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The Government of the Czech Republic 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 the Czech Republic remained on Tier 1.  These efforts included identifying more “official” victims who participated in the Ministry of Interior’s (MOI) Program of Support and Protection of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings (the Program), providing services to more victims and potential victims who did not participate in the Program, and seizing assets from convicted traffickers.  In addition, the government initiated implementation of a project to improve child victim identification and assistance, conducted extensive awareness-raising activities targeting refugees from Ukraine, and identified more illegal employment agencies.  Although the government meets the minimum standards, it convicted fewer traffickers and suspended the majority of convicted traffickers’ sentences.  Furthermore, observers expressed concern authorities did not effectively identify labor trafficking victims.  Observers also reported identification procedures, crisis support, and long-term services for child trafficking victims remained insufficient.  The government did not maintain comprehensive assistance statistics and, therefore, could not identify and respond to gaps in services.

  • Vigorously prosecute and convict traffickers and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • Train a wider range of prosecutors and judges, including civil and administrative judges, on the severity of the crime, on recognizing subtle forms of coercion, on the irrelevance of a victim’s initial consent when proving a trafficking crime, and on how to utilize victim protection programs for trafficking victims.
  • Increase training for labor inspectors on labor trafficking victim identification criteria, recognizing subtle forms of coercion, and evolving trends in labor trafficking.
  • Enhance collaboration between the labor inspectorate and police to effectively identify potential labor trafficking cases.
  • Improve identification of child trafficking victims, including unaccompanied children and children in institutional care, and specialized crisis and long-term case management for child victims.
  • Proactively identify victims and increase efforts to effectively screen vulnerable populations, including asylum-seekers, migrant workers, and detainees in immigration detention facilities.
  • Improve and reform law enforcement data collection efforts, including by disaggregating sex and labor trafficking case data and comprehensively reporting victim data, particularly on those who do not participate in the MOI Program.
  • Increase training for local and regional police on victim identification and ensure victims are not inappropriately penalized solely for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
  • Improve victims’ ability to access court-ordered restitution in criminal cases and compensation through civil proceedings.

The government slightly decreased law enforcement efforts.  Section 168 of the criminal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed punishments of two to 10 years’ imprisonment.  These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.  In 2022, police initiated 16 trafficking investigations involving 16 suspects, similar to 13 investigations involving 21 suspects in 2021.  Authorities prosecuted 18 suspected traffickers under section 168 (21 in 2021), two for sex trafficking and 16 for labor trafficking.  Courts convicted 13 traffickers – 12 for sex trafficking and one for labor trafficking – a decrease compared with 21 convictions in 2021 (18 for sex trafficking and three for labor trafficking).  Courts sentenced five traffickers to up to five years’ imprisonment.  Judges suspended the prison sentences of eight convicted traffickers (three suspended sentences in 2021).  One of these traffickers was a 17-year-old child.  The government reported screening this individual for trafficking indicators before proceeding with the prosecution.  The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking crimes.  In November 2022, the police’s Trafficking in Human Beings Division (THBD) charged five members of a family gang, in a notable case, for exploiting individuals who experienced homelessness or other socioeconomic vulnerabilities in the construction industry; police identified at least 16 potential victims.  In a separate case, the THBD recommended indictments against eight suspected traffickers for exploiting at least 20 victims, mainly from the Philippines, for sex and labor trafficking in the Czech Republic.  The government successfully seized 7.5 million koruna ($339,336) in assets from convicted traffickers; the government reported the seizing of assets was frequently difficult because the majority of traffickers used cash payments and did not own traceable property.

