Human trafficking in Moldova is a particularly serious issue that corruption and the coronavirus pandemic have worsened. The U.S. State Department assigns different tiers to countries in its 2021 Trafficking in Persons report, with Tier 1 countries being the ones that have been most resistant to human trafficking through prosecution, prevention and protection for victims. Moldova is listed as a Tier 2 country.
Moldova’s classification demonstrates that the nation has taken steps to address the issues of human trafficking while not being entirely compliant with U.S. State Department guidelines. Moldova has begun “prosecuting more suspected traffickers, developing a new national referral mechanism (NRM), open[ed] a center for male trafficking victims, and commence[ed] construction of a center for child victims and witnesses of crime, including trafficking.” However, while human trafficking has been an interest of the Moldovan government, COVID-19 has severely undermined new prosecutorial programs as many state employees are “working remotely” and “In March 2020, the government closed courts and did not reopen them until June 2020.”
Secondly, corruption has been a significant limiting force to prosecutorial and preventative efforts. Specifically, even though government employees had received accusations of complicity in human trafficking, the government did not investigate or prosecute anyone. Unfortunately, Moldova failed to meet various “minimum standards” that the State Department set, as authorities in Moldova have recently “investigated, convicted, and identified fewer trafficking victims overall.”
UN Aid and the Centre
Luckily, the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) has taken steps to protect Moldovan human trafficking victims and to aid them in reassembling their lives. Beginning in 2003, the IOM implemented a “comprehensive Prevention and Protection Programme.” The primary agent of this mission is the Assistance and Protection Centre, which acts as a refuge center for trafficking victims. The Centre offers an incredible array of services to victims of human trafficking in Moldova, including medical, psychological, social, legal and recreational aid.
Personal Stories From the Centre
The IOM also presents a variety of personal stories relating to the Centre and gives examples of how donated funds may help aid victims. For instance, the IOM webpage on the Moldovan Centre relayed the story of Natalia, whose traffickers offered domestic work in Turkey before they kidnapped her and forced her into providing sexual services. The IOM also indicated how funds can help people like Natalia repair their lives, specifically in regard to obtaining copies of documents and relevant records necessary for employment and travel. The IOM also identified how funds can aid victims materially, specifying that “A donation of US $250 will buy clothes and shoes for a victim like Natalia.”
This type of assistance is especially significant considering that many of Moldova’s trafficking victims in the past have been young migrant women lured with fake passports from neighboring regions such as Romania and Ukraine, and the program previously installed to train Moldovan-Ukrainian border checkpoint officials to screen for signs of trafficking ended in 2016. Trafficking victims are not only often victims of poor migration infrastructure but also of prejudice, as “The undocumented or stateless population, including the Romani community,” are especially at risk.
The 2022 Trafficking in Persons report on Moldova concludes that of 312 identified trafficking victims, traffickers trafficked 277 for the purposes of forced labor, and the majority of victims were girls. Despite the limits of Moldovan intervention, the IOM reported fantastic results, claiming that it and the Centre aided 3,403 victims, including 337 children by the end of 2017. This is a noteworthy result as Moldova only reported “341 trafficking victims” in 2019.
Evidently, human trafficking in Moldova is a multifaceted issue without simple solutions, however, work that international organizations such as the IOM and its affiliated programs have provided helps victims of human trafficking in Moldova to recover a semblance of stability in their disrupted lives. Corruption and the COVID-19 pandemic have evidently hindered Moldova’s efforts to combat human trafficking, which demonstrates the necessity of international intervention through aid.
– Braden Hampton