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The Government of Macedonia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Macedonia remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by drafting and adopting the 2017-2020 national strategy and national action plan and appointing a national rapporteur and a national coordinator for trafficking. The government developed indicators for potential trafficking victims in mixed migration flows and standardized victim identification procedures for first responders. The government increased funding for trafficking victims sheltered at the government-run transit/reception center for foreigners. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government prosecuted and convicted the fewest number of traffickers ever reported. The government did not award any grants to anti-trafficking NGOs as it had done in past years and discontinued its partnership with NGOs that provided support services at the government-run shelter.

Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including complicit officials, and impose sentences adequate to deter trafficking; provide advanced training to judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement on trafficking investigations and prosecutions; allocate increased resources for the protection of victims; train law enforcement officials, labor inspectors, diplomatic personnel, and other officials on proactive victim identification, particularly among child beggars, irregular migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers; reactivate joint mobile identification units with formalized partnerships with NGOs; adopt and allocate funding for the national action plan; provide accommodation to foreign trafficking victims in safe and appropriately rehabilitative settings and allow victims to leave shelters at will; provide specialized services for male trafficking victims; improve compensation mechanisms for victims and inform them of their right to seek restitution; and make public government anti-trafficking efforts.

The government decreased law enforcement efforts. Articles 418(a) and (d) of the criminal code prohibit all forms of trafficking, including forced begging and forced criminality, and prescribe a minimum penalty of four years imprisonment for trafficking adults and 12 years imprisonment for trafficking children. This is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In December 2015, the government deleted article 191(a) on child prostitution, which had allowed the prosecution of child sex traffickers for a lesser offense, and amended article 418(d), explicitly criminalizing forced begging of minors and increasing the minimum prison sentence for that crime. The government investigated two trafficking cases, compared to zero investigations in 2015; one case involved a labor trafficking suspect and the other case involved six suspects for sex and labor trafficking of children. The government prosecuted two alleged traffickers (seven in 2015). Courts convicted one trafficker (seven in 2015); the trafficker received probation, but prosecutors appealed the sentence. Additionally, an appellate court ruling for a 2012 case sentenced a trafficker to eight years in prison during the reporting period.

The Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Migrant Smuggling Unit (CTHBMSU) within the Ministry of Interior (MOI) continued specialized investigations and led international investigations for trafficking. Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained concerns. The government charged a municipal inspector for trafficking of adults during the reporting period. Three police officers remained under investigation since 2014 for suspected involvement in organizations engaged in trafficking; the government did not provide an update on those cases. Observers reported some police and labor inspectors allegedly accepted bribes from traffickers. Authorities suspected bar and brothel owners received warnings ahead of time before police raids. The MOI, in cooperation with international organizations, trained 180 border police officers on trafficking issues. The Academy for Judges and Prosecutors, also in cooperation with international organizations and NGOs, trained 36 judges and 21 public prosecutors on trafficking issues.

The government slightly increased victim protection efforts. The government identified six victims, compared to four in 2015; all six were female sex trafficking victims, compared to four female victims of sex and labor trafficking in 2015. Three victims were children and one was a foreign citizen. The government-run shelter for trafficking victims accommodated the three child victims and the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy (MLSP) provided psycho-social services to the other two domestic victims. The government repatriated the foreign victim voluntarily to Serbia. The government allocated a total of 4,822,000 denars ($82,966) to combat trafficking, compared to 1,606,036 denars ($27,633) in 2015. The government allocated 1,000,000 denars ($17,206) to the government-run shelter, compared to 1,061,036 denars ($18,256) in 2015. The government allocated 4,822,000 denars ($82,966) for services for potential trafficking victims housed at the transit/reception center for foreigners, compared to 545,000 denars ($9,377) in 2015. Unlike in previous years, the government did not award NGOs any grants for the 2016 fiscal year; NGOs reported their reliance on these grants to assist victims and thus reduced their services. NGOs reported the government relied heavily on funding from the international community and on NGOs to provide assistance, including rehabilitation and re-socialization services to potential and officially recognized victims.

