AUSTRIA: Tier 1
The Government of Austria fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, Austria remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts through an increased number of prosecutions and convictions, by bolstering rights for victims, and increased funding for victim services. Law enforcement collaborated with neighboring countries on cases and worked closely with NGOs on victim care. The government improved its efforts to identify trafficking victims among refugees, irregular migrants, unaccompanied minors, and asylum-seekers by providing new training in victim identification to border officials and NGOs providing care to migrants and asylum-seekers. Although the government meets the minimum standards, in some cases courts partially or fully suspended sentences for convicted traffickers or accepted fines instead of imprisonment.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AUSTRIA
Sentence convicted traffickers to penalties proportionate to the seriousness of the crime to ensure convicted traffickers serve time in prison; strengthen or revise existing criminal code articles, particularly article 217, to better differentiate between trafficking and smuggling; establish a comprehensive national referral mechanism for adult victims; increase efforts to identify victims among women engaged in prostitution, the physically and mentally disabled, children exploited in prostitution and forced begging, and men working in sectors vulnerable to labor exploitation and prosecute their traffickers; continue efforts to identify trafficking victims among irregular migrants, asylum-seekers, and individuals in prostitution; continue cooperation with foreign governments to uncover and prosecute trafficking rings; and consistently apply laws for granting legal residence to trafficking victims including those who choose not to participate in legal proceedings.
The Austrian government sustained vigorous law enforcement efforts. Article 104a of the criminal code criminalizes all forms of sex and labor trafficking consistent with the international law definition, with penalties ranging up to 10 years imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 104 also criminalizes slavery, with penalties ranging from 10 to 20 years imprisonment. In addition, article 116 criminalizes the exploitation of foreigners illegally in the country, with a penalty of one to 10 years. Article 217 also makes it a crime to bring a person into Austria for prostitution, regardless of the means used, but provides enhanced penalties when a foreign person is induced to engage in prostitution by deception, coercion, or force. Article 217 penalties range from six months to 10 years imprisonment.
The government investigated 139 trafficking suspects in 2016 (one under article 104, 77 under article 104a, and 61 under article 217), compared with a total of 118 investigations in 2015. The government prosecuted 39 trafficking defendants in 2016 (19 under article 104a and 20 under article 217), an increase from 35 prosecutions in 2015. Courts convicted 26 traffickers in 2016 (10 under article 104a and 16 under article 217), an increase from 15 convictions in 2015. The 10 convictions under article 104a were for labor exploitation; the 16 cases under article 217 were for sexual exploitation. Prison sentences ranged from six months to five years in 2015, the most recent year for which sentencing data was available, but courts partially or fully suspended some sentences and accepted fines instead of time served. The government provided specialized training to prosecutors and judicial personnel. Training was included as part of the standard curriculum for law enforcement. National and local governments cooperated with authorities from other countries to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases. Cooperation with central European governments was especially effective in uncovering and prosecuting trafficking rings.
The government increased already strong protection efforts. NGOs reported good cooperation with government agencies and reported police identification was generally effective. The government increased efforts to identify victims among migrants and asylum-seekers and in shelters for unaccompanied minors, providing training to border officials, NGOs, and directly to migrants. Police conducted raids and screenings in brothels, red light districts, and massage parlors to find victims proactively. Police and other government institutions, in cooperation with NGOs, identified and assisted 288 female and 60 male foreign victims in 2016, an increase from 271 female victims and 30 male victims in 2015. According to the government’s national implementation plan, between July 2015 and December 2016, officials and NGOs identified 15 trafficking victims among migrants transiting through or remaining in Austria.
The government disbursed approximately €892,220 ($940,169) to specialized anti-trafficking NGOs to assist and house victims, an increase from €831,760 ($876,459) disbursed in 2015. The government also disbursed €400,000 ($421,496) to two NGO-run counseling centers for male trafficking victims and undocumented migrants, on par with funding in 2015. Government funding comprised the bulk of these organizations’ budgets. The center for male victims assisted 60 victims, of which 20 were provided accommodation, and all 60 were provided counseling; this is twice the number of cases compared to 2015. A government-run center for unaccompanied minors was available for child trafficking victims and offered legal, medical, psychological, social, and language assistance. There were cases of suspected trafficking among minors assisted by the center. Government-funded NGOs provided adult trafficking victims with emergency shelter, medical care, psychological care, language assistance, and legal assistance; some NGOs offered specialized services for victims with physical or mental disabilities. Foreign victims were entitled to the same care available to domestic victims. NGO staff helped victims prepare for court proceedings and assisted foreign victims with repatriation.
