For people who have experienced trafficking, safe shelter is often the first step towards recovery and stabilization. Until last year, there were no shelters specifically for survivors of trafficking in Iraq or Kurdistan. After the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) passed the ‘Anti-Human Trafficking Law No. 6′ in 2018, which provided for the establishment of safe shelter and a Human Trafficking Fund to support survivors in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), SEED entered into a partnership with the KRG to establish the first privately licensed shelter for men, women, and children who have experienced human trafficking in Iraq. In November of 2019, the STEPS Center opened its doors for the first time. Despite the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown measures, the STEPS Center has provided safe shelter for 70 people from eleven countries including 54 women, 13 men, two boys, and a girl in its first year.

Methodology: Every Survivor of Trafficking is Unique

After arriving at the STEPS Center, which now has capacity for up to 45 residents at any one time, each individual is immediately assigned a SEED case manager who sits down and listens to their experiences and works to understand their immediate, short and long-term needs. Together, they develop a client-centered plan to address their needs and help them to meet their desired outcome. Within their first week, they are screened by a SEED psychologist, informed of their legal rights within Kurdistan and have access to holistic services including health care, emotional support, and psychosocial activities.

Each client’s plan is individually tailored and includes a range of services such as case management, legal counseling and representation, support in obtaining identification or travel documents, cash assistance for repatriation or other financial needs like legal fees, support in mediating labor disputes with employment companies and coping skills and/or mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services to help survivors deal with emotional trauma they may have experienced.

The ‘Anti-Human Trafficking Law No. 6′ adopted by the Kurdistan Region Parliament in 2018 was the first of its kind in the KRI. SEED continues to advocate for further implementation by all law enforcement agencies and the judiciary in relevant cases across Kurdistan. The KRG TIP Police receive specialized training and technical assistance from SEED, on implementation practices such as referral pathways, so that those most in need get access to the shelter. These referral pathways and providing protection through shelter were some of the key recommendations in SEED’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report. In its first year the STEPS Center received most of its referrals via the KRG’s Directorate of Anti-Trafficking.


Looking Forward into 2021 and Beyond

Our first year was full of challenges, especially operating under the constraints of COVID-19, but SEED remains fully committed to combating human trafficking in Kurdistan by protecting, empowering and supporting the recovery of survivors of human trafficking. The STEPS Center plays an integral role in seeing that commitment realized. By providing a safe space for survivors to start their individual recovery and stabilization, SEED is supporting men, women and children who have experienced human trafficking in Kurdistan to live with meaning and dignity, on their terms.

SEED is honored to be in a position to provide safe shelter and protection services to individuals who have experienced labor and sexual exploitation in Kurdistan and Iraq. Over the last year, supporting and listening to 70 individuals at the STEPS Center has taught us a lot about what survivors need, and we will continue to listen and respond in a trauma-informed, survivor-centered manner. As we move into 2021, STEPS Center staff look forward to supporting many more individuals find safety, recovery, and the opportunity to meaningfully choose their next steps.

Original Source

NO Comment 3rd January 2021

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