Authorities collaborated with foreign governments on four ongoing transnational investigations and participated in an international operational task force focused on monitoring potential trafficking among the People’s Republic of China-national diaspora.  In April 2022, the government began prosecuting five suspected traffickers accused of exploiting Czech victims for forced labor in the UK between 2007-2017; most of the suspected traffickers and victims were Roma.  This case represented the first time police had charged suspects for trafficking for the purpose of slavery; the suspected traffickers had allegedly exploited a relative with disabilities from Slovakia, who they moved to the UK after he was required to leave an institutional care center upon turning 18.  In a separate case, THBD officials successfully coordinated with UK law enforcement to investigate and begin prosecuting multiple suspected traffickers for exploiting Czech victims in the food service industry in the UK.  A liaison police officer assigned to the Czech embassy in London continued to collaborate closely with UK officials on several trafficking cases involving Czech citizens.  The liaison officer also trained and assisted consular officers in screening for trafficking indicators among Czech citizens being assisted by the Czech embassy.

Police data collection generally focused on perpetrators rather than victims; an overly broad definition of a victim according to police regulations further hindered data accuracy.  With the goal of creating a unified database, the government continued its analysis of all available statistical systems across ministries to simplify tracking cases and disaggregate data by type of trafficking, gender, and age.  The THBD was the lead investigative agency for trafficking within the national police and oversaw trafficking cases involving organized crime; regional police were responsible for other trafficking cases.  The Supreme Public Prosecutor Office’s prosecutor for trafficking and domestic violence oversaw specialized trafficking prosecutors in the regional prosecutorial offices.  There were no criminal judges who specialized in human trafficking.  Regional police directorates sometimes chose to devote their limited resources to fighting other types of crime, especially crimes deemed easier to solve and achieve a conviction.  Law enforcement officials said they more easily identified sex trafficking cases than labor trafficking cases.  Judges and prosecutors continued to report it was difficult to prove some instances of labor trafficking were more than cases of simple fraud, as traffickers often used subtle coercive practices.  Observers reported prosecutors and judges pursued trafficking cases unevenly, at least in part due to a lack of familiarity with the elements of the crime; GRETA noted Article 168 did not explicitly state the irrelevance of the victim’s initial consent to the subsequent exploitation, which may have led to uneven implementation of the law.

The government provided training for law enforcement officials, labor inspectors, consular officers, prosecutors, and others in investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases and identifying victims.  The government mandated a one-day trafficking training for all entry-level police officers and incorporated anti-trafficking curricula into several courses for officers pursuing police management positions.  In May 2022, the THBD trained regional police officers who specialized in trafficking on victim identification and coordination efforts in response to the influx of refugees from Ukraine.  Police and prosecutors continued efforts to create specialized training for prosecutors and judges on labor exploitation to ensure greater consistency of judicial outcomes.  Observers noted the Judicial Academy focused on providing anti-trafficking training to criminal judges, leaving civil and administrative judges with little training, even though civil and administrative judges made decisions affecting the status and rights of potential trafficking victims, particularly with regards to foreign victims’ legal status and right to remain in the country.

The government increased victim protection efforts.  MOI’s Program remained the only official source of data on victim identification and protection and was conditioned on a victim’s cooperation with the criminal justice process.  The government did not officially recognize victims who did not participate in the Program, although it provided support to NGOs that identified and helped potential or unidentified victims or victims who preferred not to cooperate with police.  In 2022, 33 new victims (25 men and six women) entered the Program, including 32 labor trafficking victims and one sex trafficking victim; this was a significant increase from 11 in 2021.  The government reported the increase in Program participants resulted from two large cases involving multiple victims.  Most victims were Czech and Filipino; other victims were from Eastern European countries, including Ukraine, and Pakistan.  Police referred half (16) of the victims to the Program, compared with a quarter in 2021, and international organizations and NGOs referred the other half (17).  In 2022, government-funded NGOs provided services or other support to 266 victims or potential victims, some of whom had received services for a year or more, compared with 250 in 2021.  Observers noted the high level of cooperation between authorities and civil society on victim identification and protection efforts.  The MOI continued distributing an electronic manual that described trafficking indicators among vulnerable populations to assist officials in identifying victims.  Observers previously noted the manual lacked a clear systematic procedure for identifying victims or referring them to the correct services.  In 2022, the MOI finalized a new card-sized version that provided detailed characteristics of the most vulnerable groups and indicators for identifying victims.  The MOI also continued distributing a manual to regional police that outlined best practices in handling child trafficking cases.  The police hired Ukrainian community workers to assist law enforcement in conducting outreach to Ukrainian refugees to raise awareness about labor rights and trafficking risks.  Observers expressed concern many victims and potential victims went unidentified, attributing this to authorities’ difficulty in identifying labor trafficking victims among migrant workers or detainees in immigration detention facilities; the government’s strict anti-migration policies and insufficient screening of asylum-seekers; and inadequate training and high levels of turnover of front-line responders, particularly local police.  Observers reported local police officers were not aware traffickers often compelled victims to commit unlawful acts, leading officers to mistakenly identify victims as criminals.  Moreover, experts reported the commercial sex industry’s operational shift in the last five years from clubs to private residences and online had hindered law enforcement’s identification efforts.

