GREECE: Tier 2
Greece is a transit, destination, and, to a very limited extent, source country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and men, women, and children subjected to forced labor. Some women from Eastern Europe (including Bulgaria, Romania, and Albania), Greece, Russia, Nigeria, and China are subjected to sex trafficking in Greece. Victims of forced labor in Greece are primarily children and men from Eastern and Southern Europe, South Asia, and Africa. Migrant workers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are susceptible to debt bondage, reportedly in agriculture. Most labor trafficking victims reportedly enter Greece through Turkey along irregular migration routes from the Middle East and South Asia. Romani children from Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania are forced by family members to sell goods on the street, beg, or commit petty theft in Greece. The increase in unaccompanied child migrants in Greece has increased the number of children susceptible to exploitation. Some public officials have been investigated for suspected involvement in human trafficking.
The Government of Greece does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government convicted fewer traffickers and prosecuted fewer suspects compared to the previous reporting period. Police identified fewer trafficking victims and the government failed to make all victim services authorized by law readily accessible to victims. There was no government-run shelter for adult male victims and no emergency shelter easily accessible for victims of trafficking. The government provided limited in-kind support to NGOs providing victim services and shelter.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GREECE:
Vigorously prosecute and convict traffickers, including officials complicit in trafficking; provide training to law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges on a victim-centered approach to prosecutions; train law enforcement officers to improve screening for trafficking victims among asylum seekers, women in prostitution, irregular migrants, and other vulnerable populations; ensure all services available by law for victims are provided, particularly medical care; establish specialized shelters for trafficking victims and provide shelter for adult male victims; employ witness protection provisions already incorporated into law for victims to further encourage their participation in investigations and prosecutions; draft a national action plan for combating trafficking; and integrate messages targeted towards vulnerable minority populations into existing awareness campaigns.
The government sustained law enforcement efforts, yet the number of dedicated police officers focusing on human trafficking continued to decline due to severe budgetary constraints stemming from Greece’s financial crisis. Greek Law 3064/2002 and Presidential Decree 233/2003 prohibit both sex trafficking and forced labor and prescribe punishments of up to 10 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Police investigated 36 human trafficking cases, compared with 37 cases in 2013; six of the investigations were for forced begging or labor. In 2014, the government prosecuted 125 defendants on suspicion of committing trafficking-related crimes, a decrease from 142 in 2013 and 177 in 2012. Of these, 17 defendants were prosecuted for labor exploitation, including forced begging, and 108 defendants for sexual exploitation. Due to limitations in data collection capabilities, conviction information is not available from all courts, and information related to specific charges in prosecutions was available only once convictions were reached; therefore, government data could not disaggregate human trafficking trials from prosecutions of non-trafficking crimes involving sexual and labor exploitation. Only partial data on convictions from approximately half of the courts in Greece was available, as was the case in prior years. This partial data shows that the government convicted 31 traffickers, compared with 46 convictions in 2013. Sentences ranged from five to 32.5 years’ imprisonment and fines; two sentences were suspended. In one instance, an NGO reported that a court convicted sex traffickers under pimping laws that carried lesser penalties.
Civil society criticized the outcome of a trial involving labor trafficking charges against three Greek foremen accused of shooting into a crowd of some 200 Bangladeshi migrant workers who had been protesting over six months of unpaid wages at a strawberry farm. In July 2014, a Greek court acquitted the farm owner and his lead foreman and suspended prison sentences against two other alleged offenders pending appeal. A statement issued by an NGO highlighted flaws in the preliminary investigation of the incident, lack of independent interpreters used in victim examinations, and lack of police protection for the victims. There have been no confirmed instances of labor inspections finding similar cases of trafficking in rural areas where seasonal agricultural work occurs, despite reports of their existence from NGOs and journalists.
The anti-trafficking police unit held seminars on trafficking for police cadets and webinars for police directorates. The government did not provide comprehensive trainings for judges or prosecutors on trafficking cases or using a victim-centered approach. Police reported suspending several corrupt police officers involved in bribery, blackmail, and the exploitation of women, although the women in these cases have not been confirmed to be trafficking victims. In May 2014, police arrested members of a criminal ring involved in the sexual exploitation of foreign women; the alleged ringleader was a policeman who was suspended pending further investigation. There is no confirmation that this case was related to trafficking victims, and the case remained pending at the end of the reporting period. In 2013, two police officers were arrested for involvement in a sex trafficking ring and charged with providing internal police information to traffickers; this case remained under investigation with no trial scheduled by the end of the reporting period.
