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Human (child) trafficking - A look through the Internet window


This research paper, published by the Serbian NGO Astra with the support of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, contains the analysis of the print media in Serbia, human trafficking problems of secondary school pupils, their use of Internet and chat rooms, human (child) trafficking internet recruitment and comparative analysis of international and domestic legal framework.


Trafficking in persons (TIP) is now the third most lucrative criminal business behind drug trafficking and the illegal trade in arms. Combating TIP is one of the top priorities for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and its Mission to Serbia. The OSCE, being a major regional player in security-building and democratization, targets the problem from different angles - prevention, law enforcement and judiciary, and protection.

This research shows that most of the identified victims of trafficking in human beings in Serbia are women who, during the recruitment by traffickers, were of high school age. As communication technologies advance, new threats emerge. A young woman "meets" someone in cyberspace and develops (what later turns out to be a false) relationship with the trafficker. As many as 40% of high school girls actually develop a personal contact after an initial anonymous meeting in cyberspace.

Of course, not every such contact carries the threat of pedophilia, sexual assault, abuse, rape or trafficking in human beings. Still, it is eye-opening that a fake chat-room profile of a 15-year old girl attracted a total of 457 new contacts during 50 hours of mere presence in Internet "chat-rooms". This should illustrate well the magnitude of possible threats to which youth are exposed while on Internet.

This research reveals the ways traffickers can manipulate the Internet and the risk and exposure to Serbian youth. With awareness comes the ability to cope. The findings will allow educators, parents, internet service providers and others to help youth use the internet in the positive way for which it was intended while avoiding the traps of those who try to lure youngsters into a life of virtual slavery.

This research could be valuable and interesting beyond Serbia, for specialists in the Southeastern and also Western Europe.