Baltic Sea Counter Trafficking Award

On 29 November 2017, the counter-trafficking community from the Baltic Sea Region, together with diplomats and ambassadors based in Stockholm gathered at ‘Fotografiska’ for the first ever Baltic Sea Counter Trafficking Award Gala Dinner.

To this day, in all sectors of our work, cases of sexual and labour exploitation remain too common. Be it from the service industry to hospitality and fashion. From the restaurants and hotels we visit, the services we use and items we buy – all of these may potentially rely on human trafficking, forced labour & exploitation. Among the invitees were also local Swedish activists and cultural actors, widening the spectrum of counter-trafficking as a joint responsibility for all sectors of our society.

Images by Frank Nordenberg.

For more images see CBSS Flickr.

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 wanted to celebrate other counter trafficking activists in the region, as only joint actions can be truly effective in prevention of human trafficking. The award honours and recognises the commitment, dedication, creativity and leadership of individuals, whose work has made a significant contribution to helping victims of human trafficking in our region in the past 20 years. Out of the 15 nominees, 3 were awarded the Baltic Sea Counter Trafficking Award.

The evening was moderated by the Swedish presenter Henrik Schyffert. His career is wide-spanning: television director, musician, scriptwriter, film producer, radio producer, actor, director and comedian. Awarded male comic of the year in 2016, he has over the years created some of Sweden’s greatest comic successes. State Secretary to the Swedish Minister of Children, the Elderly & Gender Equality Madeleine Harby Samuelsson gave an opening speech in which she highlighted the continued efforts to provide the highest level of assistance to victims of sexual exploitation and improvements to the legislation and administrative structures of the counter-trafficking work. She also highlighted the establishment of the Swedish Gender Equality Authority in Gothenburg in 2018. Council of the Baltic Sea States Secretariat Director General Maira Mora highlighted in her speech the work of the CBSS Taskforce Against Trafficking in Human Beings over the last years and addressed some of the misconceptions still held when it comes to victims of human trafficking.

Human trafficking knows no borders and includes various forms and means of exploitation. It affects men, women and children, and is closer to our everyday life than we might like to think. This is why it’s important to make a stand and take action, to be more aware of this phenomenon and most importantly, to award three outstanding individuals from our countries for their commitment and day to day work to prevent this horrendous crime. 

Throughout the event, the guests were also invited to do their bid by donating money to support the Swedish Civil Society Platform against Human Trafficking, which helps victims of human trafficking on a daily basis in Sweden. Ninna Mörner, representing the platform, gave the guests in her speech a glimpse into the journey, a victim of human trafficking takes on their way to recovery. Often the victims have difficulty getting help from officials structures, every individual case has its own complexities and differences, and too often the victims also have children with them, which means a comprehensive family support system is in need.

If you would like to read more on the fundraising campaign see

The evening also included a performance by the chart-topping Swedish singer-songwriter Rhys, bringing the evening to its culmination.

Lasma Stabina, the Latvian Delegate to the CBSS Task Force Against Trafficking in Human Beings, also gave out a special award of recognition from the Latvian Ministry of Interior to Vineta Polatside, CBSS Senior Adviser, and Anthony Jay Olsson, CBSS Head of Media & Communications, for their dedication and efforts in counter-trafficking work over the last years.

Sandra Zalcmane

Sandra started her professional career as a social worker more than 18 years ago, at a time when the support system for victims of trafficking was only in development in Latvia. It was with her initiative and participation, that 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 support services that provides a 24-hour hotline and services for victims of human trafficking and legal immigrants.



Maia Rusakova

Maia is the director of the Russian non-profit organisation “Stellit”. She has published numerous publications and toolkits on the issues 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 to provide assistance to victims across Russia and abroad.




Sirle Blumberg

Sirle is the director of the non-profit organisation “Living for Tomorrow” in Estonia. “Living for Tomorrow” was created in 1999 to counter human trafficking. She has worked on setting up a nation-wide human trafficking helpline and 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. She continues to train young people as well as private sector businesses, on how to uncover situations of trafficking and exploitation.

Anca Balan 

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 

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. 


Emma Cotterill  

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 Jenu  

Katja-Pia Jenu 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 

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, 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 

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 

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. 


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  

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. 


Essi Thesslund 

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. 

The campaign “Human Trafficking – A Crime that is all of our Responsibility”  was launched during the Baltic Sea Counter Trafficking Award to support the Swedish Civil Society Platform against Human Trafficking in their mission to assist victims of trafficking through advice, medical care, clothing, legal matters & long-term assistance.

When it comes to assisting victims – public funding only goes so far, so it often falls on the non-governmental organisations to provide vital services such as legal advice, psychological counselling and housing. Trafficking is complex, and unfortunately, even today, support for victims beyond the basics remains scarce. The women, men and children, who are trafficked, all have their own story, which means their needs are varied. Recovery from trauma and exploitation takes time and rehabilitation can sometimes be difficult. It is the tireless work of individuals, which makes recovery for victims a little less strenuous. 

The Swedish Civil Society Platform is a human rights based non-profit organisation focusing on combatting human trafficking, restoring the dignity of victims and strengthening their human rights. The members of the Platform are a collection of human rights based NGOs with a varied focus and target group. Together they offer the whole chain of assistance; identification, first aid, medical care, clothing, support, legal advice, trauma treatment, long-term assistance, safe return and integration. Read more about the Platform´s National Support Programme at

You can read more about the campaign and make a contribution at

Font Resize