Macedonia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Macedonian women and children are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor within the country in restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and forced begging. Children, primarily ethnic Roma, are subjected to forced begging. The age of identified victims is increasingly younger and more victims originate from neighboring countries. The national rapporteur’s annual report determined that two-thirds of Macedonia’s identified domestic victims were minors between the ages of 12 and 18. Foreign victims subjected to sex trafficking in Macedonia often originate from Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, and Kosovo. Macedonian citizens are often subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in Greece, Belgium, Croatia, and other countries in South, Central, and Western Europe. Traffickers use fraudulent promises of employment to deceive young women and subject them to trafficking abroad. International organized crime groups are reportedly involved in human trafficking within the country and abroad.
The Government of Macedonia fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government imposed sufficiently stringent sentences on convicted offenders, identified more victims of trafficking, and adopted a budget for the implementation of the national action plan for 2013. However, the government significantly decreased investigations of trafficking offenders by 89 percent and decreased convictions by 65 percent. Victims were subjected to unnecessary repeated interviews during investigation, prosecution, and trials, and in practice victims were punished for offenses they committed as a result of their being trafficked. The government also failed to recognize Roma victims of forced begging as victims of trafficking.
Recommendations for Macedonia:
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders, including officials complicit in trafficking in persons; ensure that victims are not detained, deported, or punished as a result of their being trafficked; proactively improve victim identification efforts by including trained social workers and NGOs in initial screening for trafficking in all police raids involving vulnerable migrants; improve victim identification efforts by raising awareness and training professionals and law enforcement on trafficking indicators, especially in cases for forced labor (including forced begging), and by allowing NGOs to identify victims; continue to train social workers and NGOs in initial screening for trafficking; ensure that all victims of trafficking have the freedom to come and go from shelters; provide shelters for male victims of trafficking; train law enforcement, judges and prosecutors on a victim-centered approach; provide specialized training for officials to better understand psychological forms of coercion, debt bondage, threats, and the symptoms of victims’ trauma; increase measures for assistance and support of risk groups, especially children on the streets; actively screen migrants and asylum seekers for trafficking indicators; increase funding to ensure comprehensive care in shelters and to support reintegration services; and increase prevention efforts aimed at effectively curbing the demand for trafficking in persons.
The Government of Macedonia decreased law enforcement efforts by investigating and convicting fewer offenders. The government prohibits all forms of both sex and labor trafficking through Articles 418(a) and (d) of its criminal code, which prescribe a minimum penalty of four years’ imprisonment. This is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2013, the government investigated one new trafficking offender, a decrease from nine in 2012. The government initiated prosecutions against seven defendants, including six offenders from investigations in 2011 and 2012. In 2013, courts convicted six defendants of sex trafficking of children, and one defendant for labor and sex trafficking of children, a decrease from 20 convictions in 2012. The defendants received sentences ranging from four to 10 years’ imprisonment. Courts awarded financial compensation of the equivalent of approximately $9,800 in total to four victims from their convicted traffickers. The government improved communication with authorities in European countries, which provided for an increase in the number of Macedonian victims of trafficking identified abroad; the use of a transnational referral mechanism for EU and non-EU countries eased the repatriation process for victims. The government conducted two cooperative international trafficking investigations with Swiss and French law enforcement. In 2013, the government investigated and initiated prosecution of one police officer for involvement in migrant smuggling with elements of human trafficking. The Appellate Court upheld the conviction and sentencing of one year and six months’ imprisonment of a police officer complicit in trafficking reported in the previous TIP Report. Some police and labor inspectors were reportedly complicit in trafficking and accepted bribes. The government trained 50 police officers and members of anti-trafficking committees on the issues of trafficking and efficient identification of victims. During the reporting period, the government trained police officers and labor inspectors on victim identification. Border police and immigration officers received victim identification training.
