Ferrero-Waldner visits Austrian women’s house in Belgrade
Humanitarian aid for the victims of trafficking in human beings
Belgrade, 12 September 2003 - Within the context of her visit to Serbia and Montenegro, Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner today visited the women’s safe house SHELTER in Belgrade. This project of the Austrian Eastern European Cooperation provides refuge for women who have become victims of trafficking in human beings. The cooperation with the Serbian authorities constitutes an important contribution to combating cross-border crime.
"International trafficking in human beings is a lucrative border-free business for organised crime in Europe. According to EU Commission estimates, about 120,000 people, primarily women and children, fall victim to criminals trafficking in human beings every year. Frequently they are forced into prostitution and have to live under inhuman conditions. The main reasons for the increase in trafficking in human beings are poverty and difficult living conditions in many countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, the CIS and Central Asia," Ferrero-Waldner stated.
Combating international trafficking in human beings
The women’s house Shelter in Belgrade offers refuge as well as medical and psychological assistance for women brought to Western Europe via the Balkans by trafficking rings. The women are prepared for their return to their home countries and receive assistance for their reintegration. The shelter offers refuge and help for up to 20 women. These women play an important role in assisting the Serbian authorities’ fight against trafficking in human beings. Many of them bear witness in court trials against organised crime and thus help to track down the Europe-wide trafficking networks.
Two organisations, the Serbian "Councelling Against Family Violence" and the "International Organisation for Migration" with headquarters in Vienna are jointly responsible for this project commissioned by the Austrian Foreign Ministry’s Eastern European Cooperation. Since the foundation of the shelter, Austria has financed humanitarian aid for women to the amount of EUR 315,000.
Focus on Serbia
Serbia and Montenegro are one of the focal points of the Austrian Eastern European Cooperation. All in all, the Austrian Eastern European Cooperation has invested EUR 6.4 million in the partnership with Serbia and Montenegro since 2001. EUR 1.7 million have been made available for 2003; the budget is to be considerably increased over the next few years. Austrian assistance in Serbia and Montenegro has been focussing on areas relating to environmental protection - above all water supply - education, economic issues, employment as well as strengthening the rule of law and the civil society. The goal of this cooperation is to support the country in its effort towards achieving a gradual integration in European structures.