Monday, June 14, 2021
Casa Vlasia, Codrii Vlasiei St. 2
Good morning, State Counselor Turza, General Prosecutor Scutea, Director Shawn Kohl, General Secretary Radu, State Secretary Despescu, ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to thank the government of Romania and all of you here today for your continued cooperation and commitment to fighting human trafficking.
Romania has made significant progress over the past two years, increasing its anti-trafficking efforts. Last year, the government adopted a plan to improve the fight against this heinous crime and is well on its way to fully implementing these commitments. For example, in April, DIICOT established a special unit of prosecutors dedicated to human trafficking cases. This unit will be able to handle these sensitive cases and develop the targeted skills and expertise necessary to see them through to success and see that perpetrators are brought to justice.
In March, Prime Minister Citu appointed Madalina Turza to the position of State Counselor with responsibility for vulnerable populations, including victims and potential victims of trafficking. With her as a single point of contact, the government will be better able to coordinate the difficult, but crucial, work of multiple agencies and ministries in combatting this scourge.
Last fall, the National Anti-Trafficking Agency, under the leadership of Director Max Nicolae and Interior Ministry State Secretary Bogdan Despescu, signed historic partnership agreements with the Romanian Orthodox Church and Bucharest Mayor Nicusor Dan, expanding the team of institutions fighting the battle against trafficking.
Despite these significant and important steps, challenges remain. The United States recognizes that trafficking in persons is a transnational crime and fully supports Romania in its efforts. As announced last year, the U.S. Government is funding the work of the International Justice Mission here in Romania, and I would like to thank Mr. Kohn and his team for organizing this training.
We are your partners, but we can only do so much; it is up to Romania to do the hard work to protect its people from the scourge of trafficking. And we all know the hard work that you do every day. It is up to you to confront and stop the criminals who would steal the lives of Romanian children, to confront organized crime that plays on the hopes of Romanian men and women who wish to improve their lives and instead find themselves ruined and enslaved by merciless thugs.
We talk about prosecutions and bringing down networks. We talk of international and internal reports that show the prevalence of the problem. But these are all secondary to the most important aspect of trafficking: the victims. The training program we are inaugurating today is focused on them.
So, for all those being trained – as you go through your training, as you apply what you will learn here this week in your work, I want you all to remember the victims. They are the real reason that we are here today.
Remember the 14-year-old girl, forced to work in an underground brothel. Think of what she faces day in and day out, essentially raped multiple times in a day. Remember the 18-year-old boy who is forced to work, hours on end, in deplorable conditions, seeing none of the benefits of his labor, held as a modern-day slave. This is why we are here. This is why we care so much. No one, especially not children, should have to undergo such horrors. These victims are someone’s child, brother, sister, friend, parent. Their lives will be irrevocably changed, and not for the better, by those people who are vile enough to profit from the misery of others.
The world-class training you are about to receive will improve your skills to combat this horrific crime. We are here with you. We stand in awe of your dedication. It is the right thing to do. Every minute that passes, another child is abused. Another woman hoping for a better life is exploited. Another man seeking to care for his family is trafficked. So please, every day, remember the victims, and let’s do whatever we can to prevent this happening to even one more person. All of you here today are part of the solution, and we honor your commitment.
On behalf of the Government and the people of the United States, thank you very much.