The Government of Slovenia fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Slovenia remained on Tier 1. These efforts included investigating and prosecuting more alleged traffickers and assisting more trafficking victims compared with the prior reporting period. The government also made several policy changes that improved victims’ access to medical care, accommodation, and temporary residence permits and hired an employee dedicated to systematically raising trafficking awareness among children and adolescents. Although the government meets the minimum standards, the government did not convict any traffickers, a significant decrease compared with the prior reporting period. Investigations and prosecutions for labor trafficking remained low. Victim identification and funding for victim assistance decreased, and continued gaps in victim identification resulted in the government not identifying any child or asylum-seeker trafficking victims and very few labor trafficking victims. The government did not report awarding restitution or compensation to any victims.
Vigorously investigate and prosecute both sex and labor trafficking crimes and impose on all convicted traffickers adequate penalties that involve significant prison terms.
Improve efforts to proactively identify victims, especially children, males, and victims of labor trafficking.
Prioritize investigation and prosecution of labor traffickers and improve coordination between labor inspectors and police.
Ensure labor trafficking is investigated and prosecuted as a trafficking crime and not pursued as an administrative labor code violation.
Increase training to all front-line officials on victim identification for labor trafficking and consider a partnership with NGOs for labor trafficking victim identification.
Increase efforts of prosecutors to systematically request restitution for victims in criminal trials, including for both EU and non-EU citizen victims, and increase victim access to the state fund for crime victims.
Allow formal victim identification by and referral from entities other than the police, including civil society, social workers, and health care professionals.
Amend the definition of trafficking under Slovenian law to align more closely with the definition under international law.
Enforce the elimination of recruitment fees charged to workers and ensure any recruitment fees are paid by employers.
Establish a process to ensure systematic provision of care and designated facilities for child victims of trafficking, including enhanced training of caregivers and foster care parents.
Appoint a national rapporteur to provide independent review of government anti-trafficking efforts.
Establish a specialized police unit dedicated to investigating human trafficking, with sufficient resources, to ensure the prioritization of trafficking investigations.
Utilize the witness protection program for trafficking victims.
Increase survivor engagement, including by establishing accessible mechanisms for receiving and providing compensation for survivor input when forming policies, programs, and trainings.
Increase efforts to pursue financial crime investigations in tandem with human trafficking cases.
The government maintained uneven law enforcement efforts; while investigations and prosecutions increased, the government did not convict any traffickers. Article 113 of the criminal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties ranging from one to 10 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving an adult victim and three to 15 years’ imprisonment for those involving a child victim or other aggravating factors. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, inconsistent with the definition of trafficking under international law, Article 113 established the use of force, fraud, or coercion as an aggravating factor rather than an essential element of the crime. Police conducted investigations involving 23 sex trafficking suspects and two legal entities, a significant increase compared with investigations involving 12 trafficking suspects in the prior reporting period. Prosecutors initiated criminal proceedings against 32 sex trafficking suspects and four legal entities, an increase compared with six prosecutions initiated during the previous reporting period but the same as 32 prosecutions initiated in the reporting period before that. The government did not report investigating or prosecuting any suspects for labor trafficking during the reporting period. Courts did not convict any traffickers during the reporting period, a significant decrease compared with seven convictions in the prior period and five in the period before that. Pandemic-related prevention measures caused delays in judicial proceedings and court hearings. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government reported providing extensive training on victim identification, available assistance programs for victims, and the importance of working with civil society to 58 police officers; investigation strategies for cases of sex trafficking for 19 investigators; and a victim-centered approach to victim stabilization, victim protection and trial preparation, recognizing trauma, and victim identification for 42 officials at the social work centers. The government maintained police attachés in Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, North Macedonia, and Serbia to assist in coordination of international cases. Authorities reported cooperating with the Government of Kosovo on one case of trafficking involving a victim from Kosovo. While the government did not have a specialized anti-trafficking investigation unit, each of the eight police districts had at least one officer responsible for coordinating trafficking investigations, creating a de facto nationwide coordination network. However, NGOs expressed concern the police units responsible for investigating human trafficking were overburdened and understaffed; NGOs urged the government to establish dedicated police units to investigate and prioritize human trafficking. Several NGOs noted concerns regarding poor coordination between labor inspectors and police, which may have hindered the identification of labor trafficking cases. NGOs continued to assert the government did not prosecute labor traffickers because authorities instead pursued cases as administrative labor code violations, resulting in lesser consequences and decreased deterrence.
