KOSOVO: Tier 2
Kosovo is a source and destination country for women, children, and men subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including in the restaurant industry. Most sex trafficking victims in Kosovo are girls, though criminal groups in Kosovo also force women from Albania, Serbia, Romania, and other European countries into prostitution. Women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking in private homes and apartments, night clubs, and massage parlors. Traffickers promise employment as dancers and singers in restaurants, and instead force victims into sex trafficking. Children from Kosovo and neighboring countries are forced to beg within the country. Traffickers subject Kosovo citizens to forced prostitution and forced labor throughout Europe. Government corruption creates an environment enabling some trafficking crimes. Several police officers, labor ministry officials, and other government officials have been charged or convicted of trafficking crimes.
The Government of Kosovo does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government obtained an increased number of trafficking convictions, but lenient sentences were imposed and the government prosecuted fewer suspected traffickers. The government increased funding for victim protection but failed to create a victim compensation fund required by law. The government identified fewer victims compared with the previous reporting period.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR KOSOVO:
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including complicit officials; provide advanced anti-trafficking training to judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement; enhance efforts to identify and assist children forced into begging; fully implement provisions of the 2013 victim protection law, including establishing a victim compensation fund; implement proactive screening for trafficking among individuals engaged in prostitution, migrants, and other at-risk populations; and provide victims of trafficking the freedom to come and go in all shelters.
The government maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts; it obtained an increased number of convictions, but convicted traffickers were given inappropriately lenient sentences. Article 171 of Kosovo’s criminal code prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes punishments of five to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 500,000 euro ($608,000). These punishments are sufficiently stringent and are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Authorities investigated 155 new trafficking cases during the reporting period, an increase from the 91 initiated in 2013. The government prosecuted 33 cases involving 93 suspects in 2014, a decrease from 45 cases involving 111 suspects in 2013. Courts convicted 41 traffickers, an increase from 25 in 2013. Sentences were relatively weak; the majority of prison sentences were for less than two years or consisted only of modest fines. The government did not disaggregate law enforcement statistics to demonstrate action against both sex and labor trafficking. The backlog of trafficking cases grew during the reporting period; the courts inherited 83 trafficking cases from previous years and 93 prosecutions remained open at the end of 2014. Kosovo authorities arrested one police officer and one senior local administration official for trafficking-related crimes. In addition, in July 2014, police arrested a municipal official for alleged sexual exploitation of a trafficking victim; the suspect was fired and remained under house arrest while prosecutors reviewed the case. Prosecutors continued to review a case involving a police officer arrested in March 2014 on suspicion of abuse of official position and sexual exploitation. Courts convicted two labor ministry officials and one police officer arrested in 2012 for trafficking and fined each 3,000 euro ($3,650); a second police officer was charged but acquitted. The police academy conducted 24 trainings for the anti-trafficking special police force and border police, compared with 44 trainings in 2013. The government exchanged trafficking information with foreign countries on 23 trafficking cases but did not engage in any joint investigations.
The government continued efforts to protect victims. Specialized police units identified 42 trafficking victims in 2014 compared with 51 in 2013; four victims were men, as in 2013, and 18 were children, compared with 12 children in 2013. Thirty-five victims were subjected to sexual exploitation, six to labor exploitation, and one to forced begging. Labor inspectors did not uncover any cases of forced labor during the 9,337 inspections conducted in 2014. The police identified four potential victims of forced begging while conducting a field assessment of child beggars. One child was granted trafficking victim status, while the other three were found to be victims of child abuse.
The government provided one government-run shelter and two NGO-run shelters 171,699 euro ($209,000) for dedicated trafficking victim assistance in 2014, compared with 110,000 euro ($134,000) in 2013. The government provided an additional 344,994 euro ($420,000) to NGO shelters to support trafficking victims, domestic violence victims, and at-risk children, compared with 144,000 euro ($175,000) in 2013. Thirty-three victims accessed government-funded assistance in 2014, compared with 40 in 2013. Victim services included shelter and legal, medical, and psychological services. Nine care facilities were accessible to victims, though none were located in the country’s four northern municipalities. Authorities could place child trafficking victims in one shelter designated solely for child victims of violence, and foster care was available for long-term care. The government maintained a high security shelter opened in 2013, which separately housed male and female victims. Victims determined to be at low risk of further exploitation typically stayed at NGO-run shelters. Adult victims could not leave the high security shelter unchaperoned at will but could do so from the NGO-run shelters based on a risk assessment.
The government encouraged victims to participate in investigative and judicial processes by providing protection at the high-security shelter and accommodation and care at other facilities. According to the government, all 42 victims identified in 2014 cooperated with investigations. Victim advocates or social workers were present when police interviewed potential victims of trafficking and provided legal advice. The government was authorized to provide residence permits to foreign victims for at least six months, but it did not issue any permits during the reporting period. Victims who were witnesses in criminal proceedings could return to their country of origin without waiting for the conclusion of the trial. Kosovo law required victims be accorded a reflection period—time in which they could recover before deciding whether to cooperate with law enforcement. Although a 2013 trafficking victim protection law required the government to establish and fund a victim compensation fund, the government had not done so 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 subjected to human trafficking.
The government continued some efforts to prevent trafficking. Authorities worked with NGOs and international experts to draft a 2014-2019 action plan, but it was not formally approved by the close of the reporting period. A national anti-trafficking coordinator regularly convened a coordinating body composed of relevant government agencies, NGOs, and international observers. The government produced annual progress reports which were made available to foreign governments, NGOs, and international organizations. Awareness-raising efforts included a one-month campaign aimed at potential child victims of trafficking and a three-day conference on trafficking victims’ rights with participation by judges, prosecutors, justice officials, and NGO representatives from six countries in the region. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. Diplomatic personnel are provided a manual to aid in identifying trafficking victims and are instructed not to engage in human trafficking or trafficking-related activities.