SLOVAKIA: Tier 1
The Slovak Republic, or Slovakia, is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Slovak men and women are subjected to forced labor in agriculture and construction in Western Europe, primarily in the United Kingdom (UK). Slovak women, who comprise the majority of victims, are subjected to sex trafficking in Germany, Austria, the UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Poland, and other European countries. Ukrainian, Moldovan, Bulgarian, Romanian, and Vietnamese men and women are subjected to forced labor in Slovakia. Eastern European women are also reportedly transported to and through Slovakia and forced into prostitution within the country and throughout Europe. Roma from marginalized communities are disproportionately vulnerable to trafficking. Slovak children of Romani descent are subjected to sex trafficking within marginalized communities in the Slovak Republic and forced criminal behavior in the UK. Slovak men, women, and children of Romani descent are subjected to forced begging throughout Western Europe.
The Government of the Slovak Republic fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government increased investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of traffickers and funding for victim protection. However, courts issued light and suspended sentences for convicted traffickers that did not deter traffickers nor protect victims. Sixteen of the 19 convicted traffickers received suspended sentences, another received a mere fine, and two received sentences of two years’ imprisonment. The government continued to struggle to identify foreign victims of trafficking, with NGOs reporting that potential victims were not properly identified among migrants because they were encouraged to take advantage of assisted voluntary return. Legal support to victims was inadequate, and victims who cooperated with prosecution were at risk of re-traumatization. The government approved a national program to fight trafficking covering 2015-2018, but some NGOs continued to report challenges with effective participation in the Expert Working Group.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SLOVAKIA:
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers and sentence those convicted to jail terms; strengthen training and capacity building for investigators, prosecutors, and judges on a victim-centered approach to law enforcement efforts; establish formal written procedures for victim referral; improve legal assistance to victims; train government officials, particularly border police, on proactive identification of victims among vulnerable groups; facilitate better consultation with NGOs in the Expert Working Group; amend the law to formally prohibit the prosecution of trafficking victims for offenses committed as a result of their trafficking; improve data gathering on Slovak victims of trafficking abroad; and support an effective and independent national anti-trafficking rapporteur to produce assessments of government anti-trafficking efforts.
The government demonstrated increased efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers, but short and suspended sentences remained a serious weakness in Slovakia’s anti-trafficking efforts. The government prohibits all forms of trafficking through Section 179 of its criminal code, which prescribes penalties between four and 25 years’ imprisonment for trafficking offenses. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, Slovak officials initiated 15 new investigations and prosecutions of 18 defendants, compared with 11 investigations and 12 defendants in 2013. Courts convicted 19 traffickers during the reporting period compared with 14 in 2013; two defendants were acquitted. Sixteen of the 19 convicted traffickers received suspended sentences, one offender was ordered to pay a fine, and two were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment each.
The government attributed the increase in law enforcement efforts to the recent transfer of anti-trafficking responsibilities from the police’s Organized Crime Unit to the Irregular Migration Unit within the Bureau of Border and Alien Police, enabling officials with specialized knowledge to investigate suspected traffickers and identify and assist victims. Five members of the Irregular Migration Unit continued to be involved in a joint investigation team with UK police that previously resulted in the conviction of Slovak traffickers in UK courts. Prosecutors reported that training previously provided by the Interior Ministry was not tailored to their needs and did not improve their capacity to successfully prosecute trafficking cases. Experts believed Slovak law enforcement placed too much emphasis on victim testimony and made insufficient attempts to secure other types of evidence. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.
The Slovak government displayed mixed efforts to protect victims of trafficking. During 2014, the government allocated 225,100 euro ($272,000) for the protection of trafficking victims, an increase of 90,000 euro ($109,000) from 2013 funding. Of this amount, 145,661 euro ($176,000) was provided to two NGOs to provide victim services, in comparison with 134,571 euro ($163,000) allocated for victim services in 2013. The government did not have a unified system to refer identified victims to protection services, but some government institutions had procedures to refer victims to the National Coordinator or care facilities. In 2014, the government and civil society identified 41 trafficking victims, a decrease from the 55 victims identified by the government and civil society in 2013. Of these 41 victims, 34 victims of trafficking and forced marriage entered the government-funded victim care program in 2014, compared with 30 in 2013. NGOs provided victims shelter and care services, including financial support, repatriation to Slovakia, healthcare, and psycho-social support. NGOs deemed the legal advice available to victims insufficient, and only one victim received it during the reporting period. Shelters for domestic violence victims accommodated trafficking victims, but housed them separately. Adult victims were permitted to leave the shelters without a chaperone. Child trafficking victims could be accommodated in government-run children’s homes or an NGO-run crisis home for children. NGOs noted that Slovak police may lack the capacity to effectively supervise victims during investigations, particularly Romani victims in marginalized communities, who often return to the same environments from which they were subjected to trafficking.
The Slovak Embassy in London registered 151 potential Slovak victims in 2014. NGOs also reported the presence of approximately 60 Slovak and Czech child victims of trafficking in the UK in 2014. However, these numbers were not reflected in the government’s official statistics, suggesting a need for the government to improve its tracking of Slovak victims abroad. The government continued to struggle to identify foreign trafficking victims, with NGOs reporting that potential victims were not properly identified among migrants because they were encouraged to take advantage of assisted voluntary return. Foreign victims were eligible for care and tolerated residency during the entire time they participated in an investigation. Otherwise, they were eligible for up to 90 days of tolerated residency and care support. The law allows foreign victims to seek employment, but other obstacles, such as the length of stay, could prevent them from actually securing employment. Limited funding for legal representation impaired foreign victims’ ability to justify their cases for temporary residency. Victims were discouraged from participating in trafficking investigations because court proceedings were not sufficiently adapted nor law enforcement professionals sufficiently trained to avoid re-victimization. The law authorizes the extension of permanent residency to foreign trafficking victims who faced hardship or retribution if returned to their country of origin; however, no such residence permits have been issued. There were no reports that the government penalized victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, although the law does not formally prohibit the prosecution of trafficking victims.
The government maintained efforts to prevent human trafficking, but acknowledged the need to raise public awareness and improve data collection on anti-trafficking efforts. In February 2015, the government approved a national program to fight trafficking covering 2015-2018 that acknowledged the need to improve ministries’ anti-trafficking capacities. The Interior Ministry’s Crime Prevention Office coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking activities, including overseeing victim care services, training officials on victim identification, conducting awareness campaigns, and convening the Expert Working Group—consisting of government and NGO representatives. Some NGOs continued to report challenges with collaboration and transparency in the Expert Working Group. The Crime Prevention Office housed an information center to collect statistics on the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, but it had difficulty reconciling data across institutions and did not conduct critical assessments. The government trained, with co-funding, 214 NGO workers, social workers, and police community specialists on preventing forced labor trafficking in marginalized Romani communities. The government also conducted prevention activities in schools and orphanages that reached 912 children and young adults; financially supported a trafficking-themed film festival organized by NGOs; and distributed tens of thousands of short publications on trafficking in Romani communities, schools, police stations, and public awareness-raising events. The government continued to support an anti-trafficking hotline operated by an NGO. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. Approximately 200 military personnel eligible to serve in peacekeeping missions abroad received anti-trafficking training. In coordination with an international organization, the government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.