Trafficking in Human Beings in and through Southeast Europe – A Qualitative Analysis

This project is focused on trafficking in human beings in and through Southeast Europe. It thoroughly examines the phenomenology and etiology of the crime, as well as policies combating human trafficking in Southeast Europe.

Despite the growing body of literature on human trafficking, there is still a considerable lack of understanding of the problem. It is challenging to define not only the extent of human trafficking, but also to identify victims, understand the social dynamics between traffickers and trafficked persons and even to distinguish trafficking from other similar crimes, such as human smuggling, international prostitution or pandering

With the purpose of illuminating the nature and extent of the crime, diverse types of statistical data, measures and indicators have been used to assess and measure the scope of the problem. Relatively low numbers of identified cases in individual countries of Southeast Europe make it very difficult to draw meaningful conclusions from statistics only. Furthermore, although these measures can approximate the magnitude of the problem, the seriousness of human trafficking lies not necessarily or exclusively in the quantity of victims, traffickers or cases, but rather in the grave nature of the crime

This is why the objective of the research project is to increase the understanding of how and why human trafficking occurs throughout the region. In order to answer these questions, qualitative research methods are primarily used. Because Southeast Europe is one of the rare regions suspected of being an area of origin, transit and destination at the same time, the project attempts to illustrate the organisation of trafficking activities in Southeast Europe, from early stages of recruitment, through transit, to various types of exploitation. The qualitative feature of the research methodology is not limited to the use of traditionally qualitative data collection methods (e.g. examination of legal acts, official reports and secondary sources, interviews, case studies, etc.) but it also employs qualitative and interpretative analysis methods.

Although trafficking in the region is often depicted as part of transnational organised crime, a significant number of case descriptions, extracted from police records and judgements, challenge this popular view. They often include only one victim per case or small scale labour exploitation in rural areas. The project, therefore, aims at examining the prevailing conception that traffickers in the region are dominantly part of well-organised criminal groups.

In an attempt to enhance the comprehension of the concept of human trafficking and its manifestations across Southeast Europe, the project also discusses various factors which may have an impact on the phenomenon. Inter alia, it considers the following questions: How does the particular geographical position of Southeast Europe influence the occurrence of trafficking? Is there a history of smuggling/trafficking culture in the region? To what extent did the political and economic transition contribute to the rise of trafficking? How do economic forces of demand and supply apply to trafficking in the region? In this context, how did the wars of the 1990s and the presence of international peacekeeping troops, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, affect the phenomenon?

Currently, gathered information is being analysed, additional data is being obtained through interviews, official records and judgements. Several study trips across the region are planned.

MPPG contact for Trafficking in Human Beings: Karlo Ressler