Civil Society in the Spotlight: Loredana Urzica-Mirea from eLiberare

Civil Society in the Spotlight: Loredana Urzica-Mirea from eLiberare

In this Civil Society Spotlight interview, we hear from Loredana Urzica-Mirea, the Executive Director of eLibrare in Romania. Loredana Urzica-Mirea is a human rights activist with a focus on preventing and combating human trafficking, with a background in political science and competitive intelligence.

 eLiberare is a Romanian civil society organisation focused on preventing human trafficking and sexual exploitation. The organisation works in four Centers for Detection and Notification of Cases of Trafficking in Romania, creating tailored prevention resources, identifying innovative tools for detection and building communities of allies against trafficking at local level.

EPIM has supported the scaling and expansion of eLibrare’s Kompass project in Romania and Moldova since June 2023.


  1. How has eLiberare changed its work and focus since the beginning of the war in Ukraine?


In 2022 when displaced people from Ukraine were coming to Romania, we knew that an immediate response was needed. At eLiberare we made it our goal to ensure that every protection initiative would include and prioritise the detection and prevention of human trafficking. Vulnerabilities and traumas can pave the way for a person to be trafficked. While escaping the war, Ukrainians ended up vulnerable to deception and exploitation due to compound vulnerabilities (escaping war, limited resources, lack of documents, need for emergency assistance, etc.). In this context, eLiberare created a model of intervention, Kompass, for all those displaced by creating a resilient network of stakeholders who track, advocate, and assist refugees and prevent trafficking and exploitation.


  1. How does the KOMPASS tool work, in brief? Is this a different approach than one you have taken in your work focused on Romanian victims? 


The Kompass Model of Intervention is implemented in four steps which constitute a barrier against exploitation and human trafficking among Ukrainians and third-country nationals displaced by the war. It is being implemented at local, national, and regional levels and is ensuring an alternative traceability system that looks at personalised journeys of individuals, rather than migration trends, and also offers specialised support for those who stay in Romania. People need vetted information and support to navigate, on the one hand, the bureaucracy to access help in Romania, as well as what are the things needed to leave the country, how to make a personalised safety plan, establish emergency contact details and safety passwords.

Furthermore, throughout the intervention we built the capacity of citisens and frontlines in detecting and reporting cases of human trafficking and connecting them to authorities with investigative responsibilities, as well as raising awareness among the Ukrainians and the third-country nationals coming from Ukraine, especially among those with compound vulnerabilities.

We had to tailor our approach to the language challenges and also to the cultural differences (things like using the Russian versus Ukrainian language, communicating on Telegram, creating QR codes for all the materials as we learned they are a very important tool for Ukrainians), but also the specific needs of beneficiaries who were displaced, and transitioning through Romania or even through multiple countries in many cases, rather than staying in one place, which is where the safety plan, the referral and traceability aspect of the KOMPASS model became so important.


eLiberare team holding counselling sessions with Ukrainian refugees (image credit: eLiberare)


  1. Who do you collaborate with in your work? Which partnerships do you feel have been most useful to both prevention work and identification of trafficking and exploitation victims?


We work with partners on multiple levels. We work with local institutions and grassroots organisations to implement Kompass and to build the capacity of frontliners and volunteers to detect and notify potential cases of trafficking. We work with partners across Europe that are now part of a resilient network of safe places that were trained on intervention and who are able to support refugees in a trauma informed care manner. We also work with multiple Governmental institutions and international entities to have a common approach when it comes to prevention and assistance.

We recognise the importance of working alongside experienced humanitarian organisations in this context. Bringing together our anti-trafficking experience with the work of organisations who are championing humanitarian aid made our intervention more impactful. We learned we have shared principles in our common work, but there are also things that are different. In addition, we learned that supporting and building capacity of host communities is key in this ongoing crisis.


  1. What is the most important learning you have taken away from the past year working with Ukrainian refugees? How do you think this learning will influence eLiberare’s work in the future?


One of the main lessons we continue to see the importance of is incorporating beneficiary feedback in activity. We engage survivors and Ukrainians who have escaped the war to deliver real aid to those we assist. We learned that things could look differently than what we initially envisioned. Involving people from the same cultural background in working with the people we were looking to assist helped us tailor the intervention and be more impactful.

Another lesson learned was to use technology to help people be more informed, more prepared, to keep in touch with them on an individual level and assist all the cases that were referred to us. We create content on Telegram, on YouTube, on Instagram, on Tik Tok. People started to follow it, ask us questions, report whatever was suspicious so we can follow-up with authorities. We created a trustable relationship with them. Soon after that, women started to feel safe and began to disclose to us the abuse and exploitation they were facing.

One other valuable lesson we learned during this time is that flexibility is vital and while our intervention is specifically on anti-trafficking, there are many things that are required to be done, including legal counselling, social work focused on humanitarian aid etc. As the emergency phase is closed, we are now working on integrating the programs for migrants and refugees in our overall organisational strategy.

We realised preventing human trafficking in humanitarian and migration contexts is a conversation we need to have moving forward. People on the move, due to conflict or climate change or political and social insecurities are at huge risks of being exploited due to compound vulnerabilities and worldwide we need to talk more about this, and design solutions focused on safety.

Read more Civil Society in the Spotlight interview here.