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The Government of Montenegro does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Montenegro remained on Tier 2. These efforts included indicting more defendants and identifying more victims. The government adopted standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the Team for Formal Identification of Trafficking Victims (TFITV), which assessed and officially recognized potential victims, and added a psychologist from an NGO to the TFITV. The government increased resources to the anti-trafficking shelter (the shelter) and established a coordinating body to monitor the implementation of the national anti-trafficking strategy for 2019-2024. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government investigated fewer suspects and convicted fewer traffickers. Police refused to refer a victim to support services due to pandemic mitigation measures and required the victim to quarantine for 28 days, during which the victim faced domestic violence. The government did not appoint a new national coordinator, and the shelter’s staff lacked experience in victim assistance, particularly victim confidentiality; the shelter often published photos of victims on social media with censored faces but identifiable characteristics, such as clothes and location.

Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers under Article 444 of the criminal code. • Establish victim confidentiality and privacy measures at the shelter and ensure the shelter adheres to high victim protection standards, including sustainably spending resources. • Establish and implement procedures to identify and refer victims safely and quickly, while adhering to pandemic mitigation measures. • Provide advanced training to judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement on trafficking investigations and prosecutions, including collecting evidence on subtle forms of coercion or the use of specialized investigative techniques. • Increase proactive screening of potential victims, especially for individuals in commercial sex, migrants, seasonal workers, and children engaged in begging. • Increase access to justice and victim-witness protection for victims, including access to experienced attorneys and protection from intimidation and threats. • Incentivize and encourage victim participation in investigations and prosecutions in a victim-centered manner. • 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. • Regulate and monitor labor recruitment agencies.

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Article 444 of the criminal code criminalized labor trafficking and sex trafficking and prescribed penalties ranging from one to 10 years’ imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Law enforcement investigated four cases (seven in 2019). The government indicted five defendants (two in 2019) and continued to prosecute five defendants indicted in the previous reporting period. Courts convicted one trafficker (two in 2019) and acquitted two individuals. Judges sentenced the trafficker to 10 years’ imprisonment for forced begging (one trafficker received 17 years’ imprisonment and the other 14 years’ imprisonment for sex trafficking in 2019).

The government maintained a multi-disciplinary task force to proactively investigate trafficking. The Department of the Suppression of Criminal Offenses of Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling (DSCOTPS) within the Police Directorate (PD) conducted proactive investigations. 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 in 2019 or 2020. In previous years, authorities investigated and prosecuted possible sex trafficking cases under other offenses, such as brokering in prostitution (Article 210). Basic State Prosecutor’s Offices (BSPO) stopped some potential trafficking 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 specialized investigative techniques; however, the government changed case referral procedures in 2019 by requiring the Higher State Prosecutor’s Office (HSPO) to initially review all trafficking-related cases and refer cases not deemed as trafficking to BSPO. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking. The government maintained institutionalized training programs for police, prosecutors, and judges on various anti-trafficking issues. The government continued an ongoing trafficking investigation with Taiwan authorities, including legal assistance and extradition of a suspect to Taiwan.

The government increased victim protection efforts. The government identified 48 official victims (39 official victims in 2019). Of these, 46 were victims of forced labor, including seven victims of forced begging, and two were victims of sex trafficking (all were victims of forced labor in 2019); 17 were females and 31 were males (12 females and 27 males in 2019); and seven were children (none in 2019). First responders carried out the preliminary identification of possible victims and then contacted police who formally recognized the individuals as potential victims. Police officers proactively screened foreign nationals and individuals in commercial sex for indicators of trafficking. In previous years, observers reported that the low number of identified victims reflected inadequate victim identification procedures. The government established TFITV to assess and officially recognize potential victims and coordinate victim care and placement, and it drafted new SOPs for identifying and referring victims to services in 2019, including eliminating the requirement for victims to cooperate with law enforcement in order to receive services. TFITV comprises a doctor, a psychologist from the Women’s Rights Center, police, a social worker from the Center for Social Work, and a representative from the Office for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons (TIP office). In October 2020, the government adopted the SOPs and added a psychologist from an NGO to TFITV after civil society organizations voiced their interest in participating in the victim identification process; TFITV met 19 times and conducted nine field missions. The government provided training on victim identification and assistance to police, labor inspectors, health workers, social workers, and members of TFITV. However, observers reported an NGO worker identified a potential foreign victim in March 2020, but police refused to initiate the referral process without an approval from a health and sanitation inspector and threatened the victim and NGO worker with charges for not complying with pandemic mitigation measures. A health and sanitation inspector subsequently required the potential foreign victim and NGO worker to quarantine for 28 days, during which the potential foreign victim faced domestic violence. An NGO-run shelter housed the potential foreign victim in April 2020, and after persistent advocacy, DSCOTPS started an investigation and transferred the victim to the shelter in June 2020.

