Hungary is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution of women and girls and forced labor of men, women, and children. Women and children, particularly Roma from eastern Hungary, are subjected to sex trafficking within the country and abroad, including in the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom (UK), Germany, Austria, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Spain, Sweden, and the United States. Media and NGOs report significant numbers of Hungarian women forced to engage in prostitution in the Netherlands and Switzerland. Experts also report Hungarian women lured into sham marriages to third-country nationals in the UK and Austria, with the women subjected to physical abuse and forced prostitution. Men and women from Hungary are subjected to forced labor domestically and abroad, including in the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Canada, and the United States. The exploitation of Hungarian men in Western Europe intensified during the reporting period, particularly in the agricultural sector of the northern part of the Netherlands and the construction industry in the UK. According to an EU report, 18 percent of the victims in trafficking investigations by Europol between 2009 and 2013 were Hungarian. Trafficking victims from Bulgaria and Romania transit Hungary en route to destinations in Western Europe. In addition to the impoverished, a large number of victimized women and girls, especially Roma, come from state-provided housing and correctional facilities; many of them are recruited by sex traffickers while living in such facilities. Traffickers also recruit unaccompanied minor asylum seekers while the minors are housed in shelters. Families in rural areas reportedly force homeless men to perform domestic or agricultural labor. Labor recruiters reportedly transport men either domestically or internationally to work in construction and keep the workers’ salaries. Sex trafficking victims in Hungary continue to be subjected to exploitation in street prostitution and in brothels disguised as bars or massage parlors, as well as in private apartments or homes.
The Government of Hungary does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite the large number of Hungarian trafficking victims internally and throughout the EU, victim assistance remained low. The shortage of beds in shelters remained a problem. Nevertheless, the government actively engaged the public throughout the reporting period in awareness campaigns to prevent trafficking. A new criminal code came into effect in July 2013, but the new law fails to fully comport with the definition of human trafficking in the EU Directive 2011/36/EU. Minimal training of police on trafficking resulted in a lack of awareness and sensitivity towards trafficking victims.
Recommendations for Hungary:
Increase victim assistance by continuing to expand shelter capacity in Hungary and ensure consistent funding for NGOs providing victim care; ensure all repatriated victims are offered assistance; bolster protection for trafficking victims who face serious harm and retribution from their traffickers, including by developing longer-term care options to improve their reintegration in Hungary; enhance the collection and reporting of reliable trafficking law enforcement data and the number of trafficking victims identified; take steps to increase incentives for victims’ voluntary cooperation with law enforcement; ensure the Hungarian anti-trafficking law is fully harmonized with the definition of trafficking under the EU Directive 2011/36/EU by more precisely defining exploitation (including child prostitution, forced prostitution, forced labor, begging, and the exploitation of criminal activities), and by ensuring that means of fraud, force, or coercion are required elements of the core offense of adult trafficking; and increase training of law enforcement and prosecutors.
The Government of Hungary sustained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. A new criminal code with trafficking provisions came into effect in July 2013. Under the new criminal code, Article 192 criminalizes many forms of human trafficking, but is overbroad because it does not require the use of force, the threat of force, or fraud to prove the basic offense of trafficking in persons, instead making force, the threat of force, or fraud aggravated elements resulting in enhanced penalties, under Article 192(3). Furthermore, the law’s new definition of exploitation was not specifically tied to forced labor, forced prostitution, or child prostitution; instead, it defines exploitation as the abuse of power for the purpose of taking advantage of a victim, rendering the trafficking definition potentially much more expansive than the purposes of exploitation set forth under international law. Experts expressed concern that the 2012 criminal code does not adequately define sex trafficking and forced labor. The narrow judicial interpretation of the previous law had created overly strict evidentiary requirements, for example, by requiring proof of a transaction and evidence of direct or recently committed violence. The new law remedies this problem by making “exploitation” the key component of the definition of trafficking in persons. The criminal code also made forced labor an explicit offense under Article 193 and raised the maximum sentences for aggravated trafficking acts. The new law fails, however, to fully comport with the definition of human trafficking in the EU Directive 2011/36/EU by including the necessary purposes of exploitation, such as forced prostitution, child prostitution, or begging. Prescribed penalties still range from one to 20 years’ imprisonment, or life imprisonment under aggravating circumstances, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
Experts continued to identify the lack of reliable data as one of the main obstacles to effectively combating trafficking in Hungary. In 2013, the government reportedly initiated four new investigations, a decrease from 18 the previous year. The number of prosecutions increased slightly to 13 cases against 37 individuals in 2013 from 12 cases in 2012. Hungarian courts convicted 88 trafficking offenders in 33 sex trafficking cases in 2013, a significant increase from 18 convicted offenders in 2012. In January 2014, media reported the conviction of a police officer for pandering. After being sentenced to four years and eight months’ imprisonment, with three years suspended, the officer was dismissed from the police service. In 2013, Hungarian authorities conducted limited training for police officers on victim protection and identification. In June 2013, the government held a seminar for 32 victim assistance officers; in September and October 2013, the Hungarian Prosecution Service organized a five-day training session for 35 deputy chief prosecutors.
