AUSTRIA: Tier 1
Austria is a destination and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. The majority of identified victims are girls and women subjected to sex trafficking. Victims primarily originate from Eastern Europe (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria) and, to a lesser extent, China, Nigeria, the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America. Traffickers sometimes lure women by offering fictitious positions, including over social media, as au pairs, cleaners, waitresses, or dancers. Forced labor occurs in the agricultural, construction, catering, restaurant, and cleaning sectors, and among domestic laborers in diplomatic households. Authorities are identifying trafficking victims among a growing population of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers, including children from Syria, Afghanistan, and North Africa forced into begging. Physically and mentally disabled persons from Eastern Europe and Romani children are victims of forced begging.
The Government of Austria fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government more than doubled convictions and prosecuted more trafficking cases compared with 2013. The government continued to identify and refer victims in partnership with NGOs and increased funding for victim services. A counseling center for undocumented migrants that opened in May 2014 identified two trafficking victims, and a center for male trafficking victims began offering shelter in March 2015. The government continued its efforts to address and prevent domestic servitude in diplomatic households. The government supported a campaign to sensitize clients of prostitution about sex trafficking and a program to prevent child sex tourism.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AUSTRIA:
Deliver sentences to convicted traffickers proportionate to the gravity of the crime; sensitize judges on the challenges trafficking victims face in testifying against their exploiters; enhance efforts to identify victims among irregular migrants, asylum seekers, and individuals in prostitution; review and revise procedures to allow for the issuance of residence permits to victims who agree to testify, particularly EU nationals who do not meet the criteria for residency; continue efforts to identify trafficking victims among children in prostitution and forced begging and men working in sectors vulnerable to labor exploitation; and conduct risk analyses to ensure repatriated trafficking victims are not returned to countries where they face retribution or hardship.
The Austrian government sustained vigorous law enforcement efforts. The government prohibits both sex trafficking and labor trafficking under Article 104(a) of the Austrian criminal code, which prescribes penalties ranging up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Article 104 criminalizes “trafficking for the purpose of slavery” and prescribes penalties ranging from 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment. The government also prosecuted suspected traffickers under Article 217, which prohibits the movement of people into Austria for prostitution and prohibits the use of deception, threats, or force in the transnational movement of persons for prostitution. Penalties prescribed in Article 217 range from six months’ to 10 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
The government investigated 147 trafficking suspects in 2014 (75 under Article 217, 69 under Article 104(a), and three under Article 104), compared with a total of 192 investigations in 2013. The government prosecuted 57 trafficking defendants in 2014 (29 under Article 217, 28 under Article 104(a), and none under Article 104), an increase from 40 defendants in 2013 (29 under Article 217, 11 under Article 104(a), and none under Article 104). Austrian courts convicted 49 traffickers in 2014 (26 under Article 217, 23 under Article 104(a), and none under Article 104), a large increase from 20 traffickers in 2013 (18 under Article 217, two under Article 104(a), and none under Article 104). Prison sentences ranged from two months to over five years in 2013, the most recent year for which sentencing data was available, though some sentences were partially or fully suspended by courts. The Austrian intelligence service prioritized investigating forced begging in 2014, which led to convictions of traffickers for this crime. The government continued efforts to address trafficking perpetrated by diplomats posted in Austria. Parties reached a settlement in the case of a foreign diplomat accused of labor exploitation of a household employee; a similar case was pending at the end of the reporting period. The government reported domestic workers intending to work for diplomats increasingly applied for tourist visas in an attempt to evade government scrutiny. Law enforcement, military, labor inspectorate, and judicial personnel received training on victim identification and prosecution of trafficking crimes. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government maintained strong protection efforts. Police, NGOs, and other government institutions identified and assisted 256 female and 12 male victims in 2014, compared with 242 victims in 2013. The government disbursed 838,740 euro ($1.02 million) to a specialized anti-trafficking NGO to assist and house victims, an increase from 542,919 euro ($660,000) disbursed in 2013. The government also disbursed 180,000 euro ($219,000) to a counseling center for male trafficking victims and a counseling center for undocumented migrants opened in May 2014. Government donations comprised the bulk of these organizations’ funding. The center for male victims offered secure accommodation beginning in March 2015, and the center for undocumented migrants identified and referred two trafficking victims in 2014. Trafficking victims received emergency shelter, medical care, psychological care, and legal assistance. NGO workers helped victims prepare for court proceedings and helped foreign victims return to their countries of origin. Observers reported the government did not properly conduct return assessments and repatriated Nigerian victims to unsafe conditions. A center for unaccompanied minors assisted child trafficking victims and offered specialized psychological care.
The government granted five foreign victims temporary residence permits in 2014, which allowed them unconditional access to the Austrian labor market. However, victims who were EU citizens could not legally remain in the country unless they met a minimum income requirement; this was reportedly a challenge for most EU victims, and many had to leave though they would have preferred to remain in Austria. Police had special checklists for identifying trafficking victims and proactively screened women in prostitution for trafficking indicators. NGOs reported police identification was generally effective, but staff at health centers was unequipped to identify victims among individuals in prostitution. Asylum officers also had identification checklists, but experts reported they had little knowledge of trafficking and irregular migrants were not regularly screened for trafficking concerns prior to deportation. Victims were granted a 30-day reflection period to receive assistance and decide whether to participate in the prosecution of their trafficker. The justice ministry reported 157 victims assisted in prosecutions during 2014. Victims could testify via video conference and could provide anonymous depositions. Nevertheless, most trafficking victims declined to cooperate with authorities due to fear of retaliation by traffickers. Experts reported Austrian judges needed more sensitization training on dealing with trafficked persons as witnesses. Victims could file civil suits for compensation against traffickers, though it was unclear whether any victims collected judgment awards in 2014. There were no known cases of trafficking victims being punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
The government continued robust efforts to prevent trafficking. A national anti-trafficking coordinator headed a taskforce that coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and included NGOs. The government published a report on the implementation of its 2012-2014 action plan on its website. The taskforce’s labor exploitation working group developed victim identification guidelines for use by labor inspectors and raised awareness among businesses and labor organizations. The government subsidized several publications and television programs on trafficking and funded campaigns to inform women in prostitution and clients of the legal rights of women in prostitution. The government also continued school exhibitions to sensitize Austrian youth to trafficking. The exhibitions were supplemented by a handbook for teachers that contained information on identifying victims. The interior ministry continued to run a 24-hour trafficking hotline and email address. The taskforce distributed leaflets on child trafficking to government authorities and the military. The government continued to cooperate with Germany and Switzerland on the “Don’t Look Away” campaign that placed ads against child sex tourism in public transportation. The government reissued the “Global Code of Ethics for Tourism” to tour operators, hotels, and restaurants to combat child sex tourism. The foreign ministry held an event for employees of diplomatic households that led to the identification of a trafficking victim. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, but did conduct awareness campaigns to sensitize clients of prostitution about sex trafficking. Austrian troops received government-funded anti-trafficking training conducted by an NGO prior to their deployment abroad as part of peacekeeping missions. The government provided anti-trafficking training and guidance for its diplomatic personnel.