On the occasion of the European Anti-Trafficking Day, the National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings (NCCTHB) held a discussion forum on "Sustainability of Anti-Trafficking Policies. Improving data collection and analysis mechanisms. Utilization of confiscated funds and assets from convicted traffickers for the benefit of victims", which took place at the Granite Hall of the Council of Ministers.

The forum was opened by Ms. Monika Beecher, Deputy Miniter of Interior and member of NCCTHB. Ms. Beecher stressed the importance of the topic and the need of a coordinated response to tackle the crime. She noted that steps had been taken in the last two months to stabilise the administrative structure and there is a will the next steps to be taked in achieving sustainability in addressing the issue at a national level.

Mr. Valiant Ritchey, Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Trafficking in Human Beings of OSCE delivered a specially recorded video address to the fparticipants in relation to his recent findings following his official monitoring visit last year. The video message is available at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPfRaqRzUFI

An keynote speech was made by Ms Antoaneta Vassileva, First Vice President of the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings of the Council of Europe about the importance of national policies to combat trafficking in human beings and protection of victims in international context. She recalled the general framework of the recommendations part of the Third Evaluation Round of the progress in the implementation of the CoE Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and identified several key priorities for their full implementation. This priorities included the topics on focus in relation to the establishment of a comprehensive system for data collection and analysis as well to guarantee the rights of victims and the possibilities for financial compensation and reparations.

The Evaluation Report on the National Strategy to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings 2017-2021, carried out by the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, was presented and wil be officially distributed. The report contains an analysis of the overall policies and their implementation mechanisms in a strategic plan. One of the main recommendations include the need to increase the overall funding of measures and activities at national and regional level which make the resulting problems chronic and limits the possibilities for addressing them effectively.

The forum brought together representatives of relevant institutions, local anti-trafficking coordinators, NGOs and international organisations who actively discussed the identified problems and practical approaches to address them.

The main stakeholders involved in the process of data collection and analysis discussed the possibilities of creating a unified model and a relevant instrument in line with European standards in the field and planned to continue the discussion on a working level.

Opportunities for the use of confiscated funds from convicted traffickers for the benefit of victims are difficult to be achieved in the short-term and a long-term solution in this regard requires an initiative for a number of legislative changes. Specialised services for victims of trafficking can easily benefit from confiscated assets to improve the living conditions of the accomodated victims.

Awareness-raising activities on access to financial compensation and benefits were planned for both professionals and victims of trafficking.