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. Slovak women of Romani descent are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking; they are transported to the UK by force or deception to facilitate benefit fraud and to marry third country nationals attempting to avoid deportation by marrying EU citizens; many of these women then become victims of sex and labor trafficking.
Ukrainian, Moldovan, Bulgarian, Romanian, and Vietnamese men and women are forced to work in the Slovak Republic. Eastern European women are also reportedly transported to and through the Slovak Republic and forced into prostitution within the country and throughout Europe. 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. Roma from marginalized communities are disproportionately vulnerable to human trafficking, as they were often underemployed and undereducated, due to lack of access to quality education in segregated schools. Traffickers, particularly prominent individuals in Romani communities, found victims through family and village networks, preying on individuals with disabilities or large debts. NGOs previously reported that children who leave institutional care facilities lacked sufficient support and sometimes fell victim to human trafficking.
The Government of the Slovak Republic fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government identified more victims than in the previous reporting period and trained police community specialists and social workers who work in marginalized Romani communities to prevent trafficking. The courts issued weak and suspended sentences, which did not deter traffickers. Twelve of the 14 convicted traffickers received suspended sentences and financial penalties, which they were allowed to pay in installments. The allocation of funding for NGOs providing essential care to trafficking victims experienced uncertainty early in 2013 due to Ministry of Interior reorganization and changes to its procurement system, but stabilized in the second half of 2013. A reduced level of cooperation with NGOs in the Expert Working Group hindered the creation of effective new policy.
Recommendations for Slovakia:
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders and sentence those convicted to jail terms; continue training and capacity building for investigators, prosecutors, and judges; improve the referral process to specialized care facilities for victims identified by police; provide more funding for legal assistance to victims; pursue initiatives to improve the quality of assistance provided to trafficking victims from marginalized Romani communities, including the prosecution and conviction of their traffickers; train all government officials who may come into contact with victims about human trafficking indicators, especially the Border and Alien Police; ensure an effective and independent national anti-trafficking rapporteur exists to produce critical assessments on the government’s anti-trafficking efforts; increase consultation with NGOs in the Expert Working Group, allowing for expanded collaboration; and amend the law to formally prohibit the prosecution of trafficking victims for offenses committed as a result of their trafficking.
The Government of the Slovak Republic demonstrated limited efforts to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders, and sentences imposed remained weak and failed to deter traffickers. The Slovak Republic prohibits all forms of trafficking through Section 179 of its criminal code, which prescribes penalties between four years’ and life imprisonment for trafficking offenses. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In April 2013, an amendment to the Criminal Code came into force, which incorporated the European Parliament and Council directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings (2011/36/EU) into its law. The amendment added abduction as a means of trafficking, and forced begging, forced marriage, and exploitation for committing crimes as new forms of trafficking. During the reporting period, Slovak officials initiated 11 investigations and the prosecutions of 12 defendants, compared with 23 investigations and 19 prosecutions initiated in 2012. Courts convicted 14 traffickers during the reporting period, a slight increase from 11 in 2012. Short and suspended sentences given to convicted offenders remained a weakness of Slovak courts. Twelve offenders received suspended sentences—10 received suspended sentences of two years’ imprisonment and two received suspended sentences of three years’ imprisonment—one offender was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, and another to 56 months’ imprisonment. In March 2014, a Slovak court convicted 10 offenders of using blackmail to coerce women into prostitution, but all received suspended sentences and were allowed to pay fines in installments. In two suspected sex trafficking cases, the government reclassified trafficking investigations as pimping investigations; in previous reporting periods, the pimping of children was not always charged as a trafficking offense.
