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First Person: I rescued over 1000 victims of trafficking |

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My position as head of the National Office for the Investigation of Trafficking in Persons in Lithuania was very challenging, but also very interesting. I would conduct and coordinate local and international police operations and investigations that led to the identification and rescue of victims.

We would get information that there was a potential exploitation case involving Lithuanians in a given country. We then contacted law enforcement authorities in that area and organized a rescue operation.

We had to act very quickly and prepare to move from one place to another. I had many days when breakfast, lunch and dinner would be in different places.

Be damaged

Sometimes I worked in secret, not wearing a police uniform. I remember having to run after a victim with heels on a street in the UK. I had to be careful not to break my leg.

Lithuanian criminal groups were very active in trafficking in human beings inside and outside the country at that time. They had very good connections with Albanian organized criminal groups, which operated throughout Europe.

I have calculated that in my career I have been involved in rescuing over a thousand victims of trafficking. Then I stopped counting. There were many lives damaged. I received a special police award for Saved Lives.

I retired from police after serving 22 years after reaching the highest possible position within the field, so by 2020 it was time to move to an international level and share the knowledge I had gained.


Reda Sirgediene, UNODC Regional Advisor on Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling in Central Asia.

UNODC

Reda Sirgediene, UNODC Regional Advisor on Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling in Central Asia.

Increasing knowledge of trafficking in Central Asia

My tenure working in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, is different now. I do not have the kind of power I had as a national police officer, but I have authority on his behalf UNODC to co-operate with authorities in Central Asia and provide technical assistance to increase the capacity of regions to detect and investigate cases of trafficking in human beings.

I know a lot about this crime – how it is organized and the methods of traffickers. But to be successful in my new role, that was not enough.

Once I arrived in Central Asia, I had to understand the specifics of the region and consider the cultural and legal background in the context of human trafficking.

I had to learn about the different procedures and resources in the region to fight this crime and what investigative tools were available.

I now train and mentor officials working in the law enforcement and justice sectors, advise non-governmental organizations that support victims of trafficking, and support the development of anti-trafficking legislation and procedures.

Whatever is needed, I am here to help.

Investigation of all forms of trafficking

According to official data, the main destinations for people trafficked from Central Asia are Russia, Turkey, Kazakhstan and South Korea.

With the exception of Kazakhstan, which is also a destination country for victims from Central Asia, all countries in the region are source countries for trafficked people.

Most investigations are into cases of sexual exploitation and there are some detected cases of trafficking for labor exploitation.

I am trying to encourage the authorities to start investigating other forms of trafficking, such as trafficking for forced marriage, forced begging or involvement in forced criminal activities or armed groups.

Also, official data show that the majority of persons convicted of trafficking, especially in cases of sexual exploitation, are women. I want to find out more about this because I believe that behind these women can stand men who are the real organizers of the trafficking business. This is a region where culturally men take the lead.

Attracting people with promises

I would say traffickers are more sophisticated nowadays and more subtle.

They do not rely so much on the use of violence. They seduce victims with kind words and promises or pretend to be loved to trap them.

Early in my career, I experienced cruel cases in which victims were found hanged or beaten, sometimes to death. I saw signs of violence on their bodies. In other cases, the victims were drugged and then sexually exploited.

I worked on a case involving homeless Lithuanian men. They were given alcohol, sent to Spain, and forced to work on a remote farm. At night they were chained to radiators to escape.

Traffickers’ methods are not only more sophisticated, but crime also generates higher profits.

For me this work will always be for the protection of human rights. It’s what I know best.


SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

  • Objective 16 of Sustainable Development recognizes that conflict, insecurity, weak institutions and limited access to justice remain a significant threat to sustainable development.
  • It aims to reduce all forms of violence and deaths caused by that violence. It focuses on ending child abuse, exploitation, torture and trafficking.
  • It promotes the rule of law nationally and internationally and ensures equal access to justice for all

Sources

1/ https://Google.com/

2/ https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/05/1118222

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