Since 2006 the CBSS Task Force against Trafficking in Human Beings has been working against human trafficking in the Baltic Sea region. On our tenth anniversary, we want to celebrate other counter trafficking activists in the region, as only joint actions can be truly effective in prevention of human trafficking. To this end we are launching the Baltic Sea Region Counter Trafficking Award. The award honours and recognises the commitment, dedication, creativity and leadership of individuals who fight human trafficking – A crime that is all our responsibility.
Anca Balan is a social worker at “The Meeting Place” by The Nest International. “The Meeting Place” is one of the activities of the Danish National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. At “The Meeting Place” foreign women involved in street prostitution are offered support and advice in a relaxed atmosphere. Anca is deeply engaged and has devoted a great deal of her career to ensuring the best possible help and support for the women at “The Meeting Place”. The work Anca has been carrying out throughout the last 10 years is characterised by strong and tireless dedication to working with foreign women in prostitution. Anca’s efforts in the field of human trafficking are based on an understanding that the complexity of human trafficking requires partnerships with collaborators in both Denmark and other countries in the specific cases of vulnerable and trafficked persons. Anca has a special ability to create contact and gain trust of vulnerable people in an environment where trust is otherwise hard to come by.
Andris Bidzāns is the Chief Inspector at the Anti-Trafficking Unit of the Organised Crime Enforcement Board of the Latvian State Police. Andris has been with the Ministry of the Interior since 2002, where his duties include the fight against and prevention of organised crime, trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation. While working with cases, he uses a creative approach, with his dedication leading to the successful uncovering of a number of very complex and extensive trafficking cases. These have included a complex criminal proceeding for the prosecution against an international organised criminal group dealing with trafficking in human beings. His current work focuses on large-scale labour exploitation. Since 2016, Major Andris has also participated as an expert from the State Police in the Commission of Specialists chaired by the mandated non-governmental organisations to assess the compliance of persons with the criteria of a victim of the trafficking in human beings.
Sirle Blumberg is the Director of the non-profit organisation “Living for Tomorrow” in Estonia. Living for Tomorrow was created in 1999, with countering human trafficking having been a central focus of the organisation from the beginning. Her work on setting up a nation-wide human trafficking helpline is noteworthy – she has succeeded in creating a multicultural team, who provide information and prompt help for those in need on a daily basis. Through her work on the helpline, she has played a significant part in uncovering one of the largest sexual exploitation cases in Estonia in the last year. It was through conversations and consultations with Sirle, that a parent of one of the victims found the courage to break their anonymity and contact the police. Sirle is also an avid educator, working with schools to educate kids on the risks of exploitation through practical workshops, as well as the private sector on how to be socially responsible.
Emma Cotterill is working to combat human trafficking in the Skåne region in Sweden, in her current position as a lawyer for the Salvation Army. Having been part of the development of a national referral mechanism for support and protection to victims of trafficking as part of the Swedish government´s work against prostitution and trafficking, she is currently responsible for developing and the setting up of a regional response against trafficking in Skåne. Her persistent and dedicated work to combat trafficking was echoed in an interview in 2016, where she explains that it’s important to “acknowledge trafficking as a global problem, which is also a problem in Sweden and originates from the demand for sex purchases and cheap labour.” She further explains that “the image of trafficking as a gross crime, only taking place in metropolitan areas, needs to be nuanced”.
Katja-Pia Jens is a Labour Inspector at the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland / Occupational Health and Safety and is specialised in monitoring the employment of migrant labour in Southern Finland. Her dedication has helped uncover several cases of severe labour exploitation and labour trafficking in Helsinki and in Southern Finland area. She cooperates closely with other authorities and NGOs on human trafficking issues, sharing her expertise and experiences, and has advocated for the rights of migrant workers in the media, at conferences and training events. She inspects work places in the service sector without giving prior notice to the employers (e.g. restaurants and cleaning firms) and makes sure to also talk to the migrant workers themselves. This allows her to uncover the real terms of employment beyond the paperwork. She has referred persons to the National Assistance System for Victims of Trafficking and during her inspections disseminates information on the system to the employees.