In 2019, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) transferred funding responsibilities for victim protection to the Ministry of Finance and Social Welfare (MFSW), which subsequently defunded the only NGO-run shelter due to its inability to obtain necessary licenses to provide victim assistance. MFSW opened a call for proposals to establish a new shelter and selected an NGO with the necessary licenses. The MFSW allocated €67,530 ($82,860) to the shelter, including €40,000 ($49,080) for operational costs and €250 ($310) per month for each victim accommodated at the shelter, an increase compared with €40,000 ($49,080) in 2019. The shelter provided specialized services for both potential and officially recognized trafficking victims, including immediate needs, health care, psycho-social support, legal assistance, and reintegration assistance; the shelter housed 14 victims in 2020 (two in 2019). The shelter purchased personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 tests and adopted social distancing measures, including separate rooms for victims awaiting COVID-19 test results. DSCOTPS also donated disinfectants and PPE to NGOs and the shelter. The shelter could accommodate six victims up to a year, including adult males, adult females, and children, in separate living quarters. Adult victims could leave the shelter after a security and psychosocial evaluation by shelter staff. MFSW operated local social and welfare centers and two regional institutions, which provided general services for victims of abuse, including trafficking victims. A self-administered evaluation of the shelter’s support services concluded beneficiaries and visitors of the shelter were satisfied with the quality of care, staff, and facility. However, other experts reported concerns with the shelter staff’s lack of experience in victim protection, including unnecessary operational costs and victim confidentiality concerns. For example, the shelter often published photos of victims on social media with censored faces but identifiable characteristics, such as clothes and location.

There were no reports the government penalized victims for crimes their traffickers compelled them to commit. The law allowed foreign victims to acquire temporary residence permits from three months to one year with the ability to extend; no victims applied for temporary residence permits in 2019 or 2020. The government cooperated with authorities from Kosovo and Serbia to repatriate foreign victims. The law provided witness protection, free legal aid, and a psychologist to participate in prosecutions. However, observers continued to report that the government assigned lawyers with little or no experience to victims; one victim received free legal aid, and all victims assisted in investigations. Prosecutors continued to implement victim-centered approaches for victims who participated in court proceedings, particularly child victims. For example, a child victim testified in the presence of a social worker with audio/visual equipment, while in a separate room from their perpetrator. However, observers reported police failed to protect a potential victim from intimidation and threats to change her testimony from her at-large perpetrator in 2019. Judges did not issue restitution in criminal cases, and observers reported some prosecutors did not know they could make claims during criminal proceedings. No victim has received compensation in civil proceedings, and the law on compensation of victims intended to provide financial assistance to victims of violent crimes will not go into effect until Montenegro becomes a member of the EU.

The government maintained prevention efforts. The government implemented the national anti-trafficking strategy for 2019-2024 and the national action plan (NAP) for 2020. The government established a coordination body for monitoring the implementation of the strategy and NAP, which is composed of PD, HSPO, MOI, and the Ministry of Justice, Human, and Minority Rights, but it met only twice in person, with additional online coordination. The government allocated €152,000 ($186,500) to the TIP office within the MOI, compared with €155,250 ($190,490) in 2019. The national coordinator led the TIP office and overall anti-trafficking efforts and chaired the trafficking in persons working group, which consisted of government agencies, civil society organizations, and the international community. The TIP office published information on anti-trafficking efforts, but, in previous years, experts reported difficulties in sharing and obtaining information from relevant government actors, and it was unclear if information coordination had improved. The government organized a cooperation agreement with law enforcement, relevant ministries, and five NGOs to strengthen anti-trafficking efforts. MOI financed six NGO projects to raise public awareness on trafficking (12 in 2019), and the government organized awareness campaigns at schools, aired an anti-trafficking video on public and commercial television stations, and, in cooperation with an NGO, launched an awareness campaign targeting the Romani community. The government continued to support a hotline for trafficking victims; the hotline received 1,657 calls, including five from potential trafficking victims (385 calls in 2019, including one that initiated an investigation). The Labor Inspectorate inspected businesses and identified 351 workers with contract violations, and it resolved contract violations for 97 workers. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government did not have procedures in place to regulate labor recruitment agencies.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Montenegro, and traffickers exploit victims from Montenegro abroad. Traffickers are predominantly men between ages 25 and 49 and members of organized criminal groups that operate in the Western Balkans. 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. Traffickers exploit victims in the hospitality industry, including bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and cafes. Children, particularly Romani, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptian children, are exploited in forced begging. Romani girls from Montenegro reportedly have been sold into marriages and forced into domestic servitude in Romani communities in Montenegro and, to a lesser extent, in Albania, Germany, and Kosovo. Migrants from neighboring countries are vulnerable to forced labor, particularly during the summer tourism season. International organized criminal groups exploit some Montenegrin women and girls in sex trafficking in other Balkan countries.

U.S. Department of State

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