The government maintained efforts to protect victims. The government identified 46 victims (75 in 2017 and 32 in 2016). NGOs identified an additional 10. Of the 56 total victims identified, 34 were female (including two foreign nationals and 12 children) and 22 were male. Forced begging was the most common form of trafficking, with 24 cases reported by police, followed by sex trafficking (17 victims, including seven children), forced labor (seven victims), forced marriage and domestic servitude (six victims, including five children), forced marriage for the purposes of exploitation, and sex trafficking (two child victims); some cases included multiple forms of exploitation. The national police reported 38 of the 46 victims identified by law enforcement involved Slovak victims exploited in other countries. As previously reported by GRETA, the identification of foreign national, unaccompanied minor, and Slovak victims within the country remained a challenge, and the statistics on identified victims did not reflect the actual scale of this phenomenon in the country. While the government made some effort to increase identification of foreigners, experts reported there were still persistent weaknesses. The government did not adequately identify foreign trafficking victims, and NGOs warned the situation could further deteriorate with the growing number of foreign workers arriving in Slovakia. Experts criticized government screening, outreach, and prevention efforts among foreign workers as insufficient. Experts suspected border police did not always proactively screen migrants for indicators of trafficking, despite having received victim identification trainings. Experts criticized BBAP, which registered all foreigners in the country, for not providing information to foreigners about trafficking risks and victim assistance contacts. Experts alleged the government deported unidentified foreign victims arrested for illegal employment, including a large group of Serbian nationals. An NGO administering the victim care program conducted 12 visits to asylum-seeker facilities and irregular migrant detention facilities to screen 32 individuals; the NGO did not identify any victims on these visits. Slovak embassies abroad separately reported identifying 26 victims and assisted six, including two children, with voluntary returns to Slovakia; these victims were not included in Slovak statistics because they often chose not to return to Slovakia. The government offered repatriation services for foreign victims, but it did not repatriate any victims in the reporting period. Experts said efforts to identify domestic victims could be increased by improving training of police officers and civic patrols working in marginalized Romani settlements and municipal police patrolling areas with populations of homeless people.
The MOI state secretary acted as the national coordinator on anti-trafficking efforts and approved the official identification of victims and their enrollment into the victim assistance program. Although the government had not denied a suspected victim entry into the program since 2015, some NGOs continued to criticize the government’s victim assistance program for allowing too much discretion by law enforcement to decide whether a potential victim could enroll in the program, which could impede access to services. While law enforcement and social workers had procedures to refer victims to the national coordinator or care facilities, other officials lacked such procedures, including health care specialists, employees of foster homes, and counselors of offices of labor, social affairs, and family. The MOI continued updating the national reference framework to include procedures for these professionals, but did not finalize them. Of the 56 victims, 16 (nine men and seven women) entered the government-funded victim care program in 2018 (19 of 88 in 2017 and 21 of 45 in 2016); police referred six and civil society referred 10. The program continued to assist an additional 25 victims enrolled from previous years. In 2018, the government provided €275,000 ($315,370) to one NGO that provided the victim assistance program, voluntary return, and the national trafficking hotline, equal to the amount in 2017.
The government-funded, NGO-run assistance program provided Slovak and foreign victims shelter, financial support, repatriation to Slovakia, health care, psycho-social support, legal assistance, interpretation services, and job training. Foreign victims, including both EU nationals and third country nationals, had access to the same scope and quality of victim care and support. The victim care program accommodated victims in domestic violence shelters, with men and women housed separately, or homeless shelters. There were limited accommodations for victims with families. The government did not fund a specialized victim care provider dedicated to child victims. Authorities placed unaccompanied child trafficking victims in the care of child protective services in government-run children’s homes or an NGO-run crisis home for children; no children entered the care program in 2018 (none in 2017 and six in 2016). Experts said government ministries’ lack of clarity on their roles and responsibilities hampered service provision to children, particularly if a legal guardian was not involved. The government amended the public health insurance law so all victims enrolled in the care program received full medical treatment despite outstanding payments for health insurance.
All potential victims were eligible for at least 30 days of crisis care; victims enrolled in the assistance program were eligible for up to 180 days of care without having to participate in an investigation, including temporary residence and the right to work for foreign victims. The law authorized permanent residency to foreign victims who would face hardship or retribution if returned to their country of origin; authorities issued no such residence permits. All 46 victims identified by police cooperated with police and prosecutors. The pre-trial and trial process was lengthy and not always adapted, nor law enforcement, prosecutors, or judges sufficiently trained, to avoid re-traumatization of victims. The 2018 crime victims protection act provided psychological assistance to victims in pre-trial proceedings, banned direct cross-examination of victims, and allowed recorded testimony as official trial evidence, among other protections. NGOs reported the government implemented and applied the new law inconsistently, and police did not have proper interviewing equipment or training to implement the law. Officials expressed concern the new law’s limit of one victim interview would hinder opportunities to build rapport with traumatized victims, who are unlikely to provide reliable testimony in a single interview session. Judges were generally willing to accommodate requests to provide a separate waiting area for victims and remove the suspected trafficker from the courtroom during victim testimony. Witness protection programs existed but had not been used to protect trafficking victims. The 2018 law also provided for victim restitution directly by the state after the trafficker was convicted and sentenced without possibility of further appeal. NGOs said progress was slow in providing restitution to victims under the new act and criticized the maximum amount of restitution authorized by the state, €5,200 ($5,960). Under the new law, victims who sought compensation from their traffickers through a civil suit could not request restitution from the state through criminal proceedings. Experts noted judges did not award damages in the majority of cases, whether criminal or civil proceedings, and victims lacked legal and financial support to pursue damage claims in the various stages of extremely lengthy proceedings. The government awarded compensation to one trafficking victim. As reported by GRETA, the law outlined a narrow interpretation of the non-punishment of victims, giving prosecutors discretion to terminate criminal prosecution only for offenses committed by negligence and offenses carrying a maximum sentence of imprisonment of five years; it did not cover administrative offenses.