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The Government of the Slovak Republic, or Slovakia, 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 with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Slovakia remained on Tier 2. These efforts included investigating more trafficking cases and increasing the percentage of traffickers that received significant prison terms. The government also continued to fund an NGO that operated several victim assistance programs and increased funding for prevention activities. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government prosecuted fewer suspects, convicted fewer traffickers, and did not adequately and proactively identify foreign or domestic trafficking victims within the country. The government also decreased efforts to identify labor trafficking victims through joint-inspections and continued to lack legal safeguards to protect victims against potential prosecution for administrative and immigration-related offenses. Further, the government did not report adequately training prosecutors and judges on trafficking.

Continue to vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, and sentence those convicted to significant prison terms. • Continue to increase training for judges and prosecutors with a focus on a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach to law enforcement efforts and trial as well as the use of psychological coercion and fraud as means of trafficking. • Continue to improve sentencing norms by sensitizing judges to the severity of trafficking crimes and the full range of penalties available. • Improve efforts to proactively identify victims within the country, especially foreign nationals, including by training government officials, particularly border police, labor inspectors, and municipal law enforcement, on proactive victim identification among vulnerable groups. • Allow formal victim identification by and referral from entities other than the police, including civil society, social workers, and healthcare professionals. • Improve the quality of human trafficking training courses available to prosecutors and judges. • Ensure labor trafficking is investigated and prosecuted as a trafficking crime and not pursued as an administrative labor code violation. • Increase migrant worker protections by increasing efforts to monitor labor recruitment companies, including prosecutions for fraudulent labor recruitment. • Amend the law on the non-punishment of victims to ensure that trafficking victims are not inappropriately penalized for acts traffickers compelled them to commit, including administrative and immigration-related offenses. • Continue efforts to inform foreign worker groups of worker rights and responsibilities and victim assistance resources in their native languages. • Streamline definitions and methodologies for gathering law enforcement and victim data. • Update public awareness campaigns to portray human trafficking in a more realistic manner. • Issue and implement revised formal written procedures for a victim referral mechanism that outline roles for all officials and stakeholders in order to improve victims’ access to and the quality of assistance. • Improve the coordination of protection services to children. • Explore utilization of the witness protection program for trafficking victims.

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Section 179 of the criminal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of four to 10 years’ imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

Government officials initiated investigations of 28 cases, a significant increase from 16 investigations in 2019 but similar to 27 cases in 2018; 47 investigations initiated in these and prior reporting periods remained ongoing. Of the 28 investigations, 15 cases were for sex trafficking, seven were for labor trafficking (three for forced begging and four for forced labor), and six were combinations of multiple forms of trafficking; all suspects were Slovak nationals. Prosecutors indicted 14 alleged traffickers in 2020, a significant decrease compared with 38 in 2019 and 21 in 2018; the government did not report further details on the type of trafficking. Prosecutors obtained convictions for nine traffickers in 2020, a slight decrease from 11 in 2019, but similar to eight in 2018. Of the nine convictions, six traffickers received significant prison sentences and three received suspended sentences. Courts sentenced three traffickers to four years’ imprisonment, two to seven years’ imprisonment, and one to nine years’ imprisonment. Of the convicted traffickers, seven were male and two were female; seven were Slovak nationals, one was Czech, and one was Romanian. Courts did not dismiss any trafficking cases in 2020 and there were no acquittals. Compared with 2019, courts convicted fewer traffickers in 2020; however, of the convicted traffickers, the government issued significant prison sentences to 66.6 percent – an improvement compared with 45 percent of traffickers issued significant prison sentences in 2019 and zero in 2018. Though the issuance of suspended sentences decreased in 2020, it remained a serious concern; over the past seven years, approximately 68.6 percent of all trafficking convictions resulted in fully suspended sentences or a fine. In December 2020, the national anti-trafficking coordination committee, the Expert Group, received a report from the General Prosecutors Office as well as another report from the Information Center (IC) within Ministry of Interior (MOI) in March 2021, which included the analysis of previous sentences for traffickers, with a specific emphasis on the use of section 39 of the criminal code which permitted judges to reduce sentences below minimum thresholds; however, no further details were available. Corruption, inefficiency, and lack of accountability within the judicial branch remained concerns during the reporting period and may have hindered law enforcement efforts. In 2020, police formalized an international operation with Germany and EUROPOL to investigate a suspected human trafficking operation, which allegedly abused the Slovak visa regime to transport Vietnamese victims to Germany for the purposes of forced labor and sex trafficking. Through 2020, police and prosecutors continued to cooperate on several international investigations with the United Kingdom (UK), though unlike prior years, the investigations did not identify any new suspects or victims. During the reporting period, the government reported extraditing one alleged trafficker to the UK. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking crimes.

