A total of 57 potential victims of human trafficking were identified in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2021, of which 54 are minors.
Children are most often exploited for the purpose of begging, and in 2021, out of the total number of potential victims, 54 cases of forced begging, one case of forced marriage combined with begging, one case of sexual exploitation and one case of other forms of human trafficking were recorded.
Child protection experts worry that the reality could be much worse and that the figures do not reflect the true extent of the problem due to under-reporting and the relative invisibility of cases such as forced child labour, begging and forced marriage.
“When it comes to statistics, we are only talking about children whose cases have reached the court,” said Sanela Baljak, a member of the Sarajevo Canton Mobile Identification Team, which is in charge of proactively identifying potential cases of child exploitation, including forced begging.
“In BiH, it is quite common to see children begging passers-by for money. Citizens, however, do not know that by giving money they are directly supporting organized crime, which deprives these children of basic human rights. In most cases, these children do not go to school at all or irregularly, and often are victims of severe physical punishment,” said Larisa Klepac, director of the non-governmental organization World Vision BiH.
On the occasion of the World Day against Human Trafficking, World Vision BiH appeals to citizens not to give money to children begging on the street. The correct reaction to begging and suspicion of any form of abuse is to report to the police at number 122.
“Preventing and prosecuting the exploitation of children is a moral and legal obligation of all of us. It is important that every individual, when he sees a child who is exposed to one of the forms of exploitation such as begging, reacts and reports it to the competent authorities, and that the system further takes over the case,” said Dragana Bulic, head of the Sector for Partnerships in the World Vision BiH organization.