Trafficking in human beings (hereinafter: THB) is modern age slavery that has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights as a gross human rights violation (Rantsev v. Cyprus and Russia). The number of those identified as victims in Croatia remains low (around 10 victims annually in a last few years). Experts and government officials reported victim identification was inadequate in light of the suspected magnitude of the trafficking problem in Croatia (United States Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report 2013, hereinafter: TIP report, p. 144.). This could be explained by the structural deficiencies of national anti-trafficking policies and disregard of research and multidisciplinary approach in addressing three key priority areas – that of prevention, protection of victims, and prosecution of traffickers. Besides, the law enforcement authorities are mostly focused on trafficking for sexual exploitation and neglect other types of exploitation (e.g. labor exploitation).
The need for the research based policies is indispensible for Croatia as a new EU member state that has been under the risk of turning into a country of destination for victims from the Balkan countries as well as from the countries either affected from internal instabilities and conflicts (e.g. Syria) or from the African countries (e.g. Nigerian nationals that are on a large scale trafficked to nearby Austria and Italy). According to findings of international monitoring mechanisms (Council of Europe Group of States on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings report, hereinafter: GRETA report) as well as to the assessments made by some foreign governments (TIP report) Croatia falls short on “conducting and supporting research on THB related issues as an important source of information for future policy measures in the field of action against THB” (GRETA report, par. 59.). Some of the areas that have been largely unexplored are trafficking for the purposes of labor exploitation, trafficking of children, internal trafficking (within the country) etc. These shortcomings were taken into account in the newest TIP report that downgraded Croatia from Tier1 to Tier2 – the group of states that “do not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking“ (TIP report 2013, p. 143).
Current research into the topic of THB faces serious challenges which include the lack of relevant criminological data about victims and offenders as well as inadequate methodologies in collecting and comparing the scarcely available data. Although the estimates about victims are not fully reliable – in Croatia but also worldwide (they are, therefore, called ‘guesstimates’ in academic literature – Lee, Trafficking and Global Crime Control, 2009), it is the severe nature of these crimes and the gravity of disrespect for human beings who are treated as trafficking ‘products/goods’ rather than persons, that not only justifies but calls for more research in this area.
Therefore, the aim of this project is to contribute, through establishment of fully operational informal network of experts from different legal disciplines, in promoting research based policies and to provide support for establishment of National Rapporteur responsible for “monitoring the implementation of anti-trafficking policy at the national level and playing a key role in data collection on trafficking in human beings at national and EU level” (at http://ec.europa.eu/anti-trafficking/, 23 October 2013). This is an obligation under the Directive 2011/36/EU that still has not been implemented by Croatia. In the light of the foregoing, this multidisciplinary research cluster can take a lead in carrying out of assessments of trends in trafficking in human beings, the measuring of results of anti-trafficking actions, including the gathering of statistics in close cooperation with relevant civil society organizations active in this field, and reporting (Article 19 of the Directive 2011/36/EU).