As COVID19 measures came into force in early March 2020, SEED Foundation staff provided much-needed gloves and masks and other supplies to police officers at Erbil’s Directorate of Human Trafficking Trafficking in Persons (TIP) police unit in Erbil, the Kurdistan Region – as the KRG’s key law enforcement unit and only designated body in Iraq to respond to trafficking, to allow them to safely continue their work.

SEED Foundation works closely with the TIP police to support implementation of the Kurdistan Region’s Anti-Trafficking Law of 2018, serving a variety of trafficking survivors including migrant and domestic workers, both men and women, who may have been exploited for labor, sex, organ harvesting or slavery. SEED also provides protection for victims of human trafficking in our STEPS Center, the first licensed shelter for trafficking survivors in Iraq.

Often after the TIP police become aware of a case, the survivor is referred to SEED, and we offer comprehensive mental health, well-being, legal and protection services and in some cases safe shelter at the STEPS Center which opened last year. Women are disproportionately affected by trafficking, as well as men, are provided a safe haven while their cases are pending, either in the courts in the Kurdistan Region or through a migrant worker’s relevant consulate or embassy. 

SEED has remained steadfast in its commitment to survivors of trafficking throughout the COVID-19 pandemic despite the temporary movement bans, suspension of services by some governmental and diplomatic missions’ offices and services. Our Senior Program and Protection Manager explained how far SEED’s staff have gone to ensure the safety of the men and women in our shelter.

“It hasn’t been easy,” the manager said. “In the first few weeks we had SEED team members at the shelters 24 hours per day, even residing at the shelter so that our clients didn’t feel like they were being abandoned. We have continued to deliver services to some of Kurdistan’s most vulnerable people, the survivors of trafficking, who are even more at risk of abuse during these really stressful and difficult times.”