Emmaus Europe has been supporting the Missing Persons’ Families Support Centre (MPFSC) located in Vilnius in Lithuania since 2009.
The situation in Lithuania
According to Europol statistics, every year approximately 120,000 people become victims of human trafficking in Europe. In the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia), 3,000 women become human trafficking victims every year with the vast majority coming from Lithuania, as approximately 1,000 people go missing every year in the country. Only around 70% of those reported missing are found.
Lithuania is a source, transit and destination country for female and child victims of human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. Around 21% of victims of human trafficking in Lithuania are young girls (14-18 years old).
The Missing Persons’ Families Support Centre group
The MPFSC was formed in 1996 by parents and close relatives of missing people and is an independent Lithuanian not-for-profit organisation that aims to help the families of missing people and human trafficking victims. The families were dissatisfied with the overly slow missing person search procedure in Lithuania and therefore decided to change the situation by forming an organisation.
The organisation has been providing assistance to victims since 1997 and the first refuge for human trafficking victims was opened in 2001.
The MPFSC’s main activities are as follows:
1. Supporting victims of human trafficking (legal, judicial and psychological support)
2. Educational and prevention work;
3. Awareness-raising about human trafficking and missing people;
4. Lobbying national institutions;
5. Helping to trace missing people.
The MPFSC is the only non-governmental organisation in the country that helps families trace missing people. In particular, the centre offers judicial and legal support. The organisation has signed an official cooperation partnership agreement with the police department that reports to the Republic of Lithuania’s Ministry of the Interior, which includes exchanges of information, seminars, conferences and training.
Furthermore, the police and the centre actively cooperate with the media, making announcements on TV, radio, in the local and national press and on the internet.
The MPFSC also works at European level as it runs projects supported by the EU (for example “Reintegrating human trafficking victims into the labour market”) and cooperates with international organisations.
The MPFSC’s contribution to combating human trafficking and to seeking to bring about change has been rewarded by national and international institutions, including:
- The “United Nations Vienna Civil Society Award” for special merit in the fields of justice and social progress, UNDC (2002).
- Crime and criminal offence prevention project rewarded by the Ministry of the Interior (2006).
- The Ministry of the Interior awarded the centre a medal for its work as part of the state “combating human trafficking” programme (2008) among other awards.
Le Centre de soutien aux familles de personnes disparues est aussi actif sur le plan européen puisqu’il met en œuvre des projets soutenus par l’Union européenne (par exemple « La réinsertion des victimes de traite des êtres humains sur le marché du travail ») et coopère avec des organisations internationales.
What is Emmaus’ role?
Initiative supported in 2009: Girl power in Lithuania
In 2009, Emmaus Europe supported a MPFSC initiative that aimed to support victims of human trafficking in order to integrate them into society and particularly into the labour market. The centre implemented prevention activities in order to reduce human trafficking:
- Publicising the methods and means used to ensnare victims.
- Circulating information about how to protect oneself from the threat.
In addition, conferences and training courses were run (including a course by Mia Hanström, from the Aland Island Peace Institute in Finland) and articles were published.
An educational film, Don’t sell yourself, was made and circulated in order to inform young people and society in general about human trafficking and highlight ways of avoiding and reducing the risk of becoming a victim.
Initiative supported in 2010
As a continuation of the previous year’s work, the 2010 initiative is based on the girls’ group method, developed in Finland, Sweden and on the Åland islands, which is a prevention method that raises the awareness of young girls about human trafficking. The method has been in use in Lithuania since 2004 and was adopted in order to prevent young Lithuanian girls from becoming victims of human trafficking. In addition, it has had a significant impact in terms of promoting gender equality in Lithuania. The “girls’ group” method produces sustainable long-term results.
The initiative protects young girls from risks such as human trafficking, abuse and social exclusion. The girls will regain the motivation that they need to continue studying and gain professional qualifications. The project therefore helps to promote their education and integration into the labour market, which will also have a positive economic impact on local development.
For more information about this initiative, please refer to the solidarity request .