The government increased efforts to protect victims. The government reported 188 registered trafficking victims (94 sex trafficking, 25 labor trafficking, eight sex and labor trafficking, 61 uncategorized), a significant increase from 81 in 2019 and 30 in 2018. Of these victims, 21 were children (seven in 2019). The government decree on the trafficking victim identification mechanism, which established the NRM, regulated the identification and referral of victims to assistance. The decree listed the authorities responsible for identifying victims, such as police, border guards, and health professionals, the questionnaire to be completed with suspected victims, and procedural protocols. Experts expressed concern that the decree did not apply to foreign victims without legal residency. Experts also expressed concern about the lack of efforts made to identify trafficking victims among asylum-seekers and irregular migrants in Hungary. Overall, the government did not screen or adequately identify victims among vulnerable populations, such as asylum-seekers, domestic and foreign workers, unaccompanied children, children living in government-run institutions, and adults and children exploited in commercial sex. Some experts noted the need for further training for local police on the vulnerability of individuals in commercial sex to trafficking, including children, screening for trafficking indicators, and applying the non-punishment provision to trafficking victims. Furthermore, the government often did not implement a 2011 EU directive requiring authorities to treat individuals subjected to sex trafficking as trafficking victims regardless of victim consent – per the government decree, authorities required victims’ written consent for identification and access to assistance. According to NGOs, identification, referral, and assistance took place on an ad hoc basis, and NGOs and social service providers mainly based the process on their personal networks and connections. NGOs expressed the need for the government to allocate more effectively its resources, particularly in the identification and referral of victims. They also continued to criticize the lack of dedicated state funding for victim assistance services.
Victim assistance services remained scarce and uncoordinated, especially for foreigners and children, and exposed victims to the risk of re-victimization. In 2020, NGOs reported assisting 80 trafficking victims (58 in 2019, 79 in 2018) of which 13 were children (16 in 2019). Seventy-nine of the victims were Hungarian citizens, and one was a foreign citizen. While the NRM did not apply to foreign victims without legal residency, the government granted ad hoc approval to a government-funded NGO to provide services, such as financial support, shelter, and health care, in cases when the NGO requested it; during the reporting period, the government assisted a sex trafficking victim from Mozambique. Foreign 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 for up to six months. Those who cooperated with authorities were entitled to a residence permit for the duration of their cooperation. In 2020, the government issued one temporary residence permit to the Mozambican, compared with zero in 2019.
Following the European Court of Justice’s ruling that the automatic and indefinite placement of asylum-seekers in border transit zones constituted unlawful detention, the government moved nearly 300 people to reception centers around the country and closed the transit zones. The government introduced a new asylum system in which asylum requests could only be submitted through its embassies in Belgrade or Kyiv; requests required asylum-seekers to submit a statement of intent, including general questions but excluding trafficking-specific questions. While NGOs welcomed the closure of the transit zones, they expressed concern that the new system restricted access to asylum and exacerbated the risks of trafficking among asylum-seekers. Additionally, the government once again extended the “crisis situation due to mass migration,” which authorized police to automatically remove third-country nationals, some of whom could be or could become trafficking victims, intercepted for unlawfully entering and/or staying in Hungary. Experts expressed concern that the new asylum system precluded those people already in the country’s territory and in need of international protection from applying, undermining access to asylum for those facing retribution or hardship in other countries.
All Hungarian and EU victims were eligible for government-provided financial support, psychological services, legal assistance, witness care, and shelter. In 2020, the government allocated 24.3 million Hungarian forint (HUF) ($81,880), the same amount as in 2019, to an NGO operating two temporary shelters. Both shelters could assist up to 12 adult victims each with accommodation, transport, psycho-social support, and legal information. Additionally, the government provided 80 million HUF ($269,580) for the establishment of a crisis intervention home and a new shelter; both opened in 2020. The government allocated an additional 15 million HUF ($50,550) annually for the operation of the new shelter, which could assist up to 12 victims. Two halfway houses connected to the new shelter also opened in 2020, for which the government provided 8 million HUF ($26,960) annually. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) opened three victim support centers in 2020 with the goal to open three centers per year until 2025, creating a nationwide network of victim support centers; trained the staff at the centers on identifying and registering trafficking victims; and allocated 450 million HUF ($1.52 million) for the operation of the centers as well as the MOJ-run victim support hotline. Additionally, the MOJ provided financial aid, certificates of victim status, and witness counseling, if the government initiated criminal proceedings against a trafficker. In 2020, the government provided 781,900 HUF ($2,630) in financial aid to 12 trafficking victims, compared with 338,230 HUF ($1,140) in 2019, and courts provided witness counseling to 15 victims (one younger than the age of 14). The government repatriated one adult victim, the same as in 2019. The government did not have a dedicated program to provide return and reintegration assistance for Hungarian victims identified abroad. However, in 2020, the government and an NGO implemented a two-year pilot project aimed at providing 50 potential trafficking victims with reintegration support. The government partially funded the project, contributing 25 million HUF ($84,240). Under the auspices of the project, each victim was eligible for up to 500,000 HUF ($1,680) in financial support; during the reporting period, three victims received payments. The government, in partnership with another NGO, conducted research on the development of an institutional support system aimed at facilitating victims’ reintegration and decreasing the chances of re-victimization, providing 5 million HUF ($16,850) in research funding.
During the reporting period, anti-trafficking amendments to the criminal code entered into force. The amendments included a non-punishment provision for child trafficking victims and a general protection measure provision authorizing police to place child trafficking victims in designated shelters for up to 60 days. Observers generally were optimistic about the new legislation, but some noted there remained a lack of awareness among professionals about the general protection measure, as information was not widely disseminated. In September 2020, the government formed an intersectoral working group to implement the measure among stakeholders, such as police and designated children’s homes. There were five such homes (one exclusively for boys) designated in 2020 for the reception of child victims; the working group referred two child victims during the reporting period. Perennial issues persisted with protecting and providing assistance to child victims. The government lacked a framework for identifying, referring, or assisting child victims other than the general child protection system and state-run homes, which had insufficient staff and resources to provide appropriate care or security, leaving victims at risk for re-trafficking. Some experts criticized the chronic lack of assistance and specialized services in state-run homes. Experts continued to express concern that children in state-run homes or orphanages were vulnerable to trafficking – approximately 23,000 children lived in state-run institutions, including 300 younger than three years of age. EU and national requirements required child protection institutions and state-run homes to report all suspected cases of children exploited in sex trafficking; however, according to observers, some law enforcement did not treat them as victims. The failure to eliminate the requirement of force, fraud, or coercion from the anti-trafficking law for child sex trafficking offenses contributed to this inappropriate penalization. In 2020, authorities penalized 19 children (30 in 2019, 54 in 2018), all of whom were girls, for commercial sex offenses—11 children received a warning, six received a fine, and two received community service. Experts questioned the accuracy of government data on the penalization of children noting children were most likely detained by authorities for short periods of time. In 2020, the government allocated 31.5 million HUF ($106,150) to the operation of a newly opened interdisciplinary center for child victims and witnesses in Budapest, and 42.5 million HUF ($143,210) for the operation of another center in Szombathely. Through the Ministry of Human Capacities, 2,447 child protection professionals received a 30-hour vocational training on child trafficking. The government operated a 24-hour child protection hotline, which received three alerts in connection with a potential child sex trafficking victim in state care.