Diary 4 Wednesday June 2nd 2010
Today has been quite a different day. We began with a meeting with the government agency or department responsible in this area for the repatriation and follow up support of victims of people trafficking. Romania is badly affected by this fast growing crime with one of the highest numbers of victims in Europe. People trafficking is a serious organised crime which has huge amounts of money involved for the traffickers. Over the last few months, Mustard Seed Jersey has sent clothing, bedding, toiletries, disposable nappies, infant formula and our project to pack welcome boxes to benefit and encourage the victims.
Because of the situation with the vast network of this crime, pending court cases, often the terror and trauma of the victims there must be total confidentiality and absolute security. What did surprise me was the lack of resources this small department has they are short of basic office equipment, even paper and toner! Much of the furniture the staff have provided themselves, so it looks well worn. The staff are clearly motivated by genuine compassion and admitted to often putting their hands in their own pockets to supply the needs of the victims when they did not have the resources or funds.
Victims return to Romania traumatised, frightened of what will happen next, all must be involved in court cases against the traffickers and these cases can take many months to go to court. Some are too scared and vulnerable to return home and sometimes it is the family (often the parents) who sold their child to the traffickers the need for a safe house was identified as a top priority for the immediate future. Another priority is prevention by education they are building up a programme to heighten awareness of students in the high schools. The other priority need is for resources to assist the victims until they are able to support themselves again. Here they said the help from Mustard Seed has been invaluable but in all honesty it is not enough to meet all the needs. We emphasised that we could not help with funding but possibly could help with goods for furnishing the safe house when they get it as well as continuing the clothing, etc.
I had brought money over with me specifically for the victims and we were able to purchase basic foods for 30 families, including washing powder for the 15 most needy and disposable nappies for two with babies and that was the money all gone. I was pleased with how much we were able to purchase and am sure this is far better than buying in Jersey and sending to Romania on our trailer.
We spoke about the lack of opportunities in Romania for people with poor education, very low wages for the unskilled and ever rising costs. This was identified as being the underlying cause why some are knowingly willing to take the risk as they are so desperate to earn money to support their families.
I understand there are currently approximately 200 victims being assisted in this area. Most of the victims are trafficked for manual work purposes especially all the men to my surprise there are almost as many male victims as female. The most common age range is 18 25.
I would view this time spent regarding the victims of people trafficking as some of the most enlightening and valuable of the trip. Speaking personally I cannot tell you how shocked I was and am at how this vital work is clearly given such a low priority by the Romanian government.
Later in the day we met up with Kathy Langston (who has an outreach to abandoned babies and female prisoners). We wont go into the problems Phil and I had navigating to her home! But thank heavens for mobile phones and Kathy standing in the street directing us until we finally heard the welcome words I can see you look on the left!