CROATIA: Tier 2
Croatia is a destination, source, and transit country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and men, women, and children subjected to forced labor. Croatian women and girls, some of whom respond to false job offers online, fall victim to sex trafficking within the country and throughout Europe. Women and girls from the Balkans and Eastern Europe are subjected to sex trafficking in Croatia. Romani children from Croatia are at particular risk of forced begging in Croatia and throughout Europe, often by family members. Croatian, Bosnian, and Romanian women and men are subjected to forced labor in the Croatian agricultural sector.
The Government of Croatia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Trafficking convictions increased, but law enforcement efforts remained inadequate relative to the size of the problem, with light sentencing for perpetrators. The government identified more victims, but experts believed the true extent of trafficking in Croatia remained higher than the number of victims identified by the government. The government organized multiple campaigns to raise awareness of trafficking among vulnerable populations, including youth.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CROATIA:
Increase investigations and prosecutions of suspected traffickers and punish offenders with dissuasive sentences; strengthen efforts to proactively identify victims, particularly girls induced into prostitution; continue to train prosecutors on best practices for prosecuting trafficking cases, including methods for collecting evidence against suspected traffickers, to increase convictions; sensitize judges about secondary trauma in sex trafficking testimony; continue to inform all identified victims of their right to pursue restitution from their traffickers and encourage them to do so; devote more resources to the national anti-trafficking secretariat to enable it to effectively combat trafficking; and continue to raise awareness of situations potentially resulting in trafficking among vulnerable populations, particularly youth.
The government displayed mixed progress on law enforcement efforts. Croatia prohibits all forms of trafficking through Articles 105 and 106, which prescribe penalties of one to 15 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for rape. During 2014, the government investigated 15 trafficking suspects, a steep decrease from 39 in 2013, and initiated prosecutions of five defendants, one-third the number prosecuted in 2013. Five traffickers were convicted, of compared with one in 2013; one trafficker was convicted of labor trafficking and four were convicted of sex trafficking. Prison sentences ranged between one and six years; however, courts substituted a one-year prison sentence with community service work for one trafficker and suspended the sentence of another who was a minor. Prosecutors who sought more stringent sentencing appealed these sentences. Authorities delivered trafficking-specific training to police, border, and traffic officers. Croatian authorities collaborated with foreign governments, EUROPOL, and INTERPOL on international investigations that led to the arrest of suspected traffickers. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government sustained victim protection efforts, though experts believed victim identification was inadequate in light of the suspected scope of human trafficking in Croatia. The government provided 388,801 kuna ($63,200) to two NGO-run trafficking shelters in 2014, slightly less than it provided for shelter care in 2013. One shelter was for adults and one was for minors. Adult victims were allowed to leave shelters without chaperones after completing a risk assessment. During 2014, police and NGOs identified 37 victims of sex and labor trafficking and three potential minor victims of labor trafficking, up from 32 identified in 2013. Nearly 90 percent of the identified victims were Croatian and almost 80 percent were female. Twenty-two of the 37 identified victims were minors. Thirty-one of the identified victims were forced into prostitution, and six were subjected to forced labor.
Croatian law entitles trafficking victims to safe accommodation and medical, psychological, and legal aid. Assistance was offered to all 37 victims identified in 2014, of which 11 accepted, including five victims who were accommodated in shelters. In comparison, 12 out of the 32 victims identified in 2013 accepted government assistance, of which six were accommodated in shelters. New legislation passed in July 2013 entitles victims to seek financial compensation from the state in addition to traffickers, but the government had not dispersed any payments by the end of the reporting period. The government provided repatriation assistance to three minor victims. The police undertook several operations to identify trafficking victims among child beggars, which led to the identification of one victim who had been forced to beg. Foreign trafficking victims were offered the same care as domestic victims, as well as renewable temporary residence permits, employment assistance, skills development training, and adult classroom education. Alternatively, authorities could assist foreign victims with voluntary repatriation to their country of origin.
Croatian police followed a standard operating procedure for identifying and referring victims to services, which included instructions on activating the national referral system when indicators of trafficking were present. When the system was activated, a mobile team consisting of a police officer specializing in trafficking cases, a social worker, a victim specialist from the Croatian Red Cross, and usually an NGO representative was sent to coordinate victim care and placement. Experts reported the procedures functioned well in practice, but police needed to do a better job identifying victims, particularly in brothels. There was a specially designated social worker in each county responsible for providing initial care and coordinating further assistance for trafficking victims. Experts reported that some Croatian judges lacked an appreciation for the impact of psychological trauma on a victim’s ability to consistently and clearly relate the circumstances of his or her victimization and inappropriately dismissed as unreliable victim testimony that was delayed, partial, or inconsistent. Written instructions issued by the state attorney mandated victims not be prosecuted for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking.
The government continued efforts to prevent trafficking. The senior-level national committee to coordinate anti-trafficking activities met twice during the reporting period and the committee’s working-level operational team met monthly, including with NGOs, to implement the 2012-2015 national action plan. The government’s Office for Human Rights and National Minorities, which serves as the national committee’s secretariat, spent 208,000 kuna ($33,800) on awareness-raising projects implemented by NGOs, professional training, and an emergency hotline, a slight decrease from 2013. The government systematically monitored its anti-trafficking efforts and posted information on ministries’ websites. The human rights office launched a campaign sensitizing the public, including potential customers, to the reality that persons engaged in prostitution may be trafficking victims. The interior ministry implemented a three-month training program in cooperation with NGOs, local communities, and the private sector to prevent trafficking of women and children; the program initially trained 120 government officials, who educated 900 local government employees and 3,500 police officers. The government continued a program to teach youth—particularly girls, asylum seekers, and migrant youth—how to recognize potentially dangerous situations leading to trafficking, such as attractive job offers and romantic invitations to travel abroad. Police also held trafficking prevention seminars with high school and primary school students, including Romani youth, parents, and teachers. In 2014, the labor ministry conducted public awareness campaigns and business inspections to discourage illegal labor practices, including forced labor and illegal hiring of foreign workers. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.