The irregular migration unit within the Bureau of Border and Alien Police (BBAP) coordinated all national anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, which may have affected the number of trafficking victims the government identified domestically. Though there was no dedicated trafficking unit within the prosecution service, cases were usually assigned to those with experience prosecuting trafficking and prosecutors followed written guidance to provide victims with information on the prosecution process and resources available to them. Each of the eight regional prosecutorial offices had a human trafficking lead who could provide guidance and oversight on trafficking-related cases. Coordination between law enforcement and prosecutors remained effective. Civil society and the victim-care service provider continued to express concern that many prosecutors and judges assigned to trafficking cases were not adequately trained on victim-centered and trauma-informed approaches or on the specificities of trafficking crimes. Some prosecutors and judges continued to misunderstand non-violent, psychological coercion and fraud as means for the crime, had not used either in any recent trafficking cases, and continued to rely predominately on evidence of force and physical limitations on victims’ liberty in trials. Experts noted that the inadequate quality of anti-trafficking training courses available to prosecutors and judges at the Judiciary Academy may have contributed to their continued misunderstanding of the crime. Prosecutors and some front-line officials continued to view possible cases of labor trafficking as administrative labor code violations and did not prosecute as trafficking crimes. The national police continued to provide training for and cooperate with the financial intelligence unit of the national criminal agency to uncover suspicious transactions indicative of trafficking but did not uncover any trafficking cases as a result of the cooperation. While the MOI and police enhanced coordination and cooperation on gathering law enforcement and victim identification statistics, differences in how various institutions gathered law enforcement statistics continued to hinder effective comparison and monitoring of trafficking-related efforts.

In 2020, the government provided comprehensive anti-trafficking training on proactive victim identification and indicators, trauma-informed and victim-centered approaches, and available services to one judge, one prosecutor, and 19 high court clerks. The MOI’s IC provided extensive training to 90 police investigators on victim-centered, trauma-informed approaches to victim interviewing during the reporting period. The MOI’s Crime Prevention Department organized seven human trafficking training sessions for 164 front-line officials, including community and social workers, municipal police officers, front office client centers, and district government offices. The MOI also organized anti-trafficking training on a victim-centered approach for 48 regional crime prevention coordinators. Compared to the reported 480 officials the government trained in 2019, this was a decrease. However, the government reported it was unable to provide additional, previously planned trainings to its officials due to pandemic-related restrictions.

