, to provide immediate help to victims, and to refer those who call about social and legal justice issues to relevant agencies. The hotline operators provide information related to trafficking, safe migration and assistance options from state and non-state agencies for employment- and migration-related issues. The project lawyer provides consultations through the hotline, as well.
The hotline plays an important role not only as a prevention tool but also as a part of the victim referral process when victims are identified through the hotline and are then referred to the appropriate service providers for assistance.