– Most of us never personally witness or experience human trafficking and we form our understanding of these crimes through presentations made by others, says Vineta Polatside from the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) secretariat.

For several years, CBSS has been involved in a number of initiatives and projects to tackle the consequences of trafficking in the region. One of the latest projects, HOF-BSR which is funded by the Swedish Institute, dealt with assistance to victims of trafficking. One initiative within the project was to invite journalists to talk about trafficking. The purpose was the visibility aspect, explains Vineta Polatside.

– Prevention and combating of human trafficking are closely linked to the visibility of this crime. Visibility of the crime is necessary to put human trafficking on the agenda of policy makers, police and social workers, as well as society in general. Media is therefore a very important target group for our activities. Our intention was to make journalists more aware about the complexities of this crime and the more active role that they could play in reporting on these issues. In our work so far, we have managed to establish direct contacts with faculties of journalism in our member states, and universities are eager to continue the work in this field.

The broader purpose of the project was ambitious: to establish the Baltic Sea region as a model region for assistance to victims of human trafficking.

– We are not there quite yet, but we reached some important results, says Vineta Polatside.

One part of the project was to develop a tool, called Transnational Referral Mechanism.

– This tool will guide professionals working with victims of trafficking in the Baltic Sea region, as well as Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine. It will assist professionals in providing support and protection to victims across national borders.

Vineta Polatside explains that in cases of transnational trafficking, victims are often transferred from one assistance system in the country of destination to another system in the country of origin. If these systems do not complement each other and are able to provide a smooth transition, the individual is left without support and runs the risk of being re-trafficked. It was against this background that they developed the Transnational Referral Mechanism.

– In general, the funding from SI has contributed to ensuring that society in the Baltic Sea region is better informed of the risk factors and vulnerabilities that facilitate human trafficking, concludes Vineta Polatside.

Facts:

The project “HOF-BSR” is funded by SI through the funding scheme “Seed funding for cooperation projects in the Baltic Sea region”. SI provides funding for joint projects in which organisations based in Sweden meet transnational challenges together with organisations from the Baltic Sea region countries including Russia and the countries of the EU Eastern Partnership.

The project HOF-BSR is also implemented as a response to the mandate CBSS has in the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, as responsible for the policy area “Secure”, which focuses on, among other things, cross-border crime. SI has over the years provided funding for several projects that CBSS has run in collaboration with actors in the Baltic Sea region regarding human trafficking.