The government maintained uneven victim protection efforts; while victim identification and funding for assistance decreased, victim assistance increased, and several policy changes improved victims’ access to care. The government identified 45 sex trafficking victims, a decrease compared with 65 in the prior reporting period but more than 31 victims identified in the reporting period prior to that. Of the identified victims, 44 were victims of sex trafficking, and one was a victim of labor trafficking; all victims were adults; 43 were women, and two were men. Most victims were from Dominican Republic, Romania, or Serbia. Experts raised concerns regarding gaps in victim identification as the government again did not identify any child or asylum-seeker trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government referred and provided assistance to 12 victims during the reporting period, including entrance into its crisis housing program for six victims and entrance into its safe accommodation program for another six victims. This compared with two victims assisted in the safe housing program in the prior reporting period. The government decreased its allocation for housing victims in 2021 to €119,208 ($135,160), compared with €145,515 ($164,980) in 2020. Government officials continued to utilize the national Manual for Identification of Victims of Trafficking in Persons. The majority of victims continued to be proactively identified by police, and coordination between police and NGOs was strong; however, observers reported ongoing concerns regarding the under-identification of labor trafficking victims and the tendency for officials to overlook cases of labor trafficking. While both government officials and civil society could “detect” trafficking victims, only the police could formally identify victims, and formal identification was required for long-term care. Victims could request interviews with NGOs prior to meeting with law enforcement, and NGOs could accompany victims to interactions with law enforcement. Following victim identification, government regulations required police to refer victims to one of two government-funded NGOs that had formal cooperation agreements with the government to ensure adequate provision of care to the victims. However, experts noted that victim referral procedures may not have always been implemented uniformly for some vulnerable groups like undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers. NGOs noted continued strong cooperation with police on the identification of sex trafficking victims, as police continued to invite NGO care providers to police interactions with commercial sex establishments to assist in victim identification; however, authorities did not report taking similar steps regarding NGO requests to cooperate on identification of labor trafficking victims.
The government continued to partially fund two NGOs, supplemented by private donations, which provided trafficking-specific crisis and safe housing for victims. Both NGOs were among a wider range of organizations providing services such as counseling, psycho-social support, legal representation during investigations and court proceedings, and filing of documentation for residency status. In July 2021, the government’s anti-trafficking interdepartmental working group (IWG) issued a policy change to ensure all trafficking victims identified by the police were entitled to supplemental, comprehensive medical care and medication. Non-EU foreign victims had a 90-day reflection period during which they could remain in Slovenia while recovering and considering whether to participate in an investigation. All victims, both citizens and foreign nationals, could receive crisis housing for a maximum of 30 days, after which they could enter safe accommodation for 60 days, regardless of cooperation with law enforcement. Officials prepared individual assistance and protection programs for victims admitted into the safe housing accommodation. However, after 90 days, to continue to receive safe accommodation and long-term care, victims required a temporary residence permit, which required either law enforcement cooperation in criminal proceedings or, as of March 2021, qualification under the “personal circumstances” amendment. A temporary residence permit for “personal circumstances” could be issued for a maximum of one year, with an option for a one-year extension. However, the government did not allow victims to work during this period. Victims cooperating in criminal proceedings could temporarily stay for 180 days or longer, if needed, for the trial of the trafficker but had limited options to extend their stay after the conclusion of criminal proceedings. In March 2021, the government passed an amendment that intended to enable faster decision-making in the registration procedure for temporary stay permits for foreign nationals. However, the government did not report issuing any temporary residence permits during the reporting period.
