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The Government of the Slovak Republic, or Slovakia, fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, Slovakia remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by increasing investigations and collaboration with foreign law enforcement authorities to identify and prosecute traffickers. The government proactively identified more victims and launched extensive trafficking prevention and public awareness campaigns to engage the general public and at-risk populations. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not adequately identify foreign trafficking victims. Legal support to victims was inadequate, and victims who cooperated with prosecution were at risk of re-traumatization. The government supported some innovative prevention activities, but NGOs continued to report that they were not given adequate time to prepare effectively for the expert working group.

Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, and sentence those convicted to prison terms; establish sentencing guidelines that sensitize judges to the severity of trafficking crimes and instruct them on the need for sentences to have a deterrent effect for future crimes; strengthen training and capacity building for investigators, prosecutors, and judges on a victim-centered approach to law enforcement efforts; clarify formal written procedures for victim referral; improve legal assistance to victims; train government officials, particularly border police, on proactive victim identification among vulnerable groups; facilitate more effective consultation with NGOs in the expert working group; improve data gathering on Slovak victims of trafficking abroad and foreign trafficking victims in Slovakia.

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Section 179 of the criminal code prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties between four and 25 years imprisonment for trafficking offenses. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2016, government officials initiated 25 new investigations, compared with 18 investigations in 2015 and 15 in 2014. Of these, 10 cases involved sex trafficking; six forced begging; six labor trafficking; two sex trafficking combined with forced marriage; and one labor trafficking, sex trafficking, and forced marriage. The national police reported 22 of the 25 new investigations involved Slovak victims exploited in other countries. The government initiated 10 prosecutions under section 179 of the criminal code (22 in 2015, 18 in 2014, and 12 in 2013). Prosecutors obtained convictions of four Slovak citizens under the trafficking law (21 in 2015, 19 in 2014, 14 in 2013, and 11 in 2012) and sentenced two of the convicted traffickers to 72-months imprisonment, the third to 56 months imprisonment, and sentenced the fourth to probation. Over the past five years, a large number of trafficking convictions have resulted in short or suspended sentences. National police cooperated with other countries’ police authorities, as well as with EUROPOL and INTERPOL. During 2016, the government extradited three individuals on trafficking charges to Czechia, Germany, and United Kingdom (UK). U.S. and Slovak law enforcement collaborated on a December 2016 investigation of two potential Slovak trafficking victims recruited to work in a strip club in New York.

The Irregular Migration Unit within the Bureau of Border and Alien Police (BBAP) coordinated law enforcement efforts. NGOs commended the head of the trafficking unit within BBAP for promptly and proactively investigating suspected trafficking and for facilitating improved referral of cases to specialized police officers. Differences in how various institutions gathered law enforcement statistics hindered the effective comparison and monitoring of trafficking-related law enforcement efforts. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking. The judicial academy and the Ministry of Interior conducted one seminar on identifying trafficking victims for judges, prosecutors, and police officers. The government held additional trafficking trainings for members of the national police unit. The Ministry of Interior launched an accredited trafficking curriculum at the police high school in Bratislava.

The government maintained efforts to protect victims. In 2016, the government identified 32 victims (25 in 2015). NGOs identified an additional 13 victims. Of the 45 total victims identified, 25 of their cases resulted in police investigations; 18 were female, including three underage girls, and 27 were male, including five underage boys; and four were foreign citizens. Experts criticized the government for lacking reliable data on the prevalence of foreign trafficking victims in Slovakia. Some NGOs continued to criticize the government’s victim care program for placing too high a burden of proof on the victim, impeding access to care services, and allowing too much discretion by law enforcement to decide whether a potential victim can enroll in the program. Of the 45 victims, 21 entered the government-funded victim care program in 2016 (25 of 28 total victims in 2015 and 34 of 41 total victims in 2014). In 2016, the government provided €221,617 ($233,530) to three NGOS for the protection of trafficking victims, including repatriation assistance, compared to €212,927 ($224,370) in 2015 and €225,100 ($237,200) in 2014. This funding covered the support and care of victims, voluntary return of victims, and the national trafficking hotline. During the reporting period, the Ministry of Interior allocated €95,000 ($100,110) in grants for projects addressing trafficking issues, the same amount as in 2015.

