An international report Wednesday said human trafficking in southeastern Europe was no longer an emergency, but that there was a risk it could be a hidden problem and greater preventive efforts were needed.
The report, "Trafficking in Human Beings in South Eastern Europe," made public in Tirana, was prepared by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations children's agency, which surveyed Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia-Montenegro and Kosovo during the first half of 2004.
It said that based on the number of identified and assisted victims of trafficking in the western Balkans, human trafficking "is no longer an emergency situation in the region."
But it said non-governmental organizations and others who worked with them believed it had become less visible as "the traffickers are becoming better-organized and more hidden," something which required "a new approach that will enable an improved response to new challenges."
The report gave no solid figures for the number of people trafficked from Balkan nations taken by force or drawn to the gangs from the wrong belief toward a better life in the West.
Children and youths were considered the most vulnerable, at greatest risk of being trafficked and used for sexual exploitation, forced labor or begging because of a "lack of a protective environment," it said.
A stronger emphasis should be put on prevention from the institutions dealing with anti-trafficking that have to address the root causes of trafficking -- violence against women, social exclusion, discrimination, poverty and unemployment, said the report.
Governments, including the European Union member countries, were advised not to simply control migration and prostitution but to deal differently with employment, migration policies, options other than return for the victims, or hold joint programs of reintegration and social inclusion.
The report said governments or international organizations had not made the fight against trafficking their top priority and there was no preventive long-term strategy for the region.
"The problem in the region seems to be related ... to the paucity of human rights-based strategies and their lack of implementation within a democratization framework," the report said.