The government maintained protection efforts. The government identified 50 victims in 2020 (53 in 2019) and an additional 11 victims (13 in 2019) were either self-identified or identified by the victim-care service provider, a government-funded NGO – bringing the total to 61 (66 in 2019). Of the victims identified, 34 were female, (12 girls), and 27 were male (three boys). The government identified at least 22 sex trafficking victims and 26 labor trafficking victims, including 10 forced begging victims, with the remaining experiencing multiple forms of trafficking. Of the victims identified, 60 were Slovak nationals and one was a Chinese foreign national. Children comprised nearly 26 percent of the total victims identified. The Expert Group formally adopted, published online, and distributed an updated National Referral Mechanism (NRM) for victim identification and referral, which included some improvements such as highlighting trauma-informed approaches to victim identification and care and explaining forced labor situations. However, many prior concerns remained unaddressed, including the continued lack of clear roles and tailored guidelines for all front-line officials and stakeholders who were most likely to encounter trafficking victims – including, health care specialists, employees of foster homes, and counselors of offices of labor, social affairs, and family – in order to improve victims’ access to and quality of assistance. Additionally, the updated NRM focused heavily on describing the potential trafficking situations of foreign nationals in Slovakia or Slovak nationals abroad but included little on trafficking situations Slovak nationals could experience within Slovakia. Law enforcement officials or the State Secretary of the MOI were the exclusive entities with authority to formally identify victims and approval by the State Secretary was required prior to enrollment in the victim-care program. The government trained 17 employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on victim identification and distributed written guidelines to those within Slovakia and its embassies abroad, which resulted in the identification of 10 potential trafficking victims by Slovakian embassy staff abroad in 2020. Further, in 2020, the government partnered with a government-funded NGO to train 15 social workers and shelter employees on proactive victim identification and referral. However, despite training, the identification of foreign national and Slovak victims within the country remained a challenge. The national police reported the majority (40 of 61) of Slovak victims were exploited in other countries, resulting in few victims identified within Slovakia. Further, despite their significant presence, only one victim was a foreign national. While there were no reports the government penalized victims for crimes their traffickers compelled them to commit, trafficking victims may have remained unidentified in asylum-seeker and irregular migrant detention facilities. GRETA continued to express concerns related to the ability and willingness of labor inspectors and the Border and Alien Police to thoroughly screen illegally employed foreign nationals or asylum-seekers for trafficking indicators and refer them to assistance before deporting them. Asylum-seekers could be kept in detention for up to six months per Slovak law; the Center for Legal Aid visited two detention centers during the reporting period, but the staff were not trained to identify human trafficking victims and did not report identifying any victims in 2020. A government-funded NGO administering the victim-care program conducted seven visits to asylum-seeker facilities and detention facilities for irregular migrants, but it did not identify any victims in 2020 or in any prior year. In its June 2020 Report, GRETA urged the government to increase the quality of screening for trafficking victims by ensuring officials were adequately trained in victim identification at asylum-seeker and irregular migrant detention facilities. The victim-care service provider reported providing pre-return assistance to 13 Slovak nationals and voluntary returns to four. The foreign victim identified in 2020 elected to enroll in the national victim-care program and had been issued a work permit.

Of the 61 total victims identified, only 12 decided to enter the government-funded victim-care program in 2020 (17 of 66 in 2019 and 16 of 56 in 2018). The program continued to assist an additional nine victims enrolled from previous years. Of persistent concern, government officials and the victim-care service provider continued to note that after concluding the victim-care program, survivors remained in poor physical and mental states and frequently ended up on the streets. In its June 2020 Report, GRETA noted concern regarding the traditionally low participation in the victim-care program and urged the government to investigate further. In 2020, the government provided €212,450 ($260,680) to one NGO that operated the national victim assistance program, voluntary return, and the national trafficking hotline, a slight decrease from the €215,000 ($263,800) allocated in 2019. The government-funded, NGO-run victim assistance program provided Slovak and foreign victims with shelter, financial support, repatriation to Slovakia, health care, psychosocial support, legal assistance, interpretation services, and job training. In response to the pandemic, the victim-care service provider prepared a crisis plan that focused on the introduction of preventive and sanitation measures to ensure the safety and health of all victims enrolled in the victim-care program. The government reported that foreign victims, including both EU nationals and third country nationals, had access to the same scope and quality of victim care and support. 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. However, victims who chose to cooperate with law enforcement were eligible to access victim care for the duration of the investigation and trial, which was often much longer than 180 days; in 2020, 54 (22 men, 32 women) out of 61 victims identified cooperated with police and prosecutors. Beginning in January 2021, foreign victims, including trafficking victims, who had been granted temporary residency, were included under the general government-funded healthcare insurance scheme, which improved the provision of healthcare services to potential foreign trafficking victims who chose not to enroll in the victim-care program. The government did not have dedicated shelters for trafficking victims, but rather accommodated victims in domestic violence shelters, with men and women housed separately, or in homeless shelters. There were limited accommodations for victims with families. Children were not usually assisted through the national victim-care program, rather authorities placed unaccompanied child trafficking victims in the care of child protective services in a government-run children’s home or an NGO-run crisis home for children. However, if a child trafficking victim required additional services, it was possible to utilize trafficking-specific services through the national victim-care program, as one such child did in 2020. The government-run children’s home was officially designated as responsible for child trafficking victims, among other child victims, and could accommodate up to eight victims. Referral of child victims to care was not systematic and officials noted that coordination between these two victim-care regimes required improved streamlining.