The Government of Hungary increased efforts to protect trafficking victims, although budget limitations hindered the provision of victim assistance and assistance remained far below the needs of trafficking victims in Hungary. An amendment to the 2005 Act on Crime Victim Support and State Compensation—in effect since January 1, 2013—mandates that the government issue detailed regulations for the identification of trafficking victims and provide safe shelter for victims exploited in Hungary or abroad. Victims are eligible to receive support under this act regardless of whether they assist law enforcement. In implementation of this amendment, the government adopted a decree (No. 354)—in effect since January 1, 2013—on the trafficking victim identification mechanism, which lists the institutions responsible for identifying trafficking victims, the questionnaire to be completed with suspected trafficking victims, and procedural protocols for trafficking victim identification. The protocol includes provisions on the role of the National Crisis Intervention and Information Telephone Service in the referral of and provision of safe shelter for potential trafficking victims. The National Police Headquarters issued a directive (No. 2/2013), in effect since January 31, 2013, which requires that there be victim protection officers at each police station who are responsible for attending to trafficking victims, as well as victims who are children, elderly, disabled, foreigners, or in a vulnerable situation.
Although the government identified more than a hundred victims, the provision of victim assistance was low. In 2013, the government identified a total of 133 trafficking victims through its national referral mechanism (NRM), 59 of whom were identified abroad by Hungarian Consular Services. Of the 133 victims identified in 2013, the government’s victim support service reported assisting three foreign trafficking victims; an increase from one foreign victim in 2012. Experts expressed concern about Hungarian police patrols’ lack of awareness of trafficking and insensitivity towards trafficking victims, adding that victim identification is highly problematic.
The Hungarian government had 20 victim support and legal assistance offices around the country where trafficking victims could receive short-term psychological, social, and legal assistance. The government reportedly provided legal support to four victims, accommodation to one victim, psychological support to five victims, financial support to 12 victims, and other forms of support to seven victims. General victim support services included providing information, securing psychological assistance, providing help for assertion of interest, legal aid, and a maximum of the equivalent of approximately $380 in immediate financial assistance. The government provided the equivalent of approximately $26,400 to an NGO-run shelter in 2013, the same amount provided in 2012. This shelter had limited space capacity for a maximum of six victims for a renewable, six-week period. Twenty-seven Hungarian trafficking victims were referred to this shelter in 2013 for care, compared to 30 Hungarian victims referred in 2012. The government provided the equivalent of approximately $25,300 to another NGO-run shelter to accommodate six female trafficking victims for up to a year. Six women and four children were accommodated in this NGO run shelter in 2013; two of the women and all four children stayed at the shelter for more than a year. Victims are only permitted to leave the shelter if accompanied by a chaperone. The safety of trafficking victims who choose to testify against traffickers remains a concern, and the government had yet to use its witness protection program to protect any victims required to testify. The law provided foreign victims with a 30-day reflection period and temporary residency permit if they decided to assist law enforcement; however, no foreign victims applied for or received this temporary immigration relief in 2013.
The Government of Hungary sustained prevention efforts by utilizing multiple platforms to prevent human trafficking. In August 2013, the government organized a week-long awareness raising campaign as part of an annual youth music festival to educate Hungarians about trafficking and reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, reaching over a thousand people. The government continued a pilot project from the previous reporting period to reach 551 secondary school students. In partnership with the EU, the government undertook a public relations campaign to educate Hungarians seeking jobs abroad about their right to challenge poor working conditions in destination countries. The government participated in the “Integrated Approach for Prevention of Labor Exploitation in Origin and Destination Countries” project with the Government of Romania in an effort to decrease labor exploitation. The government failed, however, to take efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period. It did not demonstrate transparency in systematically assessing its anti-trafficking efforts and providing reliable trafficking-related statistics in 2013, but maintained a website listing information on its anti-trafficking efforts, indicators of trafficking, and checklists for Hungarians planning on working abroad.