The government sustained efforts to protect victims, allocating funds from its state budget exclusively to trafficking victim protection and direct assistance. The government identified 15 victims of trafficking in 2013, an increase from eight in 2012. Of these, nine were minors; five minors were victims of sex trafficking; and one victim was awaiting repatriation from Croatia. NGOs referred four victims in cooperation with social workers from mobile teams in the field. Nine victims, including two adult foreign victims cooperating with law enforcement, were accommodated at the government-funded domestic victims’ shelter, and five were accommodated at the government and NGO-operated foreign victims’ center, which serves foreign victims of trafficking and illegal migrants. Victims accommodated at the domestic shelter were granted freedom of movement; however, victims at the foreign victims’ center were not granted freedom of movement beyond the grounds of the center. The foreign victim’s center provided accommodations, psychological, medical, social assistance, and legal guardianship. Extended reintegration services provided comprehensive and protracted assistance beyond the initial stay in the shelter, based on an assessment by the psychologist and social workers of the victim’s readiness to reintegrate; three victims received this support. The government provided the equivalent of approximately $68,000 for the foreign victims’ center. Victims were able to obtain a two-month temporary residence permit while they decided whether or not to testify against their traffickers. The government granted two victims a six month temporary residence permit to foreign victims with the possibility of a three months’ extension, regardless of whether they choose to testify. The remaining four foreign victims were voluntarily repatriated. No shelter existed for male victims of trafficking. The government assigned legal representatives to children and an advocate employed by the national referral mechanism (NRM) provided legal services to victims. Domestic victims of trafficking who did not choose to stay in the shelter had access to psychological and social services from the government centers for social welfare, which also provided reintegration services, including education and job placement in collaboration with an NGO. The government allocated the equivalent of approximately $7,000 each to four NGOs for direct assistance and prevention activities, equal to funds provided in 2012. The government relied on NGOs to provide funding for the victims’ day-to-day activities in the shelter. The government continued its memorandum of understanding with the Red Cross to provide emergency medical assistance to foreign victims in the foreign victims’ shelter. The government allocated the equivalent of approximately $112,000 from its state budget exclusively to trafficking victim protection and direct assistance.
Social workers partnered with police officers to remove more than 50 children, predominately ethnic Roma, from forced begging on the streets and placed them in daycare centers or orphanages, and often fining or jailing their parents. The government did not identify these children as victims of trafficking. In 2013, Parliament adopted amendments to the health law allowing victims of trafficking to obtain medical assistance free of charge. In several cases, NGOs paid for emergency medical care for victims and had difficulty being reimbursed. NGOs reported a lack of sensitivity toward victim witnesses, including unnecessary repeated interviews during investigation, prosecution and trials, and in practice, victims were punished for offenses they committed as a result of their being trafficked. NGOs reported that communication between the government and NGOs improved and the NRM worked effectively, which resulted in the identification and referral of victims to shelters. NGOs were not given the ability to identify victims on their own, although they had the ability to refer cases through the NRM or independently while abiding by the set standard of operating procedures. While victims may claim restitution through civil proceedings, due to the complexity of the legal process no victims have successfully completed a claim. Funding dedicated to combating trafficking remained low, but police were able to dedicate more time and resources to anti-trafficking efforts. The government, in collaboration with NGOs, established five joint mobile units that identified and referred victims.
The government increased anti-trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period by adopting a budget for the implementation of the national action plan for 2013 and continuing to coordinate with NGOs on public awareness campaigns. The national commission, comprised of 14 representatives from various government agencies, was responsible for coordinating all anti-trafficking efforts, and implementing the 2013-2016 national action plan. The government adopted a budget of the equivalent of approximately $346,000 for the 2013 national action plan goals, compared with the equivalent of approximately $210,000 in 2012. The government, in collaboration with social workers, education officials, and NGOs conducted a four-day seminar for Roma students and teachers and Roma NGOs about the risks of forced marriages between minors. The national rapporteur published an annual report in February 2014, which provided a comprehensive assessment of trafficking activities during 2013. The government trained health practitioners, legal representatives of minor victims, and over 60 social workers on managing trafficking cases. The national commission and NGOs conducted awareness raising activities and campaigns in areas identified as high risk for trafficking. The government, in coordination with NGOs, organized over 300 awareness presentations and anti-trafficking workshops in schools for over 8,000 students; awareness materials were available for the general public at offices and libraries. The national commission continued to broadcast a television campaign to reduce client demand for victims of trafficking. The government and NGOs continued to organize seminars and show films to raise awareness of trafficking. These presentations and films included speakers and materials focused specifically on demand reduction, including presentations by lawyers and doctors on the severe consequences of procuring commercial sex services.