ERRC Research and Advocacy Coordinator Ostalinda Maya on How Human Trafficking Affects Roma

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The European Roma Rights Centre and People in Need Slovakia published a report on how human trafficking affects Roma in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. Today I am with Ostalinda Maya, she is Research and Advocacy Coordinator of the European Roma Rights Centre.

Sinan Gokcen: Ostalinda, how did you decide to carry out this research?

Ostalinda Maya: For many years information has circulated linking trafficking in human beings and Roma but it doesn't give the complete picture. Much of the discussion has focused on Roma as perpetrators, while the experiences of Roma as victims, has been mostly ignored. We did this research to draw the attention to the extent to which Roma are affected by trafficking in human beings as victims and to understand why.

S.G.: What are the key findings of the research?

O.M.: Various experts estimated the proportion of Roma to be at least 50-60% in Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia. In none of these countries Roma represent more than 10% of the population. So this would indicate a significant overrepresentation.
In terms of the types of trafficking that we identified, the most common ones were sexual exploitation and forced labor. We also found cases of trafficking for illegal adoption, exploitative begging and petty crime, debt bondage and domestic servitude.

S.G.: Why are Roma particularly vulnerable to human trafficking?

O.M.: Our research found that the factors that increase the chances of Roma falling into trafficking include: ethnic and gender discrimination, structural poverty and social exclusion, low levels of education, high levels of unemployment, growing up in state care, usury. None of these factors are Roma-specific, although in Europe, they do affect Roma disproportionately.

S.G.: Tell us, what can be done to prevent trafficking?

O.M.: The overrepresentation of Roma among victims of trafficking is a symptom of the social exclusion, the poverty and the discrimination, that Roma face. Governments need to increase their preventative measures to address the root causes of trafficking and to ensure that Roma, who may be vulnerable, benefit from such policies. In particular, measures aiming at reducing high levels of school drop outs, increasing employment opportunities, preventing the institutionalization of Romani children would have a positive impact.

To see the full interview, click here.

To read the mentioned report "Breacking the silence" by the European Roma Rights Centre and people in need, click here.