The government maintained insufficient protection efforts. The government reported 30 identified victims as registered in the EU-funded digital platform for recordkeeping and case management for trafficking victims (EKAT system), the first year of its operation, compared with 33 identified victims in 2017 and 44 in 2016, not including those identified by embassies. Of the 30 registered victims, NGOs referred 18; MOJ’s victim support service registered eight; embassies referred three; and the probation service referred one. The NBI trafficking unit reported identifying 26 victims and regional law enforcement reported identifying 10 victims (law enforcement did not report how many victims it identified in 2017); authorities informed victims of available services but did not refer them. NGOs reported assisting 79 trafficking victims (66 in 2017 and 143 victims in 2016). More than 540 officials were trained on the EKAT system with EU funding. NGOs reported a lack of clarity on the purpose of the EKAT system and how the government planned to use it to provide case management for victims. The government did not screen or adequately identify victims among vulnerable populations, such as adults and children exploited in commercial sex, children living in government-run institutions, foreign workers, and unaccompanied minors, including asylum-seekers. Although the immigration and asylum office implemented extensive training for its officers and social workers in transit zones and within the country and, along with an NGO, developed a new identification form for screening, it did not identify any victims among third-country nationals, including asylum seekers, in 2018. Moreover, experts criticized the government for not having an adequate referral mechanism in the transit zones. Unaccompanied children younger than 14 years old were removed from the transit zones, but did not have access to specialized services; children, including victims, between the ages of 14-18 could not leave the transit zone unless the government approved their asylum application. The government decree on the trafficking victim identification mechanism listed the institutions responsible for identifying victims, the questionnaire to be completed with suspected victims, and procedural protocols. Observers criticized the mechanism for lacking clarity and standards; granting wide discretion to front-line officials, including the police; as well as a lack of widespread dissemination of the protocols among officials. Law enforcement generally treated all persons accused of prostitution, including children, as criminals, charging them with related administrative penalties and misdemeanor offenses. Hungarian anti-trafficking law did not protect trafficking victims, including children, from administrative or criminal penalties for unlawful acts traffickers coerced them to commit. The government passed an amendment to the act on administrative offenses in 2017 that added the possibility of applying the general non-punishment provision for victims of crime in case of partial exemption for criminal responsibility and reported it applied to all administrative offenses, including for prostitution; the government did not report examples of the application of this provision. The government consistently failed to implement a 2011 EU directive requiring authorities to treat individuals subjected to trafficking in prostitution as trafficking victims regardless of initial consent. According to the law on misdemeanors, children could be detained in a correctional facility for up to 30 days or, as cumulative punishment, up to 45 days for engaging in commercial sex. Some experts said police generally did not understand that people in prostitution were vulnerable to trafficking or that the non-punishment provision for crime victims could apply to them; police rarely screened prostitution case defendants, including children, for trafficking indicators. Judges reported administrative proceedings penalizing a child only stopped if the child declared victimhood. Authorities penalized 54 children (67 in 2017 and 88 in 2016), all of whom were girls, for prostitution offenses; 30 children received a warning, 11 received a fine (two without the possibility of appeal), seven received detention in a penitentiary, and six received community service. Experts questioned the accuracy of government data on child detention and estimated authorities held more than 200 children per year in detention for prostitution-related offenses.
Victim assistance services remained scarce, uncoordinated, and inadequate, and they exposed victims to the risk of re-victimization. The government provided 24.25 million forint ($86,550), compared to 21.9 million forint ($78,170) in 2017 and 19 million forint ($67,820) in 2016, in the form of one-year grants to one NGO to run two temporary shelters that could assist 12 victims each with accommodation, transport, psycho-social support, and legal information. Both temporary shelters could accommodate men and women; 10 men and 21 women received accommodation (compared with 20 victims in 2017). The same NGO received an additional 8 million forint ($28,550) to operate four halfway houses that could assist four victims each with reintegration for a maximum of five years; 12 victims who had previously received care at the temporary shelters received assistance at the halfway houses. Authorities provided 10 million forints ($35,690) to another NGO for the renovation of its shelters for trafficking victims, compared to 5.4 million forints ($19,270) in 2017 for the operation of the shelters and two employees’ salaries. The MOJ signed a public service contract in 2019 with one NGO to operate three victim support centers and assist the victim support line, which received calls regarding all types of crime, with 115.2 million forints ($411,180) for 2019 operations. There was a severe lack of funding for victim services; NGOs urged the government to make trafficking a priority by making available robust funding for quality victim care.
