5. Victim Protection, Support and Assistance

Due to the specific effects of trafficking, described above, victims require comprehensive assistance in both destination and transit countries. It is crucial that victim protection and assistance continue when the victim is returned to her country of origin. Basic assistance should include the provision of safe accommodation, medical care, psychological counseling, legal counseling and, if needed, vocational training and education.

Although related, victim protection and witness protection may take different forms. All victims, regardless of whether they serve as witnesses, are entitled to protection of their basic human rights. At the same time, when victims of trafficking act as witnesses in court proceedings, they require additional protections.

Under principles of international law, States are obligated to provide adequate support for victims of crimes. The United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power states that victims are entitled to access the justice system and prompt redress (Paragraph 4). Regarding assistance, the Declaration states "Victims should receive the necessary material, medical, psychological and social assistance through governmental, voluntary, community-based and indigenous means. . . . Victims should be informed of the availability of health and social services and other relevant assistance and be readily afforded access to them." (Paragraphs 14, 15). Governments of countries of origin also have the obligation of ensure citizens basic human rights to social services.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play a critical role in the protection of trafficking victims and the provision of services. In 2001, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) published a Reference Guide for Anti- Trafficking Legislative Review , which also available in Russian (Руководящие Принципы по Пересмотру Законодательства против Торговли Людьми) and Serbian (Priručnik za Reviziju Zakonske Regulative protiv Trgovine Ljudima). The Reference Guide includes detailed information about existing legislation that ensures protection of and assistance for victims of trafficking and also describes the role of NGOs:

[NGOs] are an important source of information on the phenomenon of trafficking and do an enormous amount of work to ensure that the basic needs of victims are met. . . . Effective and continuous victim assistance and protection requires that states provide relevant NGOs with sufficient resources and training opportunities. Effective victim assistance and protection also require well-functioning co-operation between NGOs and state authorities.

The types of services and assistance required by trafficking victims varies somewhat depending on whether the victim is still in the destination country or has returned to her country of origin.

In the destination country, a victim's most immediate need may be for safe accommodation and legal counseling to assist with immigration issues. Many NGOs have responded to the need for safe accommodation by creating temporary shelters for victims of trafficking. More information about the creation and management of shelters for victims of violence can be found in the Training section.

Trafficking victims rarely have legal residency status in the destination country, which may result in limited access to social services or legal assistance. Despite the reluctance of many destination countries to confer legal residence status upon trafficking victims, there is a growing recognition that victim safety cannot be adequately ensured without granting at least temporary residency. The UN, regional human rights bodies and national governments have implemented recommendations and regulations that provide for both temporary and permanent residency permits to trafficking victims. A trafficking victim may also be eligible for asylum in the destination country, and she should be provided with legal assistance in this application process in a language she understands.

The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons lays out obligations to both origin and destination countries to implement measures to "provide for the physical, psychological and social recovery of victims of trafficking . . . [including] Medical, psychological and material assistance." NGOs can play an important role in identifying the type of services needed by the victim, providing referrals, assisting the victim in making appointments with and visiting health care professionals and, in some cases, through the direct provision of services. While trafficking victims in the destination country may be in acute need of medical or psychological treatment, they also frequently require other more long-term medical care when they return to the home country. NGOs that work closely with victims and know of their specific needs can advocate for the continuation of services for the victim in the country from which she originated.

A victim of trafficking may serve as a witness for legal proceedings in the destination country. Like victims who do not work with authorities, witnesses to trafficking should be afforded protection and offered basic services. Anti-Slavery International, a British NGO, has advocated for effective witness protection in the context of trafficking as well as created a human rights framework for a witness protection program. In a 2001 presentation at a regional trafficking conference by Elaine Pearson, the Trafficking Program Officer for Anti-Slavery International, temporary residency status is described as integral to a witness protection program. An effective and credible witness must be prepared to cooperate with authorities. Thus, Anti-Slavery International advocates for the residency period to include an adequate "rest period," a time in which the victim will receive necessary shelter, financial assistance, medical and counseling services and can recover without fear of threats, intimidation or deportation. Temporary residency status should also provide the victim with the right to work. The right to work is important so that the victim can begin to become financially stable.

Even after a victim of trafficking has been returned to her home country, the need for protection and assistance continue. The process of reintegration can be enormously difficult for trafficking victims. Rehabilitation programs should include all of the services mentioned above in the context of destination countries: shelter, financial assistance and health care. In addition, in order to reintegrate and begin new lives, trafficking victims can benefit from education programs, such as job training or vocational skills courses.

NGOs can also provide support for victims of trafficking through advocacy for protection of victims' rights. For example, three leading NGOs, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, the Foundation Against Trafficking in Women and the International Human Rights Law Group, collaborated on the drafting of Human Rights Standards for the Treatment of Trafficked Persons, which enumerates concrete actions that governments should undertake to fulfill their obligations to protect and assist victims of trafficking.

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