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ROMANIA (Tier 2)

The Government of Romania 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 impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Romania remained on Tier 2.  These efforts included adopting a new NRM, creating new financial investigator positions nationwide, and establishing a specialized unit for financial investigations, including trafficking-related crimes, within the Organized Crime and Terrorism Investigation Directorate (DIICOT).  In addition, the government operationalized 42 private hearing rooms for child victims of crime, approved an action plan to standardize child-friendly questioning methodologies, and trained police on interacting with child victims.  Furthermore, the government institutionalized an anti-trafficking committee, composed of government and civil society members under the Prime Minister’s Office, elevating the trafficking portfolio and mandating the inclusion of civil society in a government committee.  In response to the influx of refugees fleeing Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and arriving in Romania, the government developed procedures for identifying and reporting trafficking cases, particularly among unaccompanied, foreign, or stateless children; established procedures for the registration, transit, residence, and protection of vulnerable children; and, in collaboration with intergovernmental organizations, established eight safe centers at border crossing points, providing children and families with essential information and services.  However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas.  Authorities investigated, prosecuted, and convicted significantly fewer traffickers.  Alleged complicity in trafficking crimes persisted, particularly with officials exploiting children in the care of government-run homes or placement centers.  Authorities did not screen for trafficking indicators or proactively identify victims among vulnerable populations, such as asylum-seekers, migrants, individuals in commercial sex, or children in government-run institutions.  Moreover, the government did not provide sufficient funding to NGOs for assistance and protection services, leaving most victims without services and at risk of re-trafficking.  Finally, legislative changes impeded prosecutions and led to impunity for some officials complicit in trafficking crimes.

  • Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, including complicit officials and labor traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • Ensure statutes of limitations are not inappropriately utilized to dismiss charges against suspected traffickers, significantly undercutting efforts to combat trafficking.
  • Ensure all victims receive assistance, including medical assistance and psychological counseling, by assigning advocates to help victims understand their rights and navigate the assistance system.
  • Proactively identify potential victims, especially among vulnerable populations, such as asylum-seekers, migrants, individuals in commercial sex, and children in government-run institutions.
  • Provide financial support to NGOs for victim services by allocating funds through established mechanisms, such as the program for funding at the local level and the asset recovery system.
  • Increase the number of trained police officers investigating trafficking crimes.
  • Increase efforts to enforce child labor laws, especially in rural areas and where social welfare services lack personnel and capacity to address violations.
  • Sanction recruitment agencies with criminal penalties for practices contributing to trafficking, such as charging workers with recruitment fees.
  • Provide knowledgeable legal counsel and courtroom protections for victims assisting prosecutions.
  • Grant labor inspectors the legal authority to conduct unannounced inspections at all worksites.
  • Expand efforts to train investigators, prosecutors, and judges on working with trafficking cases and victims, sensitivity to trafficking issues, and understanding all forms of trafficking.

The government decreased law enforcement efforts.  Articles 210 and 211 of the criminal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of three to 10 years’ imprisonment for crimes involving an adult victim and five to 10 years’ imprisonment for those involving a child.  These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.  Between June 2018 and October 2022, the Constitutional Court of Romania and the High Court of Cassation and Justice issued several rulings, changing calculations of the statute of limitations.  Prior to these rulings, legal provisions allowed for a pause in the calculation of statute of limitations during certain periods of the legal process, resulting in more time for authorities to investigate, prosecute, and sentence defendants.  However, the courts found these provisions unconstitutional.  Consequently, in October 2022, courts changed the method for calculating the statute of limitations, resulting in the dismissal of dozens of cases, including trafficking cases.  This change led to case dismissals, no penalty for defendants indicted for various crimes, including trafficking, who had already undergone lengthy investigations and trials, and undermined efforts to combat trafficking.  For example, in January 2023, courts dismissed a case involving five organized crime members in a child sex trafficking case dating back 12 years involving two institutionalized 14- and 15-year old girls.  Also in January 2023, the same court dismissed a case of eight known traffickers who, in 2011 and 2012, exploited several underage girls in Romania and Italy.  In early March 2023, courts dismissed the case of a former police chief who aided a group of traffickers by ignoring complaints submitted by child trafficking victims.  Although the government passed legislation eliminating statutory limitations for trafficking crimes in 2021, perpetrators who committed crimes before 2021 benefited from the shorter statute of limitations.  Sources in the judicial system noted several other pending cases that would soon be subject to the statute of limitations and result in dismissals, including cases involving complicit officials.

During the reporting period, DIICOT prosecutors continued to report the need for legislative amendments to deconflict elements of the criminal code.  Currently, the authority to investigate “trafficking in persons, trafficking in minors, and pimping committed by organized crime groups” remained with DIICOT, while other prosecutors were responsible for “regular pimping,” “pimping through use of coercion,” and “the exploitation of minors in forced begging and theft.”  These often overlapping elements of the criminal code and insufficient coordination in the prosecution service led to duplication of efforts, confusion, and subsequent inefficiency in the disposal of cases.  Civil society experts agreed and advocated for a change, noting the overlap between the definitions led to some trafficking investigations being moved to a different department within the police, which did not maintain such expertise, and to more lenient penalties for perpetrators.

In 2022, authorities investigated 458 new trafficking cases (399 sex trafficking, 37 labor trafficking, 22 unspecified forms of trafficking), a decrease from 628 in 2021 and 552 in 2020.  Authorities prosecuted 307 suspected traffickers (258 sex trafficking, 27 labor trafficking, 22 unspecified forms of trafficking), a significant decrease from 522 in 2021 but an increase from 234 in 2020.  Courts convicted 138 traffickers (122 sex trafficking, 16 labor trafficking), a decrease from 162 in 2021.  The majority of convicted traffickers received sentences ranging from two to 22 years’ imprisonment.  In 2022, DIICOT and the Department for Combating Organized Crime (DCCO) cooperated with European counterparts on 15 joint investigative teams (JIT) and several judicial assistance requests.  In one JIT, authorities from Romania, the UK, the EU Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation, and EUROPOL cooperated on a sex trafficking investigation involving four women forced into commercial sex by members of an organized crime group.  Authorities identified 14 suspects and seized drugs, firearms, ammunition, credit cards, mobile phones, and approximately €60,000 ($64,100) in various currencies.  In 2022, Romanian and Austrian authorities established an exchange program assigning Romanian investigators to Austria to cooperate on trafficking cases involving Romanians, particularly victims of forced begging.

Persistent, low-level official complicity in trafficking crimes remained a significant concern.  In 2022, authorities prosecuted six complicit officials, including a mayor, for alleged trafficking crimes involving six child victims, one as young as 12 years old.  In one case, two county Child Protection Services (CPS) employees forced four children into agricultural work and subjected them to repeated abuse and dangerous living conditions.  Separately, authorities prosecuted two police officers, who ignored a child sex trafficking victim’s allegations, for abuse of office, intellectual forgery, aiding the perpetrator, and negligence, and investigated officials of county CPS, who also ignored the child’s allegations, for forgery of official documents and negligence.  Observers reported possible official complicity in trafficking crimes within the General Inspectorate for Immigration, alleging authorities did not investigate allegations concerning labor trafficking as part of an arrangement to protect Romanian employers who lacked a domestic skilled workforce.  Also, according to NGOs, in trafficking cases involving foreign victims, authorities did not effectively implement the law and often charged suspected traffickers for crimes other than trafficking, such as pandering, to avoid lengthy, expensive, and time-consuming investigations.  Several NGOs and media outlets continued to express suspicion that staff working in government-run institutions for children and residential centers for persons with disabilities facilitated trafficking.  NGOs noted in certain counties