The government, in cooperation with international organizations, developed indicators for potential trafficking victims in mixed migration flows and standardized victim identification procedures. The government trained first responders, including police officers, labor inspectors, immigration officials, NGO workers, and social workers, on initial screening procedures for migrants, refugees, and unaccompanied children. MLSP provided advanced training to social workers on victim identification and dispatched 99 social workers to conduct proactive victim identification efforts at border crossings and migrant and refugee camps. The government and NGOs together identified 120 migrants as potential trafficking victims (78 adults and 42 children). The government did not revive its partnership with NGOs to operate six joint mobile identification units due to a lack of resources and political commitment. Macedonia experienced a significant decrease in migrants transiting through the country, and NGOs reported officials screened regularly for indicators of trafficking at border crossings; however, experts reported border agents were still unable to properly identify trafficking victims. MLSP social workers and police identified potential forced labor victims among predominately Romani children engaged in street begging and street vending. The government placed them in daycare centers and warned, fined, or jailed their parents; in cases where courts deemed parents unfit to care for their children, the state placed the children in orphanages.

First responders identified a total of 125 potential trafficking victims, compared to 94 in 2015. First responders referred potential victims to CTHBMSU and MLSP, who made the official identification. The government recognized six official victims in 2016. The government and NGOs provided potential victims and officially recognized victims protection and assistance, including psycho-social support, rehabilitation, and reintegration services; however, potential trafficking victims did not have access to the government-run shelter and its support services until officially identified by the government. The government ran a shelter for trafficking victims and a transit center for irregular migrants that offered separate facilities for foreign trafficking victims; both facilities could house male, female, and child victims. The government-run shelter opened only when authorities identified an official trafficking victim. The government-run shelter allowed victims freedom of movement, but the migrant facility did not permit foreign victims to leave without a temporary residence permit. In 2015, the government discontinued its partnership with NGOs that provided support services at the government-run shelter. Domestic victims could receive reintegration support, including education and job placement. Specialized assistance was not available for male victims, and the government did not provide services accessible for victims with disabilities.

The law permits foreign victims a two-month reflection period to decide whether to testify against their traffickers, followed by a six-month temporary residence permit, regardless of whether they testify; no foreign victims requested residence permits in 2016. MLSP reported 12 of the 125 potential victims assisted in initial investigations and two of the six officially identified victims gave statements against their alleged traffickers. The government reported no victims required witness protection services in 2016. While victims can claim restitution through civil proceedings, no victims have ever successfully completed a claim due to the complexity of the process. The government continued efforts to develop a victim compensation fund that allowed authorities to allocate compensation to victims from seized criminal assets. NGOs submitted a draft law allowing victims to receive compensation without having to file civil proceedings. Although there were no reports of trafficking victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, in previous years police did not contact the anti-trafficking unit to screen for potential victims of trafficking among dancers and other individuals found when conducting operations in nightclubs where sex trafficking was prevalent.

The government increased prevention efforts. The National Commission, comprising government agencies, international organizations, and NGOs, met regularly and drafted and adopted the 2017-2020 national strategy and action plan. The national strategy and action plan prioritizes increasing institutional efficiency and preventive measures; however, the government did not yet allocate funding for implementation. The government appointed a national rapporteur in April, who is responsible for reporting and monitoring the implementation of anti-trafficking policies. The government also appointed a national coordinator in August, who heads the National Commission and coordinates anti-trafficking efforts. The government established three local anti-trafficking commissions (Prilep, Gevgelija, and Veles) and assisted a local commission’s development of the first local action plan for trafficking. The government reported monitoring its anti-trafficking efforts but did not make assessment reports available to the public. The government did not fund awareness campaigns but partnered with NGOs to organize campaigns and provided venues, transportation, and logistical support. The helpline received 219 calls reporting information about trafficking; none of the calls resulted in an investigation or identification of a victim. The government, in partnership with NGOs, conducted seminars for Romani students, teachers, and NGOs on the risks of forced marriages of minors. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government warned citizens traveling abroad regarding fraudulent offers of employment within the Schengen zone. The government provided diplomats basic training on human trafficking and distributed a handbook on preventing trafficking for domestic servitude in diplomatic households.

As reported over the past five years, Macedonia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Women and girls in Macedonia are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor within the country in restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Foreign victims subjected to sex trafficking in Macedonia typically originate from Eastern Europe, particularly Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine. Citizens of Macedonia and foreign victims transiting Macedonia are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in construction and agricultural sectors in Southern, Central, and Western Europe. Children, primarily Roma, are subjected to forced begging and sex trafficking through forced marriages. Migrants and refugees, particularly women and unaccompanied minors, traveling or being smuggled through Macedonia are vulnerable to trafficking. Students are vulnerable to false employment promises in other European countries. Traffickers frequently bribe police and labor inspectors. Police have been investigated and convicted for complicity in human trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future