All Hungarian and EU victims were eligible for government-provided financial support, psychological services, legal assistance, witness care, and shelter, as long as the trafficking occurred in Hungary; Hungarian citizens also could receive these services if they were legally present in the country in which they were victimized. The national referral mechanism did not apply to non-EU citizens without legal residence and did not provide a basis for funding services to these victims. The Ministry of Human Capacities (MHC) granted ad hoc approval to a government-funded NGO to provide services to non-EU victims in all cases when the NGO requested it; the government did not report how many cases. Experts criticized the government’s lack of harmonized guidelines on protective services for victims, noting the referral system was ineffective, and reported there was no consensus among the responsible ministries regarding protected placement options for foreign non-EU national victims, regardless of residency. Hungarian and EU victims were eligible to receive services through two temporary shelters for up to six months, independent of a victim’s cooperation with law enforcement. The MOJ victim support service could provide financial aid, certificates of victim status, and witness care if the government initiated criminal proceedings against the perpetrator; it provided 43,000 forints ($153) in financial aid to one victim registered in the EKAT system, compared with 117,500 forints ($419) for two victims in 2017. The victim support service could pay repatriation travel expenses upon request. One Hungarian national requested repatriation assistance from the UK; the Hungarian embassy transported the victim in its vehicle. Only one of the MOJ’s three crime victim support centers, designed to provide services such as customized psychological and emotional support and information on victims’ rights to victims of crime, including trafficking victims, provided services to trafficking victims in the reporting period; the center in Budapest provided emotional assistance to six suspected trafficking victims. Experts criticized the centers for deficiencies in applying a multidisciplinary approach and for lacking means to provide comprehensive services, including accommodation, or a process for monitoring and evaluation. The government did not have a dedicated program to provide return and reintegration assistance for Hungarian victims identified abroad. Experts noted services for long-term reintegration were lacking. No victims received state-ordered restitution or compensation.
The government lacked a framework for identifying, referring, or assisting child victims other than the general child protection system and state-run homes, but this system had insufficient staff and resources to provide appropriate care or security, leaving victims vulnerable to re-trafficking. Experts criticized the chronic lack of assistance and specialized shelters for child trafficking victims. The government placed three child sex trafficking victims returned from Austria in state-run children’s homes. The government gave one NGO 5 million forint ($17,850) in October to provide victim assistance to child sex trafficking victims and prevention activities for vulnerable children in three state-run children’s homes, compared with 6 million forint ($21,420) in 2017. Children in state-run homes or orphanages were vulnerable to trafficking, both while living in the home and upon their required departure at age 18. Some observers reported the government did not provide adequate specialized services for child victims in state-run homes, which they described as “prison-like.” Experts reported children who tried to escape children’s homes and were recovered were sometimes locked in their rooms for weeks or months at a time. In 2016, the MHC set up an expert working group, comprising NGO and government representatives, on sex trafficking in state-run institutions; the group produced an assessment with recommendations in May 2017; the government held a training based on the recommendations. In July 2018, the government issued a directive that all child protection institutions and state-run homes must report to law enforcement all suspected cases of children exploited in prostitution, despite the known problem of some of the police treating such children as criminals rather than victims.
In a 2018 report, the Council of Europe’s expert group on human trafficking (GRETA) expressed profound concern about children in the transit zones and the lack of efforts made to identify victims of trafficking among asylum seekers and irregular migrants in Hungary. GRETA reported conditions in the transit zones were not conducive to creating an atmosphere of trust that would make it possible for victims of trafficking to come forward. GRETA also reported the persistence of collective expulsions conducted without pre-removal risk assessments.
Foreign non-EU national victims could receive a 30-day reflection period to decide whether to assist law enforcement, during which they were eligible for a certificate of temporary stay; the MOJ’s victim support service initiated the issuance of a certificate for temporary stay in cooperation with the immigration authority. Foreign non-EU national victims who cooperated with authorities were entitled to a residence permit for the duration of their cooperation. The government did not issue any temporary residence permits, permanent residence permits, or exemptions from deportation for trafficking victims during the reporting period. The new act on criminal proceedings, which entered into force in July 2018, allowed courts to protect the identity of trafficking victims who testify. NGOs remained concerned about inadequate government protection for victims who testified against traffickers; no victims assisted in an investigation or prosecution of a trafficking case or participated in the witness protection program during the reporting period.