The Program provided medical care, psychological and crisis counseling, housing, legal representation, vocational training, and other specialized services to officially recognized foreign national and Czech adult victims of sex and labor trafficking, regardless of their immigration status.  The MOI provided funding and administrative oversight and selected one NGO to be the primary implementing partner and to manage subcontracts to other NGOs for additional specialized services.  Victims were generally placed in an NGO-run shelter or into other MOI-funded housing.  Local government, private, and international funding financed the opening of a new NGO-run shelter for women with children in June 2022.  Participants in the Program were granted a 60-day reflection period, after which they were required to assist law enforcement if they wanted to stay in the Program, unless subject to a serious health issue.  Victims who were unwilling to assist law enforcement through the Program and victims whose cases authorities did not pursue were eligible to access comparable Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MLSA)-funded welfare benefits, including housing, in-person and telephone crisis help, counseling and social support, drop-in centers for children, and social services for families with children.  All but one of the victims who entered the Program in 2022 chose to cooperate with law enforcement; one victim left the Program after deciding not to cooperate with law enforcement and was referred to MLSA-funded NGO services.  Victims could voluntarily withdraw from the Program at any time and would remain eligible for services under the MLSA.  Victims in the Program were eligible for a free legal advocate and, in some cases, the option to choose the gender of the judge or to testify via videoconference.  In January 2023, the MOI implemented new procedures to allow victims to remain in the Program even after termination of the criminal process against the trafficker; this change will grant victims easier access to free legal representation in civil compensation proceedings.  In 2022, the MOI initiated negotiations with the Ministry of Health to provide health insurance to victims in the Program; discussions were ongoing at the end of the reporting period.  The government granted foreign victims a 60- to 90-day reflection period to decide whether to participate in the criminal justice process; if they chose to accept the Program’s terms by assisting law enforcement and breaking off contact with the suspected trafficker, they could receive long-term residence permits and work visas for the duration of relevant legal proceedings.  Victims could receive assistance to return to their country of origin at any time or, upon completion of the Program, could apply for permanent residency.  The government issued one new long-term residence permit and extended seven residence permits to Program participants.  The government funded voluntary returns to victims’ countries of origin; the government did not repatriate any trafficking victims in 2022.

Although the government did not provide specialized centers specifically for child trafficking victims, there was a separate NRM for child victims, and social workers developed individualized support plans for potential child trafficking victims, who received welfare benefits, such as shelter, food, clothing, and medical and psychological counseling.  Observers reported the government continued to prioritize combating child trafficking.  Nonetheless, observers reported identification procedures, crisis support, and long-term services for child trafficking victims remained insufficient.  In October 2022, the MOI initiated implementation of a project to study child trafficking in the Czech Republic, to create educational materials on child victim identification and assistance, and to train relevant stakeholders.

