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Promoting the Rights of Trafficked Persons: Training of Social Workers in Eastern Europe

27 November 2013

In October and November of this year three training sessions were organized for social workers who provide legal counselling to victims of human trafficking in Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.

In these sessions, local social workers were trained to provide legal counseling to trafficked persons in their countries. The training program is part of the project Promotion of the Rights of Trafficked Persons in Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia with Emphasis on Legal Support –  A Human Rights-Based Approach, a 3 year project for social workers and lawyers supported by the European Commission.

Up to now in all three countries there are very few social workers trained in working with trafficked persons. State-funded legal aid for the victims is scarce and often limited to no more than the formal presence of a lawyer during the trial. Many actors in the judicial system, including police, prosecutors, judges and lawyers, lack the desirable knowledge about trafficking and its psychological, social and health impacts on its victims. At the same time, NGOs – who often provide all the services for victims, such as psychological and legal aid – are not trained in providing legal counseling and only have limited funds to pay for legal aid and representation.

The aim of the training of social workers in the three partner countries (15-20 social workers per country) was to improve the social workers’ knowledge and skills relevant to the issue at hand. The social workers are often the first to come in contact with (potential) victims of trafficking in for example social work centers, detention centers, reception centers for asylum seekers, foster homes and charity institutions. The training sessions were led by a variety of experienced social workers, lawyers and NGO members. The selected social workers were trained on important issues such as the relevant legal procedures, rights of trafficked victims as well as the services to which victims are entitled. Besides giving social and psychological assistance, social workers that come in contact with (potential) victims of trafficking should also be able to provide basic legal advice. Moreover, the sessions also aimed to strengthen cooperation amongst the social workers and create a network of active, specialized social workers, as well as cooperation between social workers and lawyers.

The training program has been a great success and will be followed up by an intensive training for local lawyers in 2014.

Partners: ANIMUS Association Foundation (Bulgaria), Ruse Catholic Organization Caritas (Bulgaria), The Human Rights League (Slovakia), ADPARE – The Association for Developing Alternative Practices for Reintegration and Education (Romania) and Association Pro Refugiu (Romania)