MACEDONIA: Tier 1
Macedonia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Macedonian women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor within the country in restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Children, primarily Roma, are subjected by relatives to forced begging and sexual exploitation through forced marriages. Foreign victims subjected to sex trafficking in Macedonia typically originate from Eastern Europe, particularly Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine. Macedonian citizens are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in construction and agricultural sectors in Southern, Central, and Western Europe. Traffickers frequently use a portion of the proceeds from exploiting victims to bribe police and labor inspectors. Police have been investigated and convicted for complicity in human trafficking.
The Government of Macedonia fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government investigated seven police officers for complicity in trafficking crimes and prosecuted and convicted four. The government decreased total prosecutions and convicted the fewest number of traffickers in five years. The government increased funding for victim assistance and identified the first forced begging victim but identified fewer total victims compared with 2013. The government continued to screen children engaged in street selling and begging for trafficking and operated mobile outreach teams with NGOs to identify and refer victims. The government did not offer specialized services for male victims, and victims had difficulty accessing compensation. Training for law enforcement and other officials was ad hoc and supported by outside funding.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MACEDONIA:
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including complicit officials; train law enforcement, judges, and prosecutors on a victim-centered approach; regularly train law enforcement officials, labor inspectors, and other officials on proactively identifying trafficking victims, particularly among child beggars, irregular migrants, and asylum seekers; provide accommodation to foreign trafficking victims in safe and appropriately rehabilitative settings and allow victims to leave shelters at will; provide specialized services for male trafficking victims; improve compensation mechanisms for victims and inform them of their right to seek restitution; adequately protect victims and witnesses to prevent intimidation and re-traumatization during court proceedings; raise public awareness of labor trafficking and forced begging.
The government decreased law enforcement efforts. The government prohibits all forms of trafficking, including forced begging and forced criminality, in Articles 418(a) and (d) of its criminal code, which prescribe a minimum penalty of four years’ imprisonment for trafficking of adults and eight years’ imprisonment for trafficking of children. This is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In February 2014, the government added Article 191(a) on child prostitution, which enables the prosecution of an individual who involves a child aged 14 to 17 in prostitution and prescribes a minimum penalty of four years’ imprisonment. The passage of this offense could enable prosecutors to convict traffickers of this lesser offense rather than the offense of child sex trafficking, which carries greater penalties. In 2014, the government opened three new investigations involving three suspects, compared with one investigation involving one suspect in 2013; two investigations involved sex trafficking and one involved forced begging. The government initiated prosecutions against five alleged traffickers, compared with seven in 2013. In 2014, courts convicted only two traffickers, the lowest number of convictions since 2009. One trafficker was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for labor trafficking. The other trafficker was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment for organizing a criminal group to commit smuggling or trafficking crimes and for child trafficking for forced marriages, some of which may have involved forced labor. Some police and labor inspectors reportedly accepted bribes related to trafficking crimes. A police officer prosecuted in 2013 for organizing a criminal group for migrant smuggling and human trafficking was convicted in September 2014 and sentenced to one-and-a-half years in prison. The government investigated seven police officers in 2014 for suspected involvement in organizations engaged in trafficking. Four officers were prosecuted and convicted and three remained under investigation at the end of the reporting period.
The government demonstrated mixed progress on victim protection. The government formally identified seven victims in 2014, a decrease from 15 in 2013. Six victims were minors, and one was an adult male. Three victims were subjected to sex trafficking, three to sexual and labor exploitation through forced marriages, and one to forced begging. The adult male victim was the first victim of forced begging identified by the government. The government referred four Macedonian victims to a shelter for domestic trafficking victims and one foreign victim to a holding center for irregular migrants, which offered separate facilities for foreign trafficking victims. Both facilities were jointly run by the government and NGOs and could house male, female, and child victims. The domestic shelter allowed victims freedom of movement, but foreign victims could not leave the migrant facility until they were granted a temporary residence permit. Observers reported the migrant facility was overcrowded and unsanitary. The government and NGOs assisted 74 potential victims during the reporting period, 54 of whom stayed at the domestic shelter and 20 at the migrant facility. Police officers, labor inspectors, social workers, and NGOs used a national referral mechanism to refer potential victims and received training on victim identification. NGOs reported the referral process was effective. The government operated six joint mobile units in collaboration with NGOs that identified and referred victims.
The government spent approximately 9 million denars ($183,000) on victim protection and assistance in 2014, compared with 5 million denars ($102,000) in 2013. Approximately 6 million denars ($122,000) went to the migrant facility that housed potential foreign victims of trafficking, 663,036 denars ($13,500) to the domestic victims’ shelter, and 1.5 million denars ($30,500) to five NGOs providing victim assistance. NGOs relied on private funding to support victims’ daily activities at the shelters. Foreign and domestic victims were entitled to accommodation, psychological and medical assistance, and legal representation. Domestic victims could receive reintegration support, including education and job placement, offered by 30 government-run social welfare centers in collaboration with NGOs. Specialized assistance was not available for male victims. The law permitted foreign victims a two-month reflection period to decide whether to testify against their traffickers and a six-month temporary residence permit thereafter, regardless of whether they chose to testify; the government granted one victim a residence permit in 2014, compared with two in 2013. Social workers and police identified 33 potential forced labor victims among predominately Romani children engaged in street begging and street vending; the government placed them in daycare centers and orphanages and warned, fined, or jailed their parents. NGOs reported a lack of sensitivity toward victim witnesses by law enforcement, including unnecessary repeated interviews during investigations and prosecutions. All victims identified in 2014 testified against traffickers. While victims can claim restitution through civil proceedings, no victims have ever successfully completed a claim due to the complexity of the legal process. There were no reports of trafficking victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
The government maintained prevention efforts. The national anti-trafficking commission, comprising nine government agencies, seven international organizations, and seven NGOs, met regularly to coordinate the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and implement the 2013-2016 national action plan. The government allocated 23.5 million denars ($478,000) in 2014 for implementation of the national action plan over a four-year period. The national committee and labor ministry developed new indicators to improve identification of labor trafficking victims. The government and NGOs conducted seminars for Romani students, teachers, and NGOs on the risks of forced marriages of minors. The government established a third local anti-trafficking committee in Shtip to coordinate local awareness, prevention, and protection activities, in addition to the two established in Bitola and Tetovo in 2013. The government, in coordination with NGOs, organized trafficking presentations and workshops in elementary and high schools and universities. The government continued a television campaign to reduce client demand for sex and labor trafficking. The government provided diplomats basic training on human trafficking and distributed in its protocol section a handbook on preventing trafficking for domestic servitude in diplomatic households. The government investigated allegations that the former Macedonian ambassador to Doha failed to pay his Indian driver and restricted his movement.