The MOI allocated approximately 1.6 million koruna ($72,392) for the Program, the same annual amount since 2018; the Program did not spend the full allotment.  The MLSA provided funding to NGOs for social services, including for trafficking victims not in the Program.  In 2022, the MLSA provided two NGOs with more funding than they could absorb.  The MLSA slightly decreased funding for another NGO from 11 million koruna ($497,693) in 2021 to 10 million koruna ($452,448) in 2022; the Ministry of Justice increased its funding to this NGO from 350,000 koruna ($15,836) in 2021 to 530,000 koruna ($23,980) in 2022.  NGOs reported sufficient funding for short- and long-term activities and believed the ability to use MLSA funds for purposes other than the standard social services they already provided, such as public transportation tickets, telephones, medical checks, and psychological therapy, allowed them to offer more holistic services, which were limited in previous years because of regulations on the use of these funds.  Nevertheless, NGOs reported the MLSA’s funding structure inhibited long-term planning, as funds were only allocated one year at a time and did not arrive until after the beginning of the fiscal year.  Moreover, NGOs were concerned changes in MLSA funding in 2022 were not transparent and were implemented with little notice, causing funding uncertainties for the coming year.

Border police and asylum and migration officials did not always proactively screen migrants, including those in detention, for indicators.  Experts noted some courts declined to recognize victims in migration detention facilities as such if they did not self-identify as victims in their initial asylum claims.  Moreover, observers expressed concern the Foreigners’ Residence Act, which regulated the detention of foreigners prior to deportation, did not define a “vulnerable person,” leading authorities to occasionally detain potential foreign national trafficking victims.  However, the government reported administrative courts in the last five years consistently ruled authorities were obligated to consider the possible vulnerability of foreigners detained under this act.  Some experts criticized the Refugee Facility Administration (RFA) for charging a daily fee to some migrants for stays in transit zones; such fees could increase the vulnerability of potential victims to debt-based coercion.  The RFA maintained a system where potential victims and other members of at-risk groups could be voluntarily housed in a guarded facility or, if in immediate danger, referred to NGOs for services.  However, observers noted, because of data privacy regulations, the MOI office in charge of assessing asylum applications did not share information that could identify potential victims with the RFA; the RFA only learned of this information through victim self-disclosure.  The government reported MOI officials advised potential victims of available resources and their right to report trafficking to the RFA.  The RFA did not identify any victims in the transit zones in 2022, nor in recent years.

Victims and witnesses were granted short-term protection when needed, including physical protection, access to safe houses, and security monitoring for up to 60 days; this protection could be extended with approval from the regional police director.  Victims had the legal option of seeking court-ordered compensation from traffickers through civil suits; however, compensation was rare, as many victims could not afford attorney fees for a civil suit.  To seek civil damages, the law required a finding of criminal misconduct against the defendant.  The law also allowed victims to obtain restitution in criminal proceedings, although courts did not consistently issue restitution to victims in criminal cases.  The government reported a court awarded one victim 50,000 koruna ($2,262) in a criminal case in 2022.

The government increased prevention efforts.  The MOI chaired the Inter-Ministerial Coordination Group (IMCG), which included representatives from various government ministries and agencies, as well as three NGOs and an international organization; in 2022, the IMCG met twice.  The government continued implementing the 2020-2023 National Strategy Against Trafficking but diverted some of its attention to providing protection and assistance to the thousands of refugees from Ukraine who arrived as a result of Russia’s war against Ukraine.  The intergovernmental Committee for the Rights of Foreigners also included trafficking prevention in its mandate.  The MLSA-led interagency coordination group, which focused on combating illegal employment of foreign nationals, met twice in 2022; the group’s efforts included collecting and sharing information on potential labor exploitation.  A MOI unit served as the national rapporteur and prepared a comprehensive annual report on trafficking patterns and programs.  The government funded several NGO-run multilingual hotlines to identify and assist potential and officially recognized victims, and the MLSA, State Labor Inspection Office (SUIP), and MOI operated new hotlines to provide information to refugees from Ukraine on Czech regulations, refugees’ rights, and trafficking risks.  One NGO reported receiving 1,250 calls and chats on its hotline, a decrease from 1,444 in 2021.  However, in general, NGOs reported an increased number of calls in 2022 due to the large influx of refugees from Ukraine. Hotlines operated on weekdays, and the government provided training to operators on how to advise victims.  Funds from the Program were available for prevention campaigns and fieldwork; MOI funded one NGO to conduct 56 (41 in 2021) monitoring and awareness trips to areas with a high potential for labor trafficking and exploitation.  Another NGO increased its MLSA-funded monitoring and awareness outreach; it contacted approximately 3,504 individuals vulnerable to trafficking (compared with 2,338 individuals in 2021).