The government amended its criminal procedural code in 2016 to establish minimum standards on the rights, support, and protection of victims of crime (including those exploited in trafficking), expanding and strengthening victims’ rights, specifically in criminal and court proceedings. The new law provides that victims in particular need of protection may, in order to minimize re-traumatization, be accompanied by a trusted person or be afforded special interview methods during the investigation phase. The national trafficking taskforce finalized a comprehensive national referral mechanism and guidelines for the identification of child victims. Government officials from multiple agencies and NGOs used guidelines and checklists to identify trafficking victims proactively. The government trained law enforcement, the labor inspectorate, military, diplomatic services, detention centers, asylum centers, revenue authority, and social services to proactively identify victims.
Under the asylum law, the government-provided right of temporary residence status for trafficking victims and benefits was not linked to victims’ participation or testimony in criminal trials. According to one observer, however, the government failed to grant legal residence to victims if they do not assist police and testify in legal proceedings. The government granted 16 foreign victims temporary residence permits in 2016, compared to 14 in 2015; these permits allowed them unconditional access to the labor market. Identified victims were granted a 30-day reflection period to receive assistance and decide whether to cooperate in investigations. Austria led an international working group that discussed strategies for improving the non-punishment of victims in Balkan countries. The justice ministry developed guidelines for prosecutors on non-punishment of victims. Victims can testify via video conference, provide anonymous depositions, and enroll in witness protection programs. The justice ministry reported 120 victims assisted with prosecutions during 2016. Victims, including those without legal residence, are able to file civil suits for damages and compensation against traffickers, even in the absence of a criminal prosecution. According to the justice ministry, victims obtained restitution in nine criminal cases and six victims of trafficking received government compensation as crime victims. Victims were entitled to legal aid in the form of financial assistance and legal representation if they cannot afford their legal costs. The government did not report any cases of trafficking victims being detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
The government continued robust efforts to prevent trafficking. A national anti-trafficking coordinator headed a taskforce that coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and included NGOs. The government published a detailed annual report on its website on the implementation of its action plan for 2015-2017. The government hosted several international conferences on trafficking, including labor exploitation and trafficking in the context of the migration crisis. The government subsidized several publications and television programs on trafficking and child sex tourism and funded campaigns to inform women in prostitution of their legal rights. The government also continued school exhibitions, with accompanying teacher handbooks, to sensitize Austrian youth to trafficking. The interior ministry continued to run a 24-hour trafficking hotline and email service. The taskforce distributed leaflets on child trafficking to government authorities and the military, and the men’s shelter had an online brochure that provided information on its services. An NGO collaborated with the Austrian trade union organization to organize information campaigns on trafficking for harvest workers, and workshops during immigration integration and language classes. The government reissued the “Global Code of Ethics for Tourism” to tour operators, hotels, and restaurants to combat child sex tourism. Austrian embassies and consulates in source countries informed visa applicants of the potential dangers of trafficking. The government provided anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel. The foreign ministry hosted events for employees of diplomatic households, increasing workers’ awareness of their rights and sensitizing them to trafficking. The government required foreign domestic workers in diplomatic households to appear in person to receive their identification cards. Austrian troops received government-funded anti-trafficking training conducted by NGOs prior to their deployment abroad as part of peacekeeping missions. As part of its efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, the government subsidized and distributed a brochure, published in seven languages, which raised public awareness about trafficking within commercial sex. The government worked with business and labor organizations in awareness training on labor exploitation. The government changed its public procurement guidelines to avoid goods and services provided by exploited workers.
As reported over the past five years, Austria is a destination and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Victims primarily originate from Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Bosnia, and Serbia, with some victims coming from Nigeria, Southeast Asia, China, and South America. Vienna has the majority of trafficking cases. Most identified victims are foreign women subjected to sex trafficking. Traffickers sometimes lured women by offering fictitious positions, including au pairs, cleaners, waitresses, and dancers. Domestic workers in diplomatic households and workers in restaurants, construction, cleaning companies, and agriculture were subjected to labor exploitation. Children and physically disabled persons are the primary victims of forced begging. A growing number of victims from Nigeria and China are abused for sexual exploitation, some in massage parlors and brothels. Traffickers are primarily male and largely are Austrian or are the same nationality as their victims.