Jaana Kauppinen started her work with individuals involved in prostitution and victims of human trafficking back in 1990. Today she is the Executive Director of the non-governmental organisation “Pro-tukipiste ry”, which she launched in 1996. “Pro-tukipiste” now has offices in three cities in Finland and has since 2000’s been the leading Finnish non-governmental organisation specialising in anti-trafficking work. “Pro-tukipiste” assists persons in vulnerable positions, identifies trafficking situations and victims of crimes and provides help and counselling for people in need of assistance. The organisation has also been publishing materials and tools for NGO’s and authorities, to help them identify trafficking situations and provide assistance. In 2007 Jaana launched the first Finnish anti-trafficking project that mapped and built capacity of NGO’s and authorities working with persons who might have experienced human trafficking. Jaana and representatives of “Pro-tukipiste” have been present in all central working groups and steering groups on developing national structures against trafficking, centering cooperation and networks as the basis of the work against trafficking.
Petra Kjellen Brooke
Petra Kjellen Brooke is the Coordinator for the Norwegian Salvation Army’s anti-slavery efforts. In 2016 she initiated the Salvation Army’s pioneering project “Filemon” – a safe house for male victims of forced labour. She has also created the website www.anti-trafficking.no, which aims at engaging people in anti-slavery efforts, as well as providing valuable information about the current trafficking situation in Norway and giving practical advice about identification of victims. She is engaged in many different ways in anti-trafficking efforts that go way beyond the scope of her position. She is currently a major driving force in Norway, combining a hands-on approach with a cooperation-minded attitude.
Natalja Kurcinskaja is the Director of the Missing Persons Families Support Center (MPFSC) in Lithuania. Natalja was behind the idea and implementation of a new type shelter for female victims of human traffickingand their children in Vilnius in 2017, run by the MPFSC. Here women and children receive different types of assistance including temporary accommodation, social, medical, psychological & legal support, as well as education. The shelter is based on the Emmaus shop model, meaning it is not only financed by the government, but generates funds for victim assistance and support through social innovation and entrepreneurship, engaging the local community and other volunteers. The shelter invites victims of trafficking to run the Emmaus shop together, to socialise and network, support and assist each other and encourages them to gain skills, which might be important for their future life. This shelter model is completely new in Lithuania and signals a significant move forward.
Egils Krutovs & Andris Kleins – advertising agency “GO!AHEAD”
Working with the Latvian Ministry of Interior, the advertising agency “GO!AHEAD” in Riga represents a private sector company supporting the implementation of counter-trafficking policy. Their work is an example of how a small company can play an important role in the anti-trafficking work of a country, and the Baltic Sea region in general. In a short amount of time, “GO!AHEAD” has achieved a understanding of the issues of trafficking in human beings, its forms, risks, threats and the negative impact to the society. Through this deep understanding, the agency brings an anti-trafficking message to society. Tight deadlines and small or non-existent funding are no barriers or excuses for the agency, who create amazing products, which are used for societal awareness-raising activities and trainings of specialists across the region.
Kristiina Linna is a labour inspector at the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southwestern Finland / Occupational Health and Safety, and is specialised in monitoring the employment of migrant labour in Southwestern Finland. Through her work and dedication she has helped uncover several cases of severe labour exploitation and labour trafficking in Finland in the past 10 years, in Turku and also on the Åland islands. She is actively involved in the local counter-trafficking network in Turku and cooperates closely with other authorities and NGOs on human trafficking issues, sharing her expertise and experiences. She inspects work places without giving prior notice (e.g. agricultural farms, restaurants and shipyards) and makes sure to also talk to the migrant workers themselves, using an interpreter whenever possible. This allows her to uncover the real terms of employment beyond the paperwork. She also cooperates with the Europol network of labour inspectors, taking part in joint action days, and has referred persons to the National Assistance System for Victims of Trafficking.
