Belgium has opened a central contact point to help fight against human trafficking and smuggling, announced Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne on Monday.
A new website will allow victims to find the relevant help more quickly as well as assist in unmasking and dismantling criminal networks involved in trafficking and smuggling humans. The website was launched on Monday and allows victims or witnesses to get information, file a report or contact specialized help centres.
The project was launched to coincide with the UN's Blue Heart Campaign, a global awareness initiative to fight against human trafficking. On Saturday 30 July, the UN will raise awareness of the issue with its World Day against Trafficking in Persons.
An estimated 23,000 people are victims of exploitation or modern slavery in Belgium. Yet this takes place beneath the radar and is therefore difficult to combat, said Van Quickenborne during a press conference.
Raising awareness of the issue is key – calls to a trafficking charity's helpline in the UK rose sharply after Sir Mo Farah revealed that he had been trafficked to the UK illegally as a child. The charity Unseen UK told the BBC that it saw a 20% rise in calls and a 15% rise in contact overall, which included their website and app.
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In Belgium, there are three specialised reception centres for victims of human trafficking in Belgium: Payoke in Antwerp, PAG-ASA in Brussels and Sürya in Liège.
"Too many victims do not find assistance, often because they don't dare to go to the police or are not aware of these centres," said the Justice Minister.
The newly-launched website is in several languages and lets people report on human trafficking without needing to contact police first. A 24/7 central telephone line will be available in a few months.