Observers underscored more social and financial support was needed to prevent trafficking of unaccompanied children.  In February 2023, the government reported there were 30,000 unaccompanied Ukrainian children in the Czech Republic as a result of Russia’s war against Ukraine; many of these children lived in institutional facilities and only half of those aged 15-18 were enrolled in school.  Overall, only one quarter of Ukrainian refugee children aged 15-18 were enrolled in school as of January 2023; experts were concerned adolescent refugees were particularly vulnerable to exploitation.  In September 2022, the Ministry of Education created a working group to address the lack of school enrollment among refugee children.  The government allocated four million koruna ($180,979) to the MOI Program for support targeted at refugees from Ukraine assessed to be potential trafficking victims and for trafficking prevention.  In March 2022, the government partially funded the creation of an NGO-run online platform to assist refugees from Ukraine by consolidating offers and requests for accommodation, material assistance, transportation, interpretation, and other services; observers reported the platform was an especially effective tool in providing well-targeted support and reducing trafficking risks among refugees from Ukraine.  The government distributed leaflets containing information about trafficking risks to refugees at government registration centers where refugees could access a variety of services at once, including registration for temporary protection status; observers noted these registration centers were instrumental in decreasing refugees’ vulnerability to trafficking.  The police also created and distributed awareness-raising leaflets, mobile phone texts, and short videos targeting Ukrainian refugees.  To further integrate refugees from Ukraine into the labor market, the MLSA announced, in January 2023, a government and NGO campaign to counter the perception among the general public that refugees reduced the number of jobs available for Czech citizens.  The government and the EU continued to provide funding for an NGO to conduct a research project exploring ways to more effectively assist victims; the NGO had not yet finalized its recommendations at the end of the reporting period.

The MLSA and SUIP websites published information in multiple languages about foreign workers’ rights, laws governing the employment of foreigners, and information on the Czech labor system and requirements for work permits.  In 2022, the MLSA initiated several awareness-raising campaigns, translated its website into additional languages, and created a new website for Ukrainian refugee, offering employment-related services, interpretation, and job counseling.  The SUIP revised its website and provided downloadable brochures in nine foreign languages, including Ukrainian, outlining the Czech labor system and requirements for work permits.  The law did not specifically criminalize confiscation of workers’ passports.  The labor code prohibited charging workers recruitment fees.  Section 342 of the criminal code criminalized the illicit employment of foreign workers under especially exploitative conditions.  Labor inspectors had dedicated staff to focus on illegal employment and verify requirements for conditions of work.  They conducted inspections of employment agencies and identified 256 illegal “pseudo-agencies” in 2022, an increase from 199 in 2021; most suspected cases of labor trafficking were arranged via these types of agencies.  Labor inspectors identified 126 companies that used the services of “pseudo-agencies” since August 2021, when a new law entered into force, introducing fines of up to 10 million koruna ($452,448) for employers who allowed or benefitted from these agencies.  The government reported issuing 118 fines totaling 68 million koruna ($3.1 million) for the operation or use of “pseudo-agencies” in 2022, of which five fines for a total of 470,000 koruna ($21,265) were issued to companies for the use of these services.  Civil society and the police reported more “pseudo-agencies” paid salaries above the minimum wage to foreign workers at the onset of employment to evade scrutiny from labor inspectors but later reduced the payments or stopped paying workers altogether.  The government began discussions about compiling a publicly available list of employers who were sanctioned for illegal or disguised employment and a list of verified employers.  In 2022, the MLSA proposed an amendment to the definition of illegal work to facilitate identification; the proposal remained under inter-ministerial review at the end of the reporting period.  Labor inspectors could not formally identify or report potential trafficking victims but could provide tips to the police for investigation; the government did not report how many such tips inspectors referred to police in 2022.  Experts reported inconsistent collaboration between regional police and labor inspectors, as well as a need for enhanced training for inspectors on labor trafficking indicators.  In 2022, labor inspectors conducted 6,571 inspections aimed at detecting illegal employment, compared with 5,222 in 2021.