NGOs noted that Slovak police had difficulty obtaining convictions when working with victims from marginalized Romani communities, who were frequently returned to the environments from which they were recruited. Experts also believed that Slovak law enforcement placed too much emphasis on victim testimony, and made insufficient attempts to secure other types of evidence. To increase the number of international investigations, the government transferred anti-trafficking responsibilities from the Organized Crime Unit within the Police Presidium to the Irregular Migration Unit within the Bureau of Border and Police, enabling officials with specialized knowledge to investigate suspected traffickers and identify and assist victims. This transfer of responsibilities coincided with multiple joint investigations with British police in support of prosecutions in the UK. The Ministry of Interior also trained 41 police officers eligible to work at missions abroad. The Government of Slovakia 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, with victims receiving insufficient funding for legal assistance. Issues with the Ministry of Interior’s reorganization efforts in the first half of 2013 resulted in funding uncertainties for victim service providers, which depend on such resources to operate; these issues were resolved in the second half of the year. Not knowing whether funding would continue, NGOs struggled to allocate resources accordingly. A lack of funding prevented these organizations from providing sufficient care to assist victims.
The government, sometimes in partnership with an international organization, trained hundreds of government officials, including police in the migration and organized crime units, diplomats, labor inspectors, and orphanage staff on victim identification techniques. In 2013, the Slovak police identified 25 victims and civil society identified a further 30 victims—an increase from 37 victims total identified in 2012. 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 care facilities, which NGOs claimed had been abused by non-victims claiming benefits. Social workers continued to receive training in victim identification and had procedures in place to refer suspected victims to the National Coordinator or directly to the organizations providing victim care services.
Thirty of the 55 identified victims entered into the government-funded victim care program—compared with 22 victims in the program in 2012—in which NGOs provided shelter and care services, including legal assistance and psycho-social support, for up to 180 days, or until the trial is over. Nine of the victims who received care were men, and 21 were women. Fifteen of those who received care were victims of sex trafficking, and 12 were victims of forced labor, including two victims of forced begging. Only one of the 25 victims identified by police entered into these facilities, raising questions about whether these victims were informed of the care options. Victims were accommodated in shelters that also served other types of clients, but were housed separately from them. Adult victims were permitted to leave the shelters without a chaperone and at will. The government did not provide long-term rehabilitation assistance to trafficking victims.
In February 2014, the Ministry of Interior began training 300 police community specialists and social workers who worked in marginalized Romani communities on trafficking and other issues. All unaccompanied minors were automatically eligible for temporary residency on non-trafficking grounds. Slovak victims were eligible for unlimited care during the entire time they cooperate in the criminal prosecution of a case, otherwise they were only eligible for 90 days’ crisis intervention, followed by 90 days of reintegration care. Foreign victims were eligible for care and temporary residency during the entire time they participated in an investigation. Otherwise, they were eligible for up to 180 days of temporary 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. Since funding for legal representation is limited, a foreign victim’s capacity to justify his or her case for temporary residency without legal assistance may be limited.
The government did not encourage victims to participate in trafficking investigations. Victims risked experiencing secondary traumatization during the investigative process when victims were interviewed multiple times. The law authorized the extension of permanent residence to victims of trafficking who faced hardship or retribution if returned to their country of origin; however, no such residence permits have ever been issued. NGOs reported a reduced level of consultation and collaboration from government officials in the Expert Working Group on issues such as victim care. There were no reports that the government penalized victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked during the year, although the law does not formally prohibit the prosecution of trafficking victims. The government claimed that law enforcement authorities have the discretion to decline to prosecute trafficking victims for crimes committed while trafficked.
The government improved its efforts to prevent human trafficking. Ministry of Interior officials presented a new trafficking awareness campaign on television focused on the dangers of becoming a victim when responding to job offers abroad. The ministry, together with several Slovak NGOs and UK partners, launched a forced labor-focused awareness-raising and intervention project aimed at Slovak Roma traveling to Glasgow, Scotland. The project included a documentary film consisting of testimonies of victims from marginalized Romani communities. The government funded an NGO-run research project looking at the causes of trafficking in marginalized Romani communities. The government also funded an NGO-run awareness raising project consisting of a transportable information stand containing information about the dangers of becoming a victim of trafficking while pursuing job offers abroad; these information stands were placed in shopping malls, municipal buildings, and other public areas around the country, including the Bratislava airport. The government continued to fund an anti-trafficking hotline operated by IOM.
The government did not establish a national rapporteur, as it is obliged to do under Article 19 of the European Union anti-trafficking directive. The government did not conduct any activities to reduce the demand for commercial sex during the year. The government did not report providing training sessions on human trafficking for Slovak security personnel prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.