Hungary is a source, transit, and destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Hungarian women and children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country and in the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom (UK), Denmark, Germany, Austria, Italy, Norway, Spain, Ireland, Belgium, Greece, and the United States. Men and women from Hungary are subjected to conditions of forced labor in the UK, Spain, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United States, as well as in agricultural and construction sectors in Hungary. Authorities reported increased detection of forced labor during the year. Sex trafficking victims in Hungary are subjected to exploitation in street prostitution and in brothels disguised as bars or massage parlors, as well as in private apartments or homes. Victims are usually housed in apartments owned by the traffickers or on outbuildings on their property. Experts report that traffickers recruited Roma and other girls from Hungarian orphanages for sex trafficking within the country. Roma women and children are disproportionately represented among trafficking victims in the country.
The Government of Hungary does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the year, the government increased its conviction rate for trafficking offenders but remained hampered by a legal system that requires proof of buying and selling of the victim. In 2012, the government amended general victim assistance legislation to ensure that trafficking victims received support, including access to shelter, regardless of their participation in a criminal case. Also in 2012, the government issued a decree introducing a formalized national-level victim identification protocol. During the reporting period, the government increased shelter capacity by providing funding to an additional NGO. Overall, however, the government continued to offer limited assistance to trafficking victims. NGOs continued to report that some victims who refused to testify against their traffickers were vulnerable to being charged and detained by police for committing a crime against sexual morals. Experts reported that the Hungarian government did not proactively address trafficking occurring within the country, and officials continued to treat children in prostitution as perpetrators—as opposed to victims of trafficking. Serious misunderstandings of child sex trafficking continued to hamper the government’s ability to effectively address Hungary’s trafficking problem.
Recommendations for Hungary: Continue to further expand shelter capacity in Hungary and ensure consistent funding for NGOs providing victim care; bolster protection for trafficking victims who face serious harm and retribution from their traffickers, including by developing longer-term care options to improve their reintegration in Hungary; provide specialized training for social workers to facilitate reintegration assistance for these victims; expand jurisdiction of the specialized anti-trafficking police unit to investigate local, domestic cases of trafficking without an international link; develop stand-alone procedures based on the new identification degree for authorities to increase detection of trafficking victims exploited within Hungary, including among Roma and local children in prostitution; issue guidance for local police to ensure children in prostitution are not treated as offenders and punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; take steps to increase incentives for victims’ voluntary cooperation with law enforcement; ensure that the Hungarian anti-trafficking law is fully harmonized with the definition of trafficking under the EU Directive 2011/36/EU by more precisely defining exploitation (including child prostitution, forced prostitution, forced labor, begging, and the exploitation of criminal activities), by ensuring that buying and selling and the transactional basis for trafficking is not required, and by ensuring that means are required to prove an act of adult trafficking; and consider appointing specialized prosecutors and judges to litigate trafficking cases.
The Hungarian government made progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts in 2012. During the year, authorities continued to investigate trafficking cases and increased convictions for trafficking offenders. Hungary prohibits all forms of trafficking through Sections 175/B of its current criminal code, but the law is both overbroad because it does not require coercive means to prove the basic offense of trafficking in persons, and is too narrow because the courts have interpreted it to require evidence that the victim was bought or sold. Prescribed penalties range from one to 20 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Officials recognize that the narrow judicial interpretation has created overly strict evidentiary requirements for prosecutors to prove the crime of human trafficking—specifically with regards to the transaction requirement and a Supreme Court case requires evidence of direct or recently committed violence. The new Criminal Code adopted by Parliament in June 2012 amended counter-trafficking provisions, effective July 1, 2013. The new regulations introduced an explicit offence for forced labor and raised the maximum sentences for aggravated trafficking acts. However, the new law fails to fully comport with the definition of human trafficking in the EU Directive 2011/36/EU by including the necessary elements of exploitation, such as forced prostitution, child prostitution, or begging. In 2012, police investigated the same number of trafficking cases as in 2011, initiating 18 new investigations. The number of prosecutions, however, declined from 29 cases in 2011 to 12 cases in 2012. Courts convicted 18 trafficking offenders in six trafficking cases in 2012, a significant increase from eight convicted offenders in 2011. In November 2012, a court sentenced two convicted offenders, respectively, to two years’ imprisonment suspended for five years and an 18-month prison sentence suspended for three years for sex trafficking of a 16 year old child. Despite the young age of the victim, these convicted offenders received no time in jail. The remaining 16 sentences ranged from one year and six months to seven years’ and six months’ imprisonment, in comparison to penalties from a one-year suspended sentence to nine years’ imprisonment in 2011. NGOs continued to report that police often failed to investigate trafficking cases that involved Roma or other domestic victims. During the year, the government reduced the number of police investigators in the specialized anti-trafficking unit by five officers, bringing the total number to 11. This specialized unit is charged only with investigation of trafficking crimes that involve organized crime or international elements. In 2012, Hungarian authorities conducted training for 50 police officers on victim protection and identification. The Hungarian government did not report the investigation or prosecution of any public officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during 2012. During the year, however, NGOs continued to report concerns about trafficking-related complicity, including victim testimonials indicating traffickers’ connections with officials. Furthermore, a previous research report based on interviews with survivors of sex trafficking contained strong indications of government officials’ complicity, including reports of officers physically abusing and humiliating trafficking victims and not taking action when victims disclosed the names of their pimps.