The government’s protection efforts decreased in some areas, but increased in others. Police identified a total of 64 potential trafficking victims, compared with 99 in 2013; 48 were victims of sexual exploitation and 16 were victims of forced begging or labor exploitation. Fourteen victims were children. Thirty officially recognized and potential victims received assistance from the government, an increase from 22 in 2013. Eighteen victims received services through government-run shelters, an increase from 15 in 2013. The government was unable to determine how much funding was spent exclusively on victim assistance, and NGOs expressed concerns regarding government funding shortfalls caused by Greece’s six-year economic crisis and fiscal measures imposed as part of Greece’s international bailout. Trafficking victims could access one state-run emergency shelter for victims of violence prior to their referral to one of 21 state-run shelters for victims of violence regardless of residency status. Only those victims with residence permits or who were EU nationals could access the 21 state-run shelters. NGOs also administer shelters funded by government and private funding where children, including victims of trafficking, are referred to for shelter and support services. The government had cooperation agreements and memoranda of understanding in place with three NGOs to house, protect, and assist children in danger, including underage trafficking victims, and female victims of violence, including trafficking victims. The government provided in-kind donations in the form of rent-free buildings for four NGO shelters that assisted victims of violence. Twenty officially recognized trafficking victims and 10 potential victims received government-funded assistance including psychological support, medical care, and legal aid. Eighteen sex trafficking victims stayed at government-run shelters; NGOs sheltered an additional 13 trafficking victims. A privately funded NGO ran the only shelter exclusively for trafficking victims in Greece, which was also the only shelter that could accommodate male victims. Child victims were served in government-run shelters, NGO shelters, and facilities for unaccompanied minors, but were not housed in specialized facilities for trafficking victims. Reportedly, victims had difficulty obtaining medical care, as some health workers were unaware of victim service provisions. The government trained law enforcement, immigration officers, social service workers, labor inspectors, and health workers in identifying trafficking victims and on following written procedures to identify victims. Police had a screening process to ensure that possible victims of trafficking in custody were not deported or sent to migrant detention centers, and NGOs recommended that formal training should be compulsory for migrant detention center staff. NGOs reported positive cooperation with police anti-trafficking units and noted improvement in victim identification procedures, though efforts were still lagging, particularly at land and maritime borders.
Greek law provides witness protection to victims during trial; however, an NGO reported that no trafficking victims have received full witness protection privileges to date. Greek law provides for the presence of mental health professionals when victims are testifying. The law allows the use of audiovisual technology for remote testimony, but many courts lacked the capabilities to deploy these resources. Foreign nationals identified by a public prosecutor as a victim of trafficking could be granted a one-year residence permit, renewable every two years as long as a criminal investigation was ongoing. The government did not issue any new temporary residence permits to trafficking victims in 2014, compared with 12 issued in 2013. Authorities renewed the temporary residence permits of 32 female trafficking victims, compared with 42 renewed permits in 2013. A procedural change in the issuance and renewal of residence permits requires all applicants, including trafficking victims, obtain all the relevant documents necessary to verify their status. Greek law exempts victims from punishment for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. Greek authorities reportedly arrested and detained trafficking victims for prostitution offenses without screening for signs of trafficking.
The government sustained efforts to prevent trafficking. The Office of the National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking, which is charged with coordinating anti-trafficking efforts, continued to increase its staffing. There was no national action plan exclusively for anti-trafficking efforts; however, awareness-raising and training on trafficking was included in the national action plan for human rights. To address demand for labor trafficking, the office of the national rapporteur signed a memorandum of cooperation with a network of companies committed to slave-free supply chains. The office of the national rapporteur also supported numerous events to raise public awareness on trafficking-in-persons issues. The government continued a public awareness campaign with a hotline targeting female victims of violence, including trafficking victims, and continued to run an anti-trafficking public awareness campaign on television, radio stations, and social media targeting female victims of violence, including human trafficking. NGOs reported a need to increase trafficking prevention efforts in Greece’s border areas where Romani and Muslim minority populations are concentrated. The government ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in April 2014. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government provided anti-trafficking guidance for its diplomatic personnel. New Greek diplomats were provided manuals on identification of trafficking victims to facilitate granting visas.