NGOs provided victims shelter and care services, including financial support, repatriation to Slovakia, healthcare, psycho-social support, and legal and interpretation services. Shelters for domestic violence victims housed trafficking victims separately. There were limited accommodations for victims with families. Child trafficking victims could be accommodated in government-run children’s homes or an NGO-run crisis home for children; six children entered into the care program in 2016. Whether the government’s system to refer identified victims to protection services can be considered unified remained unclear, but some government institutions had procedures to refer victims to the National Coordinator or care facilities. An NGO won a Supreme Court appeal against a 2014 government decision not to enroll a Vietnamese migrant in the care program, who the NGO suspected of being a trafficking victim. The Court concluded that the victim should be able to appeal its decision not to enroll the victim into the care program directly with the government. The government did not adequately identify foreign trafficking victims, with NGOs reporting authorities did not properly identify potential victims among migrants or refer them to services because it encouraged them to take advantage of assisted voluntary return. Border police did not always proactively screen migrants for indicators of trafficking, despite having received numerous victim identification trainings. The Slovak Embassy in London reported 11 trafficking cases of Slovak victims during 2016 (none in 2015 and 151 in 2014). The Slovak Embassy in London assisted potential trafficking victims through local NGOs.

All victims were eligible for up to 180 days of care support. Slovak law allows foreign victims to seek employment, but due to uncertain length of their tolerated residency status while participating in an investigation, employers were reluctant to hire foreign victims. Limited funding for legal representation impaired foreign victims’ ability to justify their cases for temporary residency. Moreover, experts noted lawyers provided by the government may not have relevant experience and knowledge to handle trafficking cases. The law authorizes the extension of permanent residency to foreign trafficking victims who would face hardship or retribution if returned to their country of origin; however, authorities have issued no such residence permits.

Thirty-two victims of the total 45 identified cooperated with police and prosecutors in investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases. Court proceedings, however, were not always adapted, nor law enforcement professionals sufficiently trained, to avoid re-traumatization of victims. Victims have been discouraged from participating in trafficking investigations due to these conditions. Victims provided testimony multiple times and in close proximity to suspected traffickers during the pre-trial and trial process. NGOs deemed the expertise of the legal advice available to victims through the government program insufficient. NGOs not contracted by the government have provided private, specialized legal assistance to aid victims. Although Slovak law allows for victims to pursue restitution through civil and criminal cases, experts noted judges did not award damages in the majority of criminal cases, and victims lacked legal and financial support to pursue damage claims. The government did not report cases of victims being awarded restitution. There were no reports of the government penalizing victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, however, unidentified foreign victims may have been prosecuted or deported, and the government passed an amendment in 2013 that authorizes prosecutors not to prosecute trafficking victims for crimes committed during their exploitation.

The government increased efforts to prevent human trafficking. A national program to fight trafficking, covering 2015-2018, continued to guide all government anti-trafficking efforts. The interior ministry’s crime prevention office coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking activities, including overseeing victim care services, training officials on victim identification, conducting awareness campaigns and trainings, and convening the expert working group, consisting of government and NGO representatives. Some NGOs continued to report that they were not given sufficient time to comment on issues before the working group. The crime prevention office housed an information center, which was designated as the national rapporteur. The center also collected statistics on the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, but did not produce a comprehensive report assessing the government’s efforts. The government launched extensive trafficking prevention and public awareness campaigns to engage the general public, students, employers, and at-risk children in orphanages. In October 2016, the government launched a nationwide public awareness campaign to promote the national trafficking hotline. The government continued to implement a new internet-based computer application that allowed the families of Slovaks traveling abroad to receive alerts should the user cease online activity. The government continued to support an anti-trafficking hotline operated by an NGO, which received over 255 substantive calls and helped identify and refer one victim to services. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training for 36 of its diplomatic personnel and 403 military personnel eligible to serve in peacekeeping missions abroad. The government’s consular affairs office conducted “consular days” in 12 cities outside London and in the United States to provide consular services, including trafficking prevention information, to Slovak migrants.

As reported over the past five years, 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 UK. Slovak women are subjected to sex trafficking in Germany, Austria, the UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Poland, and other European countries, as well as the United States. Ukrainian, Moldovan, Bulgarian, Romanian, Thai, and Vietnamese men and women are subjected to forced labor in Slovakia. Eastern European women are also reportedly transported to and through Slovakia and forced into prostitution within the country and throughout Europe. Roma from marginalized communities are disproportionately vulnerable to trafficking. 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. Traffickers find victims through family and village networks for sex and labor trafficking, and have also exploited men in forced labor. Children without family or relevant support structures who leave institutional care facilities are subjected to sex and labor trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future