ROMANIA: Tier 2
Romania is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and women and children subjected to sex trafficking. Romanians represent a significant source of sex and labor trafficking victims throughout Europe. Romanian men, women, and children are subjected to labor trafficking in agriculture, construction, domestic service, hotels, and manufacturing, as well as forced begging and theft in Romania and other European countries. Romanian women and children are victims of sex trafficking in Romania and other European countries. Romani children are particularly vulnerable to forced begging and forced criminality. Romania is a destination country for a limited number of foreign trafficking victims, including sex trafficking victims from Moldova and Poland and labor trafficking victims from Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, and Serbia. Romanians living in privately run institutions for the mentally disabled were vulnerable to forced labor. Government officials have been convicted of human trafficking crimes, and there have been reports of local officials obstructing trafficking investigations.
The Government of Romania does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The organized crime directorate led the government’s strong law enforcement efforts, but police and judges lacked training on working with trafficking cases and victims, which had detrimental effects on compensation for victims and sentencing for perpetrators. The government’s protection efforts remained inadequate, particularly in victim assistance. The government and NGOs identified a large number of victims, but assisted only 37 percent, leaving most victims without services and vulnerable to re-trafficking. The government did not provide funding to NGOs offering victim assistance, although the national anti-trafficking commission began to develop mechanisms to provide grants to NGOs. Victims had difficulty obtaining medical services, psychological counseling, and identity protection during criminal trials. Official complicity was not adequately addressed.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ROMANIA:
Allocate public funding for NGOs to provide services to victims; significantly increase training of police, judges, state attorneys, and other relevant officials; increase efforts to identify potential victims proactively among vulnerable populations, such as undocumented migrants, foreign workers, Roma, and children involved in begging; improve victim access to medical assistance and increase quality of psychological counseling; investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including complicit officials, and seek and obtain sentences that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with the severity of the crime; do not prosecute victims for crimes committed as a direct result of their being subjected to human trafficking; exempt all trafficking victims who testify in trials from the online disclosure of their names to incentivize greater victim participation in prosecutions and protect participating witnesses from retaliation and stigma; and consistently inform victims of their right to apply for compensation.
The government made mixed progress in law enforcement efforts. Article 210 prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of three to 10 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Authorities initiated or continued to investigate 858 trafficking cases in 2015, compared with 875 in 2014. Prosecutors initiated or continued prosecution of 480 suspected traffickers in 2015, compared with 534 in 2013. Courts convicted 331 traffickers in 2015, an increase from 269 in 2014. In an increase from the previous year, 68 percent of convicted traffickers were sentenced to time in prison—as opposed to suspended jail sentences or educational measures—compared with 67 percent in 2014. Most prison terms in 2015 ranged from one to five years’ imprisonment. Courts did not levy any fines against traffickers in 2015, compared with 15 in 2014. Authorities continued to participate in joint investigative teams with several European counterparts. The government provided training on human trafficking to 30 prosecutors in the organized crime division, but officials in the judiciary often continued to demonstrate weak knowledge of trafficking and the unique needs of victims. Magistrates typically did not differentiate between prostitution and sex trafficking as distinct crimes, which had detrimental effects on compensation for victims and sentencing for perpetrators. One researcher found appellate courts often overruled lower courts’ issuances of compensation to victims based on the belief that compensation for women in prostitution—whom they do not regard as victims—was unwarranted. Observers frequently criticized police for being unaware of the exploitation potential in prostitution, leading to a failure to check for indicators of force, fraud, or coercion when encountering individuals in prostitution. Despite concerns about official complicity in sex and labor trafficking, including allegations of city and county officials obstructing trafficking investigations or being directly involved in trafficking themselves, the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government made progress in funding victim care but did not address other deficiencies in victim protection, which remained inadequate. Public officials and NGOs identified 880 victims in 2015, compared with 757 in 2014; these statistics include victims from ongoing investigations and prosecutions initiated in previous years. Of these victims, 36 percent were children, 34 percent were male, and 58 percent were subjected to sex trafficking. Police used the government’s national victim identification and referral mechanism, although observers noted it was used inconsistently across the country. The government relied on NGOs to identify and assist victims, but did not provide any financial support due to a legal preclusion of direct funding for NGOs. However, during the reporting period, authorities began the process of removing this legal preclusion, initiating a grant program funded by a foreign government, and developing standards for victim assistance, which varied greatly across public and private care facilities. Approximately 37 percent (326) of the registered victims benefited from rehabilitative assistance provided by public institutions and NGOs. Officials referred victims to government-run domestic violence or homeless shelters when NGO-run trafficking shelters were full. Local governments financed and operated emergency assistance and transit centers that could assist repatriated victims. Child trafficking victims were placed in general child facilities or in facilities for children with disabilities, run by the governmental child protection service which generally did not offer specialized assistance and frequently re-traumatized children. The law entitled victims to medical and psychological care, legal aid, and reintegration support; however, observers noted the law did not necessarily provide for more than one mental health counseling session. In addition, access to medical care was impeded by the process for obtaining identity documents, which required victims to return to their home district, despite the logistical and financial hurdles this presented for typical trafficking victims. For Romanian victims abroad, Romanian embassies issued travel documents free-of-charge and the government, NGOs, or IOM paid for transport costs.
The law permitted foreign victims who cooperate with authorities to receive a renewable, six-month temporary residence permit. A 2015 law allows foreign victims to request asylum and granted asylum-seekers the right to work after three months. Authorities identified at least one foreign victim in 2015, although an independent expert reported there were many unidentified foreign victims in Romania. Labor inspectors were not trained in detecting trafficking indicators, nor were they allowed to conduct unannounced worksite inspections. In 2015, 459 participating in criminal prosecutions accessed services available to victims assisting law enforcement; these services include accompaniment to the court or prosecutor’s office, information on trial procedures, and facilitation of remote testimony. Some victims reportedly chose not to testify because the justice ministry published the names of all trial witnesses, including children, on its public website; such display also puts victim-witnesses at risk of retaliation and societal or familial ostracization. Observers reported courtrooms were hostile environments in which traffickers and their supporters in the audience take photos of those pressing charges and verbalize death threats. The law permitted victims to provide testimony from a separate room, although this was rarely done in practice due to judges’ general preference for live testimony, state-provided lawyers’ lack of experience with traumatized victims, and a general bias against victims exploited in prostitution. The law entitles victims to restitution from their traffickers; however, victims generally could not afford the fees necessary to initiate civil trials or, in cases in which judges order restitution, pay court officers to collect the money owed from traffickers. Prosecutors typically dropped charges and fines against victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, but they still charged with theft some victims forced to steal for traffickers.
The government sustained prevention efforts. In June 2015, the government approved an updated 2015-2016 national action plan. The National Agency against Trafficking in Persons continued to publish monitoring reports, statistics, and research reports on trafficking. The national agency implemented and assisted a wide array of awareness campaigns targeting sex trafficking, forced labor, and forced begging. The government has never reported punishing a recruitment company for trafficking-related crimes, despite a 2006 amendment to the criminal code that prohibits Romania-based recruitment companies from facilitating the exploitation of citizens abroad. The government continued to operate a hotline during regular business hours that primarily focused on informing Romanians about working abroad safely. The government took steps to reduce demand for commercial sex or forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel and its troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions.