Kosovo is a source and destination country for women, children, and some men subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Most sex trafficking victims in Kosovo are female citizens, though in previous years women from Moldova, Slovakia, Albania, Serbia, Turkey, and Poland also face forced prostitution by criminal groups in Kosovo. Children from Kosovo and neighboring countries, including Albania, were subjected to forced begging within the country. An increasing number of girls aged 14-17 were victims of sex trafficking. Women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking in private homes and apartments, night clubs, and massage parlors. Traffickers deceived victims by promising employment as dancers and singers in restaurants, and instead forcing them into sex trafficking in private apartments. Traffickers subject Kosovo citizens to forced prostitution and forced labor throughout Europe. Traffickers reportedly exploit the visa-free regime to bring victims into Europe.
The Government of Kosovo does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government opened a new shelter for victims, accommodating male trafficking victims for the first time, and increased funding for victim protection. A new law on victim protection established, among other innovations, a residency permit for foreign trafficking victims. Courts made progress in reducing the backlog of cases. However, the government struggled to hold trafficking offenders accountable. The government convicted fewer offenders and imposed lenient sentences on convicted traffickers. Several provisions of the new protection law were not yet implemented during the reporting period, including a victims’ compensation fund and the new residency permit.
Recommendations for Kosovo:
Prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish trafficking offenders; investigate and strengthen efforts to prosecute, convict, and sentence officials complicit in trafficking; provide advanced anti-trafficking training to judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement; enhance efforts to identify and assist child victims of trafficking in begging; ensure the new protection provisions established in the September 2013 law are fully implemented; implement screening for trafficking among migrants at risk; offer the new temporary residence permit to foreign victims of trafficking and witnesses in trafficking cases; ensure victims of trafficking have the freedom to come and go in all shelters; establish and fund a victim compensation fund, as provided by Kosovo law; and continue to enhance transparency through regular reporting.
The Government of Kosovo sustained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period; prosecutions increased, but fewer offenders were convicted and sentences were inappropriately lenient. Article 171 of Kosovo’s criminal code prohibits all forms of both sex and labor trafficking and prescribes punishments of five to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine. These punishments are sufficiently stringent and are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The police had a designated anti-trafficking force of 55 officers that investigated trafficking cases and other related offenses. Authorities initiated 91 new trafficking investigations during the reporting period compared with 104 in 2012. There were no investigations for forced labor. Courts initiated prosecutions of 60 new cases in 2013, an increase from 31 cases in 2012. Courts convicted 25 trafficking offenders, including one public official in 2013, compared with 41 offenders in 2012. Courts acquitted three defendants, compared with nine in 2012, and 90 prosecutions remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period. Sentences ranged from four months’ to six years’ imprisonment and fines. One offender received a suspended sentence and fine. Prosecutors sometimes dropped trafficking charges or reduced trafficking charges to lesser, non-trafficking charges, and sentences of those convicted were frequently even lower than the limits set in the applicable law. There were no prosecutions or convictions for labor trafficking during the reporting period. Courts continued to reduce the backlog of cases. Corruption remained a problem within the police force. Kosovo authorities reportedly arrested and suspended one officer for alleged involvement of trafficking in persons; the investigation is ongoing. Prosecutors continued cases against two Ministry of Labor officials and two police officers arrested for trafficking in 2012. A police officer who subjected a female associate to sex trafficking was acquitted. The government trained law enforcement officers on trafficking victim identification, the criminal code and procedures, investigation of trafficking cases, and victim support and assistance during investigations. The police academy conducted 44 trainings for the anti-trafficking special police force. The government exchanged trafficking information with foreign countries on 18 trafficking cases, but did not engage in any joint investigations.
The government improved efforts to protect victims of trafficking, opening a new facility for all trafficking victims, including males; increasing funding for victim assistance; and establishing a residency permit for trafficking victims. In September 2013, the Kosovo government passed a new law, “Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Protecting Victims of Trafficking,” which established new protection measures. Police identified 51 victims of trafficking in 2013, compared with 54 in 2012; four were adult male victims and 12 were children, compared with 23 children and no adult male victims in 2013. Authorities formally identified no labor trafficking victims, despite the police identifying 66 children in begging. The government opened a new 24-hour high security shelter, replacing the older shelter. The shelter provided separate spaces for medium- and high-risk victims based on gender. The shelter provided support to 40 identified victims; the other 11 declined assistance. Adult victims were not allowed to leave the shelter unchaperoned. Victims were placed in the high security shelter until police conducted a risk assessment to determine if there was any direct threat towards the victim. If victims were determined to be at low risk, they were moved to NGO shelters. In 2013, the government began monitoring and issuing licenses for social workers and shelters. The government allocated a budget of the equivalent of approximately $110,000 for the government-run high security shelter, compared with the equivalent of approximately $84,600 in 2012. Six NGO shelters, including those serving domestic violence victims, and one victim assistance center, received the equivalent of approximately $239,000, compared with the equivalent of approximately $198,000 in 2012.
The new trafficking law regulates victim treatment during the investigation and prosecution of cases; for example, by limiting the number of times child victims are allowed to be interviewed, protecting the confidentiality of those victims, and ensuring social and psychological services are provided to them. Victim advocates or social workers were present when police interviewed potential victims of trafficking. Victim advocates assisted victims of trafficking with legal advice, and reintegration support. Social workers were present when interviewing potential child victims of trafficking. Child victims of trafficking were placed in child-only shelters or long-term foster care. During the reporting period, although the law was amended to provide residency status for foreign victims and witnesses in trafficking cases, no requests for residency status were received by the government. The new law also requires that victims be accorded a reflection period—time in which they can recover before deciding whether to cooperate with law enforcement. Although the new protection law required the government to pass legislation to establish and finance a victims’ compensation fund, the government had not passed the law necessary to establish the victims’ compensation fund by the end of the reporting period. There were no reports of the government punishing victims of trafficking for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The September 2013 law introduced a new provision exempting trafficking victims from liability for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
The government continued its diverse efforts to prevent human trafficking. In 2013, the government funded the anti-trafficking secretariat without the assistance of international donors. The government also conducted a campaign aimed at potential victims of trafficking, including students, children, and women, to raise awareness of human trafficking and victim identification. The campaign produced radio, television, and print messages in Albanian, Serbian, and the Roma language, and had a social media component as well. The anti-trafficking police participated in anti-trafficking debates, roundtables throughout municipalities, youth centers and universities, and in lectures in elementary and high schools. The national coordination group met monthly to monitor anti-trafficking activities and the protection and assistance of trafficking victims. The group comprises government officials, international organizations, and NGOs. In an effort to enhance transparency, the Kosovo police issued a thorough annual report on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.