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MONTENEGRO: Tier 2 Watch List

The Government of Montenegro does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated significant efforts during the reporting period by prosecuting two defendants for the first time since 2014 under article 444. The government continued to train government employees on trafficking issues and organized awareness campaigns. However, the government did not demonstrate increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. The government did not convict any traffickers under its trafficking law for the fourth consecutive year. The labor inspectorate had insufficient resources to identify victims proactively and the Office for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons lost its status as an independent agency. The lack of convictions prevented victims from obtaining restitution from their traffickers. Therefore Montenegro remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.

Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including complicit officials, for trafficking crimes under article 444 of the criminal code; increase proactive screening of potential victims, especially for children engaged in begging, women in prostitution, and seasonal workers; provide advanced training to judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement on trafficking investigations and prosecutions; increase training of first responders on victim identification and referral; incentivize and encourage victim participation in investigations and prosecutions in a victim-centered manner; allocate sufficient resources to the labor inspectorate to increase proactive identification of forced labor victims; integrate Romani groups into decision-making processes regarding victim protection; create and finance an accessible compensation fund and inform victims of their right to compensation during legal proceedings; and ensure the Office for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons has adequate authority, capacity, and impact to implement anti-trafficking efforts.

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Article 444 of the criminal code criminalized all forms of trafficking and prescribed penalties ranging from one to ten years imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government investigated two cases (seven in 2016) and prosecuted two defendants (no prosecutions in 2016 or 2015). The government did not secure any convictions under article 444 for the fourth consecutive year. Experts reported authorities investigated and prosecuted possible sex trafficking cases under other offenses, such as brokering in prostitution (article 210), due to a lack of evidence or reluctance of victims to act as a witness; one of the two cases investigated as trafficking led to a prosecution under brokering in prostitution. Experts reported prosecutors stopped some investigations when they secured enough evidence to prosecute under article 210 and did not investigate for more subtle forms of coercion or seek additional evidence through financial investigations or other specialized investigative techniques. In addition, experts were not aware of any cases referred to the prosecutor’s office responsible for organized crime and noted weak coordination between police and prosecutors.

Law enforcement maintained two task forces targeting forced child begging and sex trafficking, as well as a specialized trafficking unit within the police’s organized crime department. Law enforcement conducted raids on bars, nightclubs, commercial sex sites, escort agencies, and businesses suspected of illegal employment practices, but these raids did not result in any trafficking investigations. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. The Office for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons (OFTIP) and the Ministry of Interior (MOI), in cooperation with an international organization, trained 41 border police officers, 18 investigators, 16 prosecutors, and 17 judges. OFTIP, MOI, and the police academy trained 50 representatives from the police directorate on trafficking issues. The police academy also trained new police cadets on trafficking issues.

The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified one officially recognized victim and one potential sex trafficking victim (one potential forced begging victim in 2016). The government also identified three female children forced into marriage and vulnerable to domestic servitude (two children forced into marriage in 2016). The government-funded NGO-run shelter accommodated four victims (three in 2016). OFTIP allocated €23,500 ($28,210) to the NGO-run shelter, compared to €27,000 ($32,410) in 2016. Police identified 107 child beggars (75 in 2016 and 122 in 2015) but did not identify any as trafficking victims. The government accommodated most of the child beggars at local social welfare centers until releasing them to their parents or guardians.

A multi-disciplinary national referral mechanism (NRM) provided standard operating procedures for identifying and referring victims to services. First responders carried out the preliminary identification of potential victims and then contacted police who formally recognized the individuals as potential trafficking victims. The government identified potential victims as an official trafficking victim only in cases with a final conviction or at times a formal indictment; however, the government provided the same services to potential victims and officially recognized victims. A multi-disciplinary coordination team led by the national coordinator monitored the implementation of the NRM and met twice a year and when a potential victim was identified. OFTIP provided training on victim identification to police, labor inspectors, health workers, social workers, and asylum officers; however, law enforcement still conducted the majority of proactive identification efforts. Police officers proactively screened foreign nationals and seasonal workers during the summer tourist season for indicators of trafficking. Observers reported the low number of identified victims reflected inadequate victim identification procedures. The government-funded NGO-run shelter provided specialized services for trafficking victims, including vocational training and medical, psycho-social, legal, and reintegration assistance. The shelter could accommodate adult male, adult female, and child victims in separate living quarters in the shelter. Victims could leave the shelter after assessment by police, or by the social welfare centers in the case of children. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MLSW) operated local and social welfare centers and two regional institutions, which provided general services for victims of abuse, including trafficking victims. Although MLSW did not provide specialized services for trafficking victims, MLSW could provide separate facilities for males and females.

The law provided witness protection, free legal aid, and a psychologist to encourage victims to participate in prosecutions; however, observers reported the government assigned lawyers with little or no experience to victims in trafficking cases. The law also allowed for the possibility for victim restitution through civil suits and entitled foreign trafficking victims to receive a temporary residence permit, lasting from three months to one year, and work authorization. No victims applied for temporary residence permits in 2015, 2016, or 2017. One child victim participated in the prosecution of her trafficker; prosecutors video recorded her testimony in the presence of a social worker. The law on compensation of victims intended to provide financial assistance to victims of violent crimes; however, this law will not go into effect until Montenegro becomes a member of the EU. No victim has ever received restitution in civil or criminal proceedings; observers reported some prosecutors did not know they could make claims during criminal proceedings. The government did not penalize trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.

The government maintained prevention efforts. The government produced semiannual progress reports on implementing the strategy and action plan and allocated €176,630 ($212,040) to OFTIP, compared to €174,862 ($209,920) in 2016. OFTIP led overall anti-trafficking efforts and the head of OFTIP was the national coordinator for the anti-trafficking task force, which comprised government agencies, non-governmental and international organizations, and the international community. OFTIP lost its status as an independent agency after reorganization into the MOI; observers reported the MOI did not fully recognize OFTIP’s role and the reorganization created unnecessary administrative obstacles. The government organized seminars for health care workers, municipality representatives, social workers, and inspectors, on their respective roles and responsibilities in anti-trafficking efforts. The government continued to support two hotlines for victims of abuse and domestic violence, including trafficking victims. The hotline received 476 calls (414 in 2016), but none of the calls led to an investigation, and observers reported police rarely acted on potential cases from the hotline (15 potential trafficking cases initiated from calls in 2016).

The government, in coordination with the Roma Council and NGOs, organized awareness campaigns targeting the Romani community on trafficking issues. The government also continued a national awareness campaign that included an awareness-raising video shown on television stations and increased cooperation with media outlets to advertise the hotline. Observers reported awareness campaigns lacked attention towards seasonal workers. Authorities provided specialized training to labor inspectors, although inspectors did not identify any cases of forced labor. The labor inspectorate reported its 32 inspectors was insufficient to fulfill its mandate. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.

As reported over the past five years, Montenegro is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Victims of sex trafficking identified in Montenegro are primarily women and girls from Montenegro, neighboring Balkan countries, and, to a lesser extent, other countries in Eastern Europe. Sex trafficking victims are exploited in hospitality facilities, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and cafes. Children, particularly Romani and Albanian children, are subjected to forced begging. Romani girls from Montenegro reportedly have been sold into marriages in Romani communities in Montenegro and, to a lesser extent, in Kosovo, and forced into domestic servitude. International organized criminal groups occasionally subject Montenegrin women and girls to sex trafficking in other Balkan countries.

U.S. Department of State

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