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BIPR | The Human Trafficking Initiative Series – The Role of Civil Society Organizations in Providing Access to Justice and Assistance to Victims of Labour Exploitation
The Human Trafficking Initiative Series – The Role of Civil Society Organizations in Providing Access to Justice and Assistance to Victims of Labour Exploitation

April 14, 2022 - 18:30

Marija Andjelkovic, ASTRA - Anti trafficking action, Serbia

Event Recap

As a part of the Human Trafficking Initiative Series, SAIS Europe welcomed Marija Andjelkovic of ASTRA Anti-Trafficking Action. Andjelkovic co-founded ASTRA in the year 2000, which at the time served as the only NGO combating human trafficking in Serbia. Initially, ASTRA began addressing the issue of human trafficking solely through prevention and education. However, ASTRA has grown over the past several years and been able expand its programing into areas of legal aid and legal representation, victim assistance, monitoring, strategic litigation and advocacy work.

Over the course of its 22-year history, ASTRA has received more than 52,000 calls for assistance and has supported more than 560 victims of human trafficking. Since the pandemic, calls for assistance have risen by 130%, many of which have recently begun to involve victims of labour exploitation. In tracking these trends, ASTRA has taken note of how the modus operandi has evolved bearing all signs of organized crime, making it far more difficult to detect, investigate and provide assistance to victims of human trafficking. Yet, Andjelkovic mentioned that most people who reach out to ASTRA are those who have escaped their situation and are in need of legal aid and legal representation. Regardless, ASTRA still supports victims by offering them shelter, medical and psychological support, and assistance with reintegration. Andjelkovic emphasized that ASTRA accepts any case that raises reasonable grounds that it may be human trafficking.

In addition to their work with victims, ASTRA has worked to advance international human rights law by providing legal aid and representation. Its most recent case implicated the Chinese-owned tire company, Linglong, over allegations of labour exploitation involving 500 Vietnamese people in Serbia. ASTRA's discoveries in this case prompted the European Parliament to adopt a resolution urging the Serbian authorities to investigate these crimes. ASTRA is now working alongside the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia to investigate crimes of forced labour. Andjelkovic expressed hope for the field although legal judgments are rare and plea deals have become far more common. Still, both Andjelkovic and Alexandra Malangone remain optimistic, and argued that the European Court of Human Rights' recent ruling in Astra pursued strategic litigation case of Zoletic and Others v. Azerbaijan was huge step towards advancing human rights of trafficked persons. Andjelkovic and Malangone believe that this ruling will pave the way to hold states and people in the highest levels of government accountable in cases where they have traded human rights for personal and financial interests.

Full Audio:

The Human Trafficking Initiative Series – The Role of Civil Society Organizations in Providing Access to Justice and Assistance to Victims of Labour Exploitation
Human Trafficking Initiative Series

Supported by the Associazione di cultura e di studio italo-americana Luciano Finelli Friends of the Johns Hopkins University
hosted by Professor Sara Pennicino

Marija Andjelkovic
ASTRA - Anti trafficking action, Serbia

The event will be held in hybrid mode. SAIS Europe students, faculty, and staff are allowed to attend in person in the Penthouse. External guests are welcome to participate by registering for the online webinar using the link below.

For further information on the Human Trafficking Initiative you can visit our website or contact

Marija Andelkovic is director and one of the founders of NGO ASTRA-Anti trafficking action, the first grass root NGO combating trafficking in human beings in Serbia. She is a lawyer by profession with more than 20 years of experience in field of gender-based violence and one of the first civil society activists to raise the issue of human trafficking in Balkan region, advocating for improving the position of victims and respect of victim's rights. She has experience in direct victims' assistance to more than 500 victims as well as in prevention and education activities as trainer and lecturer in Serbia and abroad sharing her anti-trafficking expertise with professionals from governmental institutions and NGOs. She was a member of working groups for developing and monitoring strategic anti-trafficking documents in Serbia. She is an author of numerous publications, manual, articles and shadow reports on human trafficking. Her work and work of ASTRA has influenced shaping and delivering of policy and practice across the region.
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