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 by identifying more trafficking victims, increasing funding for victim support, conducting more investigations of trafficking cases, and prosecuting more perpetrators. Law enforcement collaborated with neighboring and source countries on cases and in conducting training. The government also increased their emphasis on child victim identification and care by implementing the national referral mechanism for child victims. Although the government meets the minimum standards, courts in many cases issued light penalties for convicted traffickers.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AUSTRIA
Sentence convicted traffickers to penalties proportionate to the seriousness of the crime by ensuring more convicted traffickers serve time in prison; establish and implement a comprehensive national referral mechanism for adult victims; continue to strengthen cooperation with source country governments to promote awareness of trafficking among potential victims, and uncover and prosecute trafficking rings; enhance the level of detail contained in the government database of trafficking investigations, prosecutions, convictions and sentencing; and 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.
The Austrian government maintained law enforcement efforts. Article 104a of the criminal code criminalized sex and labor trafficking with penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 104 also criminalized slavery, with penalties ranging from 10 to 20 years imprisonment. Article 217 made it a crime to bring a person into Austria for prostitution, regardless of the means used, but imposed stronger penalties when a foreign person was induced to engage in prostitution by deception, coercion, or force. Article 217 penalties ranged from six months to 10 years imprisonment. The government investigated 94 trafficking suspects under article 104a in 2017, compared with 77 in 2016. The government prosecuted 19 trafficking defendants in 2017, compared with 19 in 2016. Courts convicted three traffickers in 2017, compared with 10 in 2016 and two in 2015. In addition, the government also continued to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking crimes under Article 217, although it was unclear how many fit the definition of a trafficking crime. In 2017, it investigated 61 cases (also 61 in 2016), prosecuted 20 (also 20 in 2016), and convicted 7 (16 in 2016) under article 217.
The government did not provide updated sentencing data for the reporting period, although in March 2018 a court convicted two Chinese nationals in a sex trafficking case with prison sentences of three and one-half years, and 13 months, respectively. While the charges against 11 Chinese defendants included trafficking of more than 30 Chinese (People’s Republic of China) women, the court only found exploitation and trafficking in the case of one woman. Victims had to pursue restitution via civil cases. The most recent comprehensive government data on prison sentences was for 2016; seven traffickers received sentences in 2016, one of whom received a suspended prison sentence. Of the six receiving prison terms under Article 104a, one received a term of up to five years, two received up to three years, and three for one year or less. Of the eight convictions in 2016 under Article 217, five received prison terms, with one receiving a term greater than one year, and four received terms less than one year. In comparison, individuals convicted of rape received substantially longer prison terms, with the majority serving three years or more.
The government provided specialized trafficking-related training to prosecutors and judicial personnel, and law enforcement officials received training on trafficking within their standard curriculum. National and provincial governments cooperated with authorities from other countries to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases. Specifically, the Federal Crime Office (FCO) expanded their counter-trafficking efforts in collaboration with neighboring and source countries, including extensive police cooperation with EUROPOL, and through their joint police cooperation center in Austria where foreign police joined in Austrian trafficking investigations.
The government increased protection efforts. 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 to proactively locate victims. Police and other government institutions, in cooperation with NGOs, identified and assisted 327 foreign victims in 2017, an increase from 301 victims in 2016, although not disaggregated by gender in the official statistics. Eight of the victims were children, and 54 victims were not identified by age. NGOs reported assisting 65 male victims. The government provided €876,000 ($1.05 million) to specialized anti-trafficking NGOs to assist and house victims, compared to €892,000 ($1.07 million) in 2016 and €832,000 ($998,800) in 2015. The government also provided €415,000 ($498,200) to two NGO-run counseling centers for male trafficking victims and undocumented migrants, compared to €400,000 ($480,190) in 2016. Government funding comprised the bulk of these organizations’ budgets. The city of Vienna funded a government-run center for unaccompanied minors, including child trafficking victims, and offered legal, medical, psychological, social, and language assistance. Services for child victims were also available in cities throughout the provinces. Youth welfare authorities in the provinces continued to receive training from NGOs on identification of victims, with sessions held in three cities during 2017. For adult trafficking victims, government-funded NGOs provided 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. Victims in particular need of protection during the investigation and prosecution phases were afforded special interview methods, and could be accompanied by a trusted person.