It was unnecessary for the government to grant work permits as foreign victims received subsidiary protection and could work legally, though NGOs noted obstacles, including length of stay, sometimes precluded this. The law authorized permanent residency for foreign victims who would face hardship or retribution if returned to their country of origin; authorities issued no such residence permits during the reporting period. The government granted asylum to one trafficking victim in 2020. The pre-trial and trial process was lengthy and not always adapted, nor prosecutors or judges sufficiently trained, to avoid re-traumatization of victims. The 2017 crime victim’s 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, including police and judges, implemented and applied the new law inconsistently, and police continued to lack proper interviewing rooms. Experts expressed concern that the law’s limit of one victim interview may hinder opportunities to build rapport with traumatized victims, who are unlikely to provide reliable testimony in a single interview session. Though not systematic, judges were generally willing to accommodate requests to provide a separate waiting area for victims and to remove the suspected trafficker from the courtroom during victim testimony. Further, a new guideline, issued in 2020, required investigators to invite the government-funded NGO administering the victim-care program to victim interviews, to ensure victims knew their rights regarding the victim-care program, free legal advice, and restitution. Witness protection programs existed, but the government has never utilized these programs for any trafficking victim; in its June 2020 report, GRETA continued to urge the government to utilize its witness protection programs for trafficking victims. Though the process was complicated, the 2017 crime victim’s protection act enabled the government to grant between €5,800 ($7,120) and €29,000 ($35,580) in compensation to victims from state funding for the year 2020; during the reporting period, the victim-care service provider requested and received €16,890 ($20,720) in compensation for one trafficking victim. Prosecutors could file for restitution from traffickers in criminal cases; however, unlike 2019, courts did not report awarding restitution to any victims in 2020. Civil society continued to allege that prosecutors were frequently reluctant to request restitution in trials to avoid prolonging already lengthy proceedings. Additionally, victims could seek damages through civil suits, but unlike 2019, no victims were awarded damages in 2020. NGOs continued to argue excessive legal costs and length of proceedings discouraged many victims from filing civil suits. Under the 2018 act, victims who opted to seek compensation from their traffickers through a civil suit could not also request restitution through criminal proceedings. Experts continued to assert that judges did not award criminal restitution or civil damages in the majority of cases. The law provided 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 five years’ imprisonment; it did not cover administrative or immigration-related offenses and GRETA noted that some prosecutors were unaware of the non-punishment clause.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The State Secretary of the MOI was the official national coordinator for the fight against trafficking. The Expert Group within the MOI’s Crime Prevention Department functioned as the national anti-trafficking coordination committee, met five times during the reporting period, and successfully coordinated policy documents, implemented anti-trafficking programs with civil society, organized trainings, and coordinated awareness-raising campaigns. The Expert Group comprises 21 members, including both government ministries and NGOs. The IC also contributed to national coordination by administering contracts for the victim-care program, gathering trafficking data, publishing an annual human trafficking report, and functioning as the national rapporteur. However, the IC continued to face challenges reconciling the data from different institutions, particularly data on prosecutions and convictions, and GRETA questioned whether, as the national rapporteur, the IC was sufficiently independent to critically monitor national efforts. The government continued to fund and implement its 2019-2023 anti-trafficking national action plan. The MOI allocated €11,140 ($13,670) in 2020 for grants for prevention activities and awareness-raising on a variety of crimes, including on trafficking, an increase compared with no reported amount in 2019 and €39,700 ($48,710) in 2018. The MOI maintained staff at eight regional centers throughout Slovakia who could offer information and assistance on trafficking prevention, victim identification, and assistance, in addition to crimes against the elderly and hate crimes.

The government launched extensive trafficking prevention and public awareness campaigns to engage the public, though trafficking was sometimes portrayed in a sensationalized manner. In light of the pandemic, the government successfully changed its in-person awareness campaigns to virtual platforms in order to continue prevention efforts. During the reporting period, the government continued to use television, radio, and social media to help raise trafficking awareness; it also employed 30 billboards along major roadways to promote its anti-trafficking helpline. The Crime Prevention Department conducted 66 awareness-raising sessions that reached 2,352 students and the IC organized an anti-trafficking art exhibition visited by approximately 200 school children. In 2020, the IC printed and distributed 1,500 human trafficking self-identification flyers with contact information for the national anti-trafficking helpline, translated into eight foreign languages. The IC also distributed 500 flyers on victims’ rights to government institutions and 5,600 brochures on general trafficking indicators. In October 2020, the government partnered with the British Embassy to raise awareness regarding the possibility of restitution for trafficking victims and highlighted traffickers who were sentenced to significant prison sentences.

