The international anti-slavery movement “Alternativa” was founded in 2011 by human rights activist Oleg Melnikov following his humanistic ideals to help the victims of modern slavery to escape from captivity and start a free life.
“Alternativa” helps victims of forced labor, prostitution, begging and domestic violence.
“Alternativa” is one of the fewest organizations that directly take action in rescue operations both on the territory of the Russian Federation and in other regions of the world. Upon release, victims are offered assistance in repatriation or a safe shelter. Upon request, activists provide victims with psychological rehabilitation, legal and employment assistance.
In addition, the activists of the “Alternativa” helped Russian citizens who due to prevailing circumstances (loss of documents) lived abroad illegally for years and had no opportunity to return home. In February 2017, the volunteers helped Valery Galaktionov to leave Armenia, who, due to a mistake in writing the name in the personnel file of the military unit, had no opportunity to return to Russia since 1995.
The idea to organize a movement against modern slavery came to O. Melnikov after a trip to Dagestan, where he came upon his friend’s request to participate in the liberation of a victim of labor exploitation at a brick factory. Thanks to the support of the media, law enforcement agencies initiated inspections, as a result of which three local “slave owners” received prison sentences, and five victims returned home.
As it turned out, labor exploitation on farms and brick factories was flourishing in Dagestan, since it had been almost impossible to bring criminals to responsibility for slave trade: the criminal legislation of the Russian Federation does not provide for a sanction for the use of forced labor.
Back in Moscow, Oleg together with supporters organized the “Alternativa” movement. Since its inception and as of October 2018, “Alternativa” helps people thanks to small donations, as well as personal funds of activists.
In October 2012, volunteers accompanied by a team of journalists released 12 people (9 women and 3 men), citizens of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, from the basement of a grocery store in the east of Moscow. As it turned out, some of them were in slavery for more than 12 years. Later, this case received name “Golyanovskiye slaves” and was widely covered by the Russian and foreign media.
In 2014, the “Alternativa” volunteers went to the military conflict zone in the Donbass (Ukraine) to assist in the exchange of prisoners of war. In less than 2 years, activists were able to rescue over 300 people from captivity.
In April 2017, The Guardian released a documentary on modern slavery in the Russian Federation: journalists together with the activists of the “Alternativa” went to Dagestan to help a married couple from Volgograd who fell into slave labor on a local farm. The journalists managed to record all stages of the operation including an episode involving the use of physical violence by slave owners against victims and volunteers.
In 2017, Vera Georgievna Gracheva, a specialist in the field of combating human trafficking and exploitation, joined the “Alternativa” as a consultant and representative at events organized by the OSCE, the UN, and the IOM.
During summer 2018, the Alternativa activists organised the process of repatriation of labor migrants from Nigeria who arrived in the Russian Federation thanks to a facilitated migration regime. “Alternativa” provided comfortable accommodation and decent nutrition to more than 300 migrants during their stay in the Russian Federation
In addition, the activists held a series of activities together with law enforcement agencies to free the victims of forced prostitution, as a result of which dozens of victims became free, and the traffickers received punishment.
In 2018, the Alternative movement together with partner organizations Istikboli Avlod (Uzbekistan) and Sana Sizim (Kazakhstan) joined the Alliance against Trafficking in Persons.
Over 7 years of active work, the Alternativa’s volunteers rescued over 1,000 victims from captivity, and also provided comprehensive support, including legal advice, rehabilitation, and assistance in repatriation, to over 2,000 people.