The national trafficking task force implemented a comprehensive national referral mechanism and guidelines for the identification of child victims, although the task force had not yet implemented a comparable mechanism for adults. Government officials from multiple agencies and NGOs used guidelines and checklists to identify trafficking both child and adult victims proactively. Under a government-funded program, NGOs trained 68 immigration officials on victim identification, including those at federal migrant reception centers. The government also continued a wide range of trainings for law enforcement, the labor inspectorate, military officials, diplomatic services, detention and asylum center staffs, revenue agency authorities, and social service providers to more effectively identify victims.
Trafficking victims had the right to temporary residence status that could be extended each year, and residence permits allowed victims unconditional access to the labor market. Government benefits were not linked to their willingness to participate in the prosecution of their perpetrator, and victims were also granted a 30-day reflection period to receive assistance and decide whether to cooperate in investigations. The justice ministry reported 125 victims assisted with prosecutions during 2017. Victims were able to file civil suits against traffickers for damages and compensation, even in the absence of a criminal prosecution, and upon a conviction, courts also typically awarded restitution. The government provided legal aid for victims unable to afford their own legal representation.
The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. A national anti-trafficking coordinator headed a broad-based task force with representatives from nine federal ministries, provincial governments, NGOs, industry, and civil society. The task force led the continued implementation of the 2015-2017 national action plan and published a final report on results. The task force sponsored a conference for 120 provincial representatives to discuss coordinated efforts and conducted roundtables in all nine provinces in 2017 led by the working group on prostitution. The government also hosted international conferences on trafficking, including an event for 400 attendees on the EU’s Anti-Human Trafficking Day in October, sponsored jointly with the OSCE, and focused on “Human Trafficking in Conflict and Crisis Situations.”
The government supported publications and television programming on trafficking and child sex tourism, as well as campaigns to inform women in prostitution of their legal rights. Exhibitions in schools sensitized Austrian youth to trafficking issues, and the government continued to distribute the “Global Code of Ethics for Tourism” to tour operators, hotels, and restaurants to combat child sex tourism. The interior ministry continued to run a 24-hour trafficking hotline and email service, with translation available in multiple languages. Austrian embassies and consulates in source countries informed visa applicants of the potential dangers of trafficking. The foreign ministry continued efforts on preventing trafficking among employees of diplomatic households, increasing workers’ awareness of their rights and sensitizing them to trafficking. During Austria’s presidency of the OSCE in 2017, the government co-sponsored a conference in May for all OSCE members on preventing trafficking in diplomatic households. The government required foreign domestic workers in diplomatic households to appear in person to receive their identification cards.
Prostitution is legal in Austria, and as a part of government effort to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, the government assisted NGOs in distributing a brochure, published in seven languages, which raised public awareness about trafficking occurring within the commercial sex industry. The government worked with business and labor organizations in awareness-training on labor trafficking and exploitation, and also continued their annual training of labor inspectors, with 55 inspectors being trained since the program’s inception in 2015. The government continued to enforce public procurement guidelines to avoid goods and services provided by exploited workers. Austrian troops received anti-trafficking training prior to deployment on peacekeeping missions.
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. An estimated 95 percent of identified victims are foreign women subjected to sex trafficking. Traffickers sometimes lure women by offering them fictitious positions, including as au pairs, cleaners, restaurant workers, and dancers. Domestic workers in diplomatic households and workers in restaurants, construction, cleaning companies, and agriculture are frequently subjected to labor exploitation. Children and physically disabled persons are the primary victims of forced begging. A growing number of female victims from Nigeria and China are abused for sexual exploitation, some in massage parlors and brothels. Many victims transit through Austria to other European countries.