The labor ministry continued to distribute a brochure to foreign workers on trafficking indicators, the labor code, and the rights and obligations of foreign employees in eight languages; however, the government did not report how many foreign workers received the brochure. Despite a 10 percent decrease from 2019 due to the pandemic, the number of foreign workers in Slovakia remained significant during the reporting period, resulting in continuing concerns regarding fraudulent labor recruitment and low victim identification in this vulnerable population. The 2004 law on employment services prohibited labor recruiters from charging a recruitment fee to workers and employment agencies were required to register with the government. During the reporting period, the government did not investigate or prosecute any cases of fraudulent labor recruitment as trafficking crimes, though it fined several labor recruiters for labor code violations. In its June 2020 report, GRETA urged the government to strengthen monitoring of recruitment and temporary work agencies. Experts and civil society continued to urge the government to increase efforts to inform foreign worker populations of their rights; lack of awareness of the availability of services, language barriers, and fear of immigration officials continued to prevent some foreign victims from seeking help from authorities. The lack of pre- and post-arrival training for foreign workers continued to concern civil society organizations.

In 2020, the labor inspectorate and BBAP conducted 57 joint inspections of worksites, a significant decrease compared with 101 in 2019, 332 in 2018, and 340 in 2017. During the joint inspections in 2020, officials reported screening 1,282 individuals, including 566 foreign workers (1,522 in 2019 including 891 foreign workers; 3,000 in 2018 including 1,200 foreign workers; and 3,200 people, including 1,700 foreign workers in 2017). While some of the decrease in the number of inspections in 2020 was due to the pandemic, inspection numbers have steadily decreased since at least 2017. Despite the large foreign-worker population in Slovakia with an increased risk of trafficking, the government has not reported identifying any trafficking victims through the joint inspections for at least four years, continuing to raise concerns regarding their ability to identify trafficking victims, despite training. GRETA noted that joint inspections tended to take an immigration control approach rather than a victim-centered approach and continued to recommend anti-trafficking training for all labor inspectors, especially on victim identification and referral. Foreign trafficking victims without legal employment status may have been reluctant to discuss their trafficking situation with labor inspectors for fear of deportation, as it is regular practice for labor inspectors to contact the immigration officials if illegally employed foreign workers are identified. A government-funded anti-trafficking hotline, operated by an NGO, took calls for 12 hours a day in five languages, and received approximately 354 calls related to trafficking. The hotline identified two victims and both were enrolled in the victim-care program. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Slovakia, and traffickers exploit victims from Slovakia abroad. Traffickers exploit Slovak men and women in labor trafficking in agriculture, manufacturing, and construction in Western Europe, increasingly in German-speaking countries. Traffickers exploit Slovak women in sex trafficking in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, and other European countries. With the departure of the UK from the European Union, including new restrictions on freedom of movement, authorities have noted the UK is a less frequent destination for traffickers. Increasingly, traffickers exploit victims domestically within Slovakia, a recent development exacerbated by border closures due to the pandemic. NGOs report men and women, mostly from the Balkans and South-East Asia, are vulnerable to forced labor in Slovakia and may be unable or afraid to seek assistance from authorities. Some temporary workers from non-EU European countries, recruited for the manufacturing and construction industries, are subjected to conditions indicative of forced labor, including non-payment of wages. Women from South-East Asia are vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor in domestic service, restaurants, massage parlors, or spas. Slovak women of Romani descent are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking; traffickers transport them to the UK by force or deception for sham marriages for the purpose of sex trafficking or forced labor. Roma girls are vulnerable to forced traditional Romani marriages, which often includes the transfer of the girl into the care of her new “husband” where she is forced or coerced into domestic service. In some cases, parents of Slovak Roma children exploit their children in forced criminal activity in the UK. Traffickers force Slovak men, women, and children of Romani descent, and Slovaks with physical and mental disabilities to beg throughout Western Europe. Traffickers exploit children without family or relevant support structures who leave institutional care facilities in sex and labor trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future