The Hungarian government sustained its efforts to protect trafficking victims in 2012. It improved its capacity to identify and protect victims by adopting a December 2012 decree on victim identification for all front-line responders, as well as enacting the September 2012 amendment to the Victim Support Act, which requires the government to provide shelter for identified trafficking victims exploited either in Hungary or abroad. Victims are eligible to receive support under this act regardless of their intention to assist law enforcement. In 2012, the government identified a total of 122 trafficking victims through its national referral mechanism (NRM), 12 of whom were identified abroad by Hungarian Consular Services. In 2012, IOM assisted in the repatriation of 20 Hungarian victims exploited abroad. Out of the 122 victims identified in 2012, the government’s victim support service only reported assisting one foreign trafficking victim; a decline from 14 foreign victims in 2011. Thirty victims referred through the NRM were provided only with information services. Eighteen Hungarian trafficking victims were referred to an NGO-run shelter in 2012 for care, a decline from the 34 Hungarian victims referred in 2011. The government provided the approximate equivalent of $27,000 for the operation of this shelter in 2012, the same amount it provided to it in 2011. However, this funding level was insufficient and the NGO continued to rely on local and international donors to adequately address the specialized needs required by trafficking victims under its care. This shelter had limited capacity of space for a maximum of six victims for a renewable, six-week period; some victims were turned away from the shelter during the year due to lack of space; significantly increasing their risk of re-trafficking. In 2012, the government provided another NGO with the approximate equivalent of $105,000 to purchase and operate a second shelter exclusively for trafficking victims. Effective February 1, 2013, the new shelter can accommodate six female trafficking victims for up to a year. Victims are only permitted to leave the shelter if accompanied by a chaperone.
The government continued to criminalize and punish victims for crimes committed as a direct result of their trafficking. Experts continued to report a deep misunderstanding among Hungarian authorities of child trafficking issues, and NGOs reported authorities did not proactively identify potential trafficking victims among local children and other domestic trafficking victims in the country, instead charging them for violating prostitution laws and other offenses. Furthermore, trafficking victims in Hungary are only considered to be official victims of the crime of trafficking if they testify in court against their traffickers. If they refuse to testify, victims may be prosecuted by police for illegal prostitution, a petty offence. NGOs reported victims in Hungary faced considerable risks of retribution by their traffickers. Experts reported that Hungarian traffickers often remained in contact with victims after they left the country and continued to exert pressure on them from Hungary. The government did not provide adequate incentives for victims to voluntarily participate in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers in 2012. Although the government had a witness protection law that could be used to protect trafficking victims, it had yet to use it to protect any trafficking victims required to testify against their traffickers. The law provided foreign victims with a 30-day reflection period and temporary residency permit, if they decided to assist law enforcement; however, no foreign victims applied for or received this temporary immigration relief in 2012. Hungarian victims could voluntarily decide whether to assist law enforcement authorities during the criminal investigation but were obliged to testify if summoned by the court.
The Government of Hungary demonstrated some limited improvements in its efforts to prevent human trafficking. In August 2012, the government organized a week-long awareness-raising campaign as part of an annual youth music festival to educate young Hungarians about trafficking and screened a Dutch documentary to educate potential clients of prostitution about sex trafficking. In December, the government launched a pilot project to reach secondary school students, and conducted targeted outreach with Hungarians seeking jobs abroad to educate them about their rights to challenge poor working conditions in destination countries. NGOs reported the government did not undertake any anti-trafficking awareness campaigns targeted to internal trafficking in Hungary. Experts report that authorities in Hungary did not acknowledge the problem of human trafficking as it relates to child prostitution within the country. The government undertook only limited measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period. The government did not demonstrate transparency in systematically assessing its anti-trafficking efforts and providing reliable trafficking-related statistics in 2012, but maintained a website listing information on its anti-trafficking efforts, indicators of trafficking, and checklists for Hungarians planning on working abroad. The government provided anti-trafficking training to Hungarian troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.