CZECH REPUBLIC: Tier 1
The Czech Republic is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and a source, transit, and destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor. Women, girls, and boys from Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Vietnam are subjected to sex trafficking in Czech Republic and also transit through Czech Republic to other European countries where they are subjected to sex trafficking. Men and women from Czech Republic, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Mongolia, the Philippines, Russia, and Vietnam are subjected to forced labor in Czech Republic, typically through debt bondage, in the construction, agricultural, forestry, manufacturing, and service sectors, including in domestic work, and may also transit through Czech Republic to other countries in Europe where they are exploited. The majority of identified victims in the country are Czech. Romani women from Czech Republic are subjected to forced prostitution and forced labor internally and in destination countries, including the UK.
The Government of the Czech Republic fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government slightly increased funding for NGOs providing victim services, but identified fewer potential victims and enrolled significantly fewer victims into its program to protect individuals assisting law enforcement. Law enforcement efforts increased as authorities achieved significantly more convictions in 2015 than in 2014, although the government initiated fewer prosecutions; not all sentences were commensurate with the severity of the crime. Victims continued to have minimal opportunities to access court-ordered or state-funded compensation.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CZECH REPUBLIC:
Vigorously investigate and prosecute suspected offenders of both sex and labor trafficking using the anti-trafficking statute; increase training for prosecutors and judges on applying the anti-trafficking statute; sensitize judges to the severity of this crime to ensure convictions result in proportionate and dissuasive sentences; improve victims’ ability to access the government-funded witness-support program and court-ordered restitution; train first responders, including labor inspectors, police, and state contracting officers, on labor trafficking victim identification criteria and evolving trends in labor trafficking; enhance collaboration between the labor inspectorate and police on investigating potential labor trafficking cases; conduct large-scale public awareness-raising campaigns, particularly on labor trafficking; and disaggregate data on the type of trafficking involved in law enforcement and victim protection efforts.
The government demonstrated strengthened law enforcement efforts. The government prohibits all forms of trafficking under section 168 of its criminal code, which prescribes punishments of up to 16 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government did not disaggregate sex and labor trafficking data. In 2015, police initiated 18 investigations into suspected trafficking cases, nine of which proved to involve trafficking crimes. Authorities prosecuted 12 defendants for trafficking crimes in 2015, a decline from 16 in 2014 and 30 in 2013. During 2015, Czech courts convicted 19 traffickers, an increase from six in 2014. Five of the 19 convicted traffickers received one to five years’ imprisonment and seven received five to 15 years’ imprisonment; seven convicted traffickers received suspended prison sentences. The government froze assets equaling approximately 36,673,000 koruna ($1,515,000) from suspected traffickers. Czech authorities collaborated with foreign governments on four transnational investigations.
The organized crime branch of the Czech police maintained a specialized anti-trafficking unit that trained 253 police officers, labor inspectors, and other officials in 2015. Authorities reported the need for better collaboration between the police and labor inspectors, as well as enhanced training for inspectors on labor trafficking indicators. Observers reported prosecutors and judges pursued trafficking cases unevenly due to lack of familiarity with the law or a preference to prosecute traffickers for non-trafficking crimes. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government sustained progress in victim protection efforts. Police reported identifying 92 victims in 2015, all of whom were referred to services, compared with 67 in 2014. Government-funded NGOs provided services to 171 newly identified potential victims in 2015, 79 of whom were directly identified by NGOs. Authorities provided victims with a 60-day reflection period, in which victims received care and determined whether to cooperate with law enforcement. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) continued to fund its witness-support program, which provided funding to NGOs providing services for adult victims willing to cooperate with law enforcement. In 2015, four victims entered the program, a decrease from 43 in 2014. Consistent with the last two years, the MOI made available 2 million koruna ($82,600) to support NGOs assisting victims enrolled in the witness support program, as well as NGOs’ trafficking prevention projects. Authorities reported the MOI’s program did not provide adequate resources for victims with children. Identified child victims received care outside of the MOI’s program through publicly funded NGOs that provided shelter, food, clothing, and medical and psychological counseling. Police also employed child psychologists to assist in cases involving children. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs provided 6,072,000 koruna ($250,880) in 2015 to NGOs providing care for trafficking victims, a 14 percent increase from 2014.
Foreign victims who cooperated with investigators could receive temporary residence and work visas for the duration of the relevant legal proceedings; however, no foreign victims received temporary residency or other relief from deportation during the reporting period. Upon conclusion of court proceedings, victims could apply for permanent residency; no victims received permanent residency in 2015, compared with one in 2014. Victims were eligible to seek court-ordered compensation from their traffickers, although such restitution was rare, as victims often feared retribution from their traffickers during criminal cases and could not afford attorney fees for a civil suit. In one 2015 case, a court ordered a convicted trafficker to pay 360,000 koruna ($14,870) to a victim. The government does not maintain a compensation fund for victims subjected to trafficking within the country. There were no reports the government penalized identified victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.
The government maintained modest prevention efforts. The interior minister chaired an inter-ministerial body that coordinated national efforts and worked to implement the 2012-2015 national action plan; the draft 2016-2019 strategy remained pending approval at the close of the reporting period. A unit in the MOI served as the national rapporteur and prepared a comprehensive annual report on patterns and programs, which it released publicly. The government continued to fund an NGO-run hotline to identify victims of trafficking and domestic violence, which received over 700 calls in 2015. The hotline offered translation for foreign victims, but was only operational during business hours. Czech law did not criminalize confiscation of workers’ passports. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.