AUSTRIA: Tier 1
Austria is a destination and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. The majority of identified victims are girls and women subjected to sex trafficking. Victims primarily originate from Eastern Europe (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria) and, to a lesser extent, China, Nigeria, the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America. Traffickers sometimes lure women by offering fictitious positions, including over social media, as au pairs, cleaners, waitresses, or dancers. Forced labor occurs in the agricultural, construction, catering, restaurant, and cleaning sectors, and among domestic laborers in diplomatic households. Physically and mentally disabled persons from Eastern Europe and Romani children are victims of forced begging. In 2015, authorities identified trafficking victims among a growing population of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers, including children from Syria, Afghanistan, and North Africa forced into begging.
The Government of Austria fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. While the number of prosecutions and convictions declined, the government substantially increased funding for victim services and continued to identify and refer victims in partnership with NGOs. The government improved its efforts to identify trafficking victims among refugees, irregular migrants, and asylum-seekers, and provided training on victim identification to NGOs providing care to those vulnerable populations. The government continued its efforts to prevent domestic servitude in diplomatic households and its support of campaigns to sensitize buyers of commercial sex acts about sex trafficking and to prevent child sex tourism.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AUSTRIA:
Sentence convicted traffickers proportionate to the gravity of the crime; expand and enhance efforts to identify victims among irregular migrants, asylum seekers, and individuals in prostitution; continue to sensitize judges on the challenges trafficking victims face in testifying against their exploiters; revise procedures to allow victims who agree to cooperate in prosecutions, particularly EU nationals who do not meet the current criteria for residency, to receive residence permits; and continue efforts to identify trafficking victims among children exploited in prostitution and forced begging and men working in sectors vulnerable to labor exploitation.
The government sustained vigorous law enforcement efforts. The government prohibits both sex trafficking and labor trafficking under article 104(a) of the Austrian criminal code, which prescribes penalties ranging up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Article 104 criminalizes “trafficking for the purpose of slavery” and prescribes penalties ranging from 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment. article 217 prohibits the movement of people into Austria for prostitution and prohibits the use of deception, threats, or force in the transnational movement of persons for prostitution. Penalties prescribed in article 217 range from six months’ to 10 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In January 2016, the government adopted additional criminal code provisions strengthening prohibitions against trafficking-related crimes, including section 106a, criminalizing forced marriage and section 205a, criminalizing nonconsensual sex, exploitation, and the use of intimidation to obtain consent.
The government investigated 118 trafficking suspects in 2015 (six under article 104, 57 under article 104(a), and 55 under article 217), compared with a total of 147 investigations in 2014. The government prosecuted 35 trafficking defendants in 2015 (10 under article 104(a), and 25 under article 217), a decrease from 57 prosecutions in 2014. Austrian courts convicted 15 traffickers in 2015 (two under article 104(a), and 13 under article 217), a decrease from 49 convictions in 2014. Prison sentences ranged from three months to more than five years in 2014, the most recent year for which sentencing data was available, but courts partially or fully suspended some sentences.
The government provided training on victim identification and trafficking awareness to a wide range of government employees, including law enforcement, military, diplomatic, detention center, asylum reception center, revenue authority, labor inspectorate, border control, and judicial personnel. Training was conducted at all levels, and is included as part of the standard curriculum for law enforcement. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government maintained strong protection efforts. Police, NGOs, and other government institutions identified and assisted 271 female and 30 male victims in 2015, an increase from 268 victims in 2014. The government disbursed approximately 831,760 euros ($905,000) to a specialized anti-trafficking NGO to assist and house victims, a decrease from 838,740 euros ($1.02 million) disbursed in 2014. The government also disbursed approximately 400,000 euros ($435,000) to two NGO-run counseling centers for male trafficking victims and undocumented migrants, a substantial increase from 180,000 euros ($219,000) disbursed in 2014. Government funding comprised the bulk of these organizations’ budgets. The center for male victims, which began to offer secure accommodation in March 2015, assisted 30 victims and provided counseling to 424 men, some of whom may have been unidentified victims. The center for undocumented migrants identified and referred one trafficking victim in 2015. A government-run center for unaccompanied minors assisted child trafficking victims and offered specialized psychological care. Government-funded NGOs provided trafficking victims with emergency shelter, medical care, psychological care, and legal assistance. NGO staff helped victims prepare for court proceedings and assisted foreign victims with repatriation.
The government granted 17 foreign victims temporary residence permits in 2015, which allowed them unconditional access to the Austrian labor market. Victims who were EU citizens could not legally remain in the country unless they met a minimum income requirement; this was reportedly a challenge for EU victims in previous years, and many had to leave who would have preferred to remain in Austria. Government officials from multiple agencies had guidelines and checklists to proactively identify trafficking victims. Government inspectors and police proactively screened women in prostitution for trafficking indicators; however, in previous years, NGOs reported that staff at health centers lacked resources to identify victims among individuals in prostitution. NGOs worked with government officials to improve their ability to identify trafficking victims and reported police identification was generally effective. The government increased efforts to identify trafficking victims among migrants and asylum-seekers, providing training to border officials, NGOs, and directly to migrants; nonetheless, officials identified no trafficking victims among migrants transiting through or remaining in Austria in 2015. Identified victims of trafficking were granted a 30-day reflection period to receive assistance and decide whether to cooperate in investigations. The justice ministry reported 160 victims assisted in prosecutions during 2015. Victims could testify via video conference and could provide anonymous depositions. Victims could also file civil suits for compensation against traffickers, though it was unclear whether any victims collected judgment awards in 2015. In previous years, experts reported Austrian judges needed more sensitization training on dealing with trafficking victims as witnesses. While the government did not report any cases of trafficking victims being detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, NGOs identified cases where authorities convicted and fined victims who had been forced to commit misdemeanors, such as pickpocketing.
The government continued robust efforts to prevent trafficking. A national anti-trafficking coordinator headed a taskforce that coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and included NGOs. The government published a detailed annual report on its website on the implementation of its 2012-2014 national action plan and began implementation of its action plan for 2015-2017. The government subsidized several publications and television programs on trafficking and funded campaigns to inform women in prostitution of their legal rights. The government also continued school exhibitions to sensitize Austrian youth to trafficking. The exhibitions were supplemented by a handbook for teachers that contained information on identifying victims. The interior ministry continued to run a 24-hour trafficking hotline and email address. The taskforce distributed leaflets on child trafficking to government authorities and the military. The government continued to support regional anti-trafficking initiatives, hosted several international conferences on trafficking, and continued to cooperate with Germany and Switzerland on the “Don’t Look Away” campaign that placed ads against child sex tourism in public transportation. The government reissued the “Global Code of Ethics for Tourism” to tour operators, hotels, and restaurants to combat child sex tourism. The government continued efforts to prevent trafficking by diplomats posted in Austria. The foreign ministry continued events for employees of diplomatic households, increasing workers’ awareness of their rights and sensitizing them to trafficking. The government required foreign domestic workers in diplomatic households to appear in person to receive their identity cards. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, but did conduct awareness campaigns to sensitize clients of prostitution about sex trafficking. Austrian troops received government-funded anti-trafficking training conducted by an NGO prior to their deployment abroad as part of peacekeeping missions. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.