Maia Rusakova is the Director of the regional non-profit organisation “Stellit” in Russia. She has published 25 national and international publications and toolkits on the topic of prostitution and trafficking in human beings, and has vast experience in the field of combating trafficking in women and children for sexual purposes. She has initiated and implemented more than 40 projects including research, awareness-raising campaigns and projects aimed at providing methodological support to stakeholders in the field of prevention and providing assistance to victims, supporting NGOs in the field of combating sexual exploitation of children. Dr. Maia Rusakova has implemented initiatives in the field of combating trafficking in different Russian regions and is also regarded as an expert in the field internationally. She currently coordinates a research project in Kazakhstan entitled “Monitoring of Legislation Regulating the Provision of Services to Victims of Trafficking in the Republic of Kazakhstan”.
Anna Sander & Josephine Appelqvist – founders of “Talita”
Anna and Josephine, the founders of “Talita”, have been involved in supporting victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation for over 20 years. In the late 1990s when they were involved in outreach work, they witnessed how many women that wanted to leave prostitution had nowhere to turn. In response to the need they saw, they quit their jobs to become trauma therapists and officially established “Talita” in 2004. “Talita” is a non-profit organisation offering help and support to women who have been exploited in prostitution, pornography or human trafficking for sexual purposes. “Talita” has grown from being a service solely offering trauma therapy, to becoming a holistic, long-term exit program that exists in Sweden, Mongolia and Romania. Seeing the need to address all of their target groups’ needs – physical, mental, emotional – Anna and Josephine formed a method of rehabilitation consisting of safe housing, trauma therapy, psycho-education, planning for the future and transition to work/studies and independent living.
Drífa Snædal is the General Secretary of the Federation of General and Special workers in Iceland. Drífa has been a vital part in the fight against human trafficking in Iceland. She has put the issue at the top of the agenda within the labour unions and has tirelessly worked on implementing information campaigns and actions within the labour unions. She has been an important ally in raising awareness on trafficking and recently organised, with good cooperation from other actors, the biggest seminar held on trafficking in Iceland, with foreign expert speakers addressing all the different forms of trafficking. The seminar raised an impressive amount of coverage in Iceland.
Ess Thesslund, as the Senior Adviser in charge of the anti-trafficking work of the non-governmental organisation “Pro-tukipiste” since 2007, has set the base for the Finnish civil society’s work against trafficking in human beings. She also started the Finnish Civil Society Platform against Trafficking in Human Beings, which she coordinated until the end of 2015. Essi has been a part of the governmental roundtables, planning changes in legislation and improving victim assistance, hence ensuring that victims’ needs have been taken into account in policy making. She has been a driving force in developing early victim identification and assistance at “Pro-tukipiste”, and Finnish civil society in general. Through her work, many prominent cases of human trafficking for sexual exploitation have been reported and prosecuted. She has also been involved in increasing cooperation between Finnish non-governmental organisations and the formation of the Four-Clover Alliance.
Sandra Zalcmane started her professional career as a social worker more than 18 years ago. At that time, the support system for victims of trafficking was only in development in Latvia. With Sandra’s initiative and participation, a professional support system for the social rehabilitation of victims of human trafficking was set up. In 2007 she was part of establishing the non-governmental organisation “Shelter “Safe House””, which she now heads. The organisation is one of two national support services that provides a 24-hour consultative hotline and state-funded rehabilitation services for victims of human trafficking and migrants. Sandra has trained professionals from various fields on the prevention of human trafficking, including local government, social and police officers and educators. Over the past 8 years Sandra has carried out more than 20 prevention/societal information projects on human trafficking, including international initiatives. In 2016, within the framework of the project “Prevention of Human Trafficking and Sham Marriages: A Multidisciplinary Solution” 186 professionals from different fields were trained in seminars using her methodology. She has established a coalition platform of 12 organisations to minimise trafficking in Latvia and works closely with various international partners. Next to her day-to-day work she continues to volunteer and give lectures on human trafficking at several universities in Latvia and has written several books on the topic.
The winners of the Baltic Sea Counter Trafficking Award will be announced at the Award Gala Dinner at Fotografiska in Stockholm, on 29 November 2017.