In 2022, the government supported activities in Libya focused on counterterrorism and the prevention of migrant smuggling and human trafficking and continued contributing to an EU regional program providing assistance to trafficking victims in Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Niger, and Tunisia.  To safeguard against exploitation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and SUIP interviewed domestic employees of accredited diplomatic personnel in the Czech Republic upon registration and reviewed documents for compliance with Czech labor laws; labor inspectors also had the authority to conduct random checks of the employee’s workplace, and the MFA limited the number of domestic workers per foreign diplomat.  The MFA also provided diplomats with a detailed manual summarizing domestic workers’ rights, employers’ responsibilities, and contractual requirements.  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 the Czech Republic, and traffickers exploit Czech victims abroad.  Traffickers exploit women, girls, and boys from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Vietnam in sex trafficking in the Czech Republic and also transport victims through the Czech Republic to other European countries for sex trafficking.  The UK has been a significant destination in recent years for Czech female and male victims of trafficking.  Men and women from the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Moldova, Latvia, and other former Soviet countries are exploited in forced labor in the Czech Republic, typically through debt-based coercion or exploitation of other vulnerabilities, in the construction, agricultural, forestry, manufacturing, food processing, and service sectors, including in domestic work.  NGOs report labor trafficking is more prevalent than sex trafficking and continues to increase.  Vietnamese criminal networks active in the Czech Republic exploit Vietnamese victims for sex and labor trafficking.  Victims of forced criminal activity are often Vietnamese nationals exploited in cannabis production.  Most identified victims in the country are Czech; however, law enforcement reported an increase in non-EU victims.  One NGO reported an increase in the number of LGBTQI+ victims in 2021.  In February 2023, the EU expressed concern about the discrimination Roma and persons with disabilities in the Czech Republic continue to face and noted that Roma refugees from Ukraine received disparate treatment from other refugees from Ukraine; this discrimination makes these communities more vulnerable to trafficking.  Traffickers exploit Romani men from the Czech Republic in forced labor and Romani women from the Czech Republic in sex trafficking and forced labor internally and in destination countries, including the UK; many such traffickers operate as family groups.  Most traffickers are Czech citizens; foreign traffickers often recruit victims from their home countries and work in cooperation with local Czech citizens.  Traffickers target individuals with drug dependencies, debts, and criminal records, as well as individuals experiencing homelessness, children in foster care, and senior citizens.  By the end of 2022, the Czech Republic had granted 474,000 temporary protection visas to refugees from Ukraine, the third-highest number worldwide; the government estimates around 400,000 refugees from Ukraine remain in the country.  Observers note despite the lack of confirmed cases of human trafficking among refugees from Ukraine in the Czech Republic, the risks remain very high; experts are particularly concerned refugees will be exploited for forced labor, including domestic servitude, and for sex trafficking in western Czech Republic.

Traffickers increasingly use online platforms to recruit victims.  The commercial sex industry increasingly operates out of private residences, complicating efforts to identify sex trafficking victims.  Private, unregistered labor agencies often use deceptive practices to recruit workers from abroad as well as from inside the country.  Some agencies sell their registration to unqualified recruiters.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future