The IWG made a policy change in 2021 to ensure more sex trafficking victims received the requisite accommodation benefits afforded to trafficking victims. Both Slovenian and foreign victims had access to the same protection services and had free movement in and out of shelters. Although the government did not identify any child trafficking victims during the reporting period, child trafficking victims continued to lack adequate assistance, as there were no designated facilities for unaccompanied child trafficking victims. If identified, child trafficking victims could be sheltered with unaccompanied migrant children and receive care through the Center for Social Work. GRETA highlighted a concern over unaccompanied child victims disappearing from public care, urging the development of more suitable accommodations for children with fully trained staff or foster parents. In response to these concerns, in 2021, the government established a children’s shelter, which included a location for the shelter, the appointment of an acting director, and planned trainings for conducting a forensic interview and psycho-social assistance for children; however, the home was not yet operational by the end of the reporting period.
When participating in pretrial and criminal proceedings, victims had a right to interpretation services and a protective escort, though the government did not report how many victims received these services. All victims that entered the government’s crisis and safe accommodation program could apply for free legal aid. While awaiting case adjudication, asylum-seekers were unable to legally work, though many did so illegally, which NGOs stated could increase their vulnerability to labor trafficking due to their illegal status, lack of knowledge of local labor laws, and language barriers. The 2018 GRETA report urged improving the process of providing comprehensive information to victims in a language they could understand to assess their options, including participation in programs to resist re-victimization. NGOs also noted there were insufficient professional interpreters fully trained in translating the details of rights of potential trafficking victims for asylum intake proceedings. Some victims were reluctant to speak with social workers and counselors about their situations, given the same interpreters assisted in the different contexts of law enforcement investigations and court proceedings on their case.
Only citizens of EU countries were eligible to apply for compensation from the state fund for crime victims; however, the government did not report awarding compensation to any victims. During the reporting period, prosecutors did not request restitution for any victims in criminal proceedings; historically, prosecutors typically did not do this, though there were no legal barriers to prevent it, instead requiring victims demand compensation for themselves in a separate civil court case. Experts urged prosecutors to systematically request restitution for victims at criminal trials. All victims could seek damages by filing a civil suit, though due to legal costs, victim re-traumatization, and the desire to avoid additional court proceedings, most victims did not pursue compensation, and the government did not report awarding compensation during the reporting period. Upon government seizure of a trafficker’s assets, victims could file a claim for restitution or damages; however, if the victim failed to file the claim, the trafficker’s assets were subsumed into the government’s budget. The government had a witness protection program that trafficking victims could utilize, but it did not report using the program to protect any victims during the reporting period. Under the witness protection act, victims could provide testimony via video or written statements, and courts kept victim identities confidential.
The government maintained prevention efforts. The Ministry of Interior’s (MOI) national coordinator for counter trafficking in persons continued to head the IWG. The IWG included NGO representatives and met three times during the reporting period to organize and coordinate awareness efforts; the IWG produced an annual report on human trafficking in Slovenia. In 2021, the IWG also worked to ensure all trafficking victims identified by the police were entitled to supplemental comprehensive medical care, made a policy change to ensure more sex trafficking victims received the requisite accommodation benefits afforded to trafficking victims, and also decided to expand IWG membership to additional stakeholder ministries. The Anti-Trafficking Service Office within the MOI continued to provide comprehensive support for investigators and victim service providers. The government had a comprehensive national anti-trafficking action plan for 2021-2022, which included benchmarks and an allocated budget. Slovenia remained without an official independent national anti-trafficking rapporteur, a key GRETA recommendation. Unlike 2020, the government did not provide any funding specifically for awareness raising projects in 2021; however, the MOI instead hired an employee dedicated to systematically raising awareness among children and adolescents by continuously providing workshops held in all primary and secondary schools. In partnership with two NGOs, the government conducted one awareness raising campaign focused on impunity in relation to human trafficking, as well as 44 in-depth and comprehensive workshops reaching roughly 750 primary and secondary school children.
The government continued to host a website, in both English and Slovenian, which raised awareness of forced labor and labor exploitation through its manual for companies and employers; provided information on investigations and prosecutions; included a mechanism for contacting NGOs; and provided a portal for anonymous reporting of potential trafficking victims. In early 2022, the government issued warnings to refugees fleeing Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine regarding their vulnerability to human trafficking, and police established checkpoints on the border with Hungary; authorities reported suspicions that sex traffickers were targeting girls at a Ukrainian refugee reception center but had not identified any trafficking victims by the end of the reporting period. The government also continued to fund two NGO hotlines, available in several languages, offering assistance to both domestic violence and trafficking victims; the hotlines did not report the number of trafficking-related calls received but did report referring 16 potential victims to police, two of whom were later officially recognized as trafficking victims.
Slovenian law prohibited contract switching and the charging of placement or recruitment fees to workers, as well as passport and wage withholding. Migrant workers were able to change employers without delay or prior government permission, which may have decreased their vulnerability to trafficking. However, NGOs noted labor trafficking received insufficient attention and resources to conduct adequate investigations. While the law allowed employers to pay recruitment fees, in practice, NGOs assessed the government did not effectively enforce the law and employers frequently passed these fees on to workers through salary deductions and other means. NGOs continued to assert that authorities pursued many labor trafficking cases as administrative labor code violations, resulting in lesser consequences and decreased deterrence. Furthermore, authorities often prosecuted and shut down the legal entity or company rather than the perpetrator responsible; the perpetrator would then establish another company under a new name and continue to exploit victims in labor trafficking. While labor inspectors did not have the authority to identify trafficking victims, following the completion of 105 inspections in 2021, inspectors referred three potential victims to prosecutors. In partnership with Europol, the government held three separate joint action days (JAD) with police, labor inspectors, and a trade union working together; the JADs were held in June, July, and November 2021, with each JAD targeting specific types of trafficking victims—one focused on identifying victims of forced labor, one on child trafficking, and one on forced criminality, begging, and sex trafficking. However, the government did not report identifying any trafficking victims through any of the JADs. The government drafted, but did not finalize or distribute, a manual for labor inspectors on trafficking victim identification and referral to assistance. Asylum centers and an NGO funded by the MOI continued to screen all new migrant and asylum arrivals for trafficking indicators, but the government did not report identifying any trafficking victims. The government signed an anti-trafficking cooperation agreement with the Government of Montenegro in December 2021, which focused primarily on victim identification and assistance, prevention, and law enforcement cooperation; however, implementation and concrete action had yet to occur. 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 Slovenia, and to a lesser extent, traffickers exploit victims from Slovenia abroad. Slovenes, as well as foreign workers and undocumented migrants from countries such as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Ukraine, are vulnerable to labor trafficking, including forced begging or domestic servitude, in a variety of sectors including construction, transportation, hospitality, and domestic service. In 2022, Ukrainian refugees, predominantly women and children, fleeing Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine are vulnerable to trafficking. Sometimes these persons are in transit to Western Europe, particularly Austria, Germany, or Italy, where traffickers exploit them in forced labor. Temporary work agencies continue to exploit workers, which sometimes amounts to labor trafficking. While awaiting case adjudication, asylum-seekers are legally unable to work, increasing their vulnerability to labor trafficking. Traffickers exploit women and children from Slovenia and Eastern European, Western Balkan, Southeast Asian, and Latin American countries in sex trafficking within Slovenia, and many also transit to Western Europe, primarily Germany and Italy, where they are at risk of sexual and labor exploitation. Ethnic Roma are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, especially forced begging, in Slovenia.