site.btaYoung People Must Be Aware of Risks of Human Trafficking Because They Too Can Be Victims
It is important that the topic of human trafficking is present among young people because they can also become victims, Aleks Valenzuela from A21 Bulgaria told BTA. The organization was honored by the State Agency for Child Protection (SACP) as an Ambassador of Good in 2022 for its work in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery. According to Valenzuela, selling babies and brides is also a type of human trafficking.
Many are confused that trafficking is only about moving from one country to another, but in many cases there is also internal movement of victims, she explained, adding that according to the law, human trafficking is the deprivation and exploitation of a person's liberty for the purpose of financial or other benefits for the trafficker.
According to Valenzuela, fifth and sixth grade students are taking the issue to heart. The older ones are more skeptical and perceive the problem as something that cannot happen to them. She warned that young people over 18 are at risk of human trafficking, leaving their homeland in search of a living.
Risks of working abroad
The risks of labour exploitation are serious, Valenzuela said. A large percentage of reported trafficking victims in Bulgaria are people who have gone abroad for work, she said. She believes that after the COVID-19 pandemic, when quite a few people lost their jobs, the sense of impasse has made them less critical of job offers.
The national anti-trafficking helpline 080020100 offers free screening of an online job advert or one made verbally to a person. A21 Bulgaria’s experts make an assessment and give their opinion on whether the offer is risky, said Valenzuela, adding that their team gives an expert opinion, but leaves it up to the person to decide.
A21 Bulgaria’s "Can you see me" campaign relies on volunteers to inform about the risks of human trafficking, said Aleks Valenzuela. It was launched in 2022 in partnership with the National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings. The initiative aims to raise awareness about the signs that someone is a victim of trafficking. These include signs of physical abuse, lack of contact with relatives and loved ones, lack of identity documents, mobile phone and money. Victims often look tired, may be confused and angry, and their clothing may be inappropriate for the season, the foundation explains.
The campaign has produced two short films based on true stories of Bulgarians rescued thanks to the human trafficking hotline. Discussions on labour and sexual exploitation in Bulgaria are also a focus of the campaign.
Bulgaria ranks fifth in Europe for human trafficking, Monika Nikolova, executive director of A21 Bulgaria told BTA in October. According to the TIP (The Trafficking in Persons) Report from the World Foundation for Human Trafficking in the United States, there has been no change in the statistics yet, Valenzuela said. According to the A21 Bulgaria team, more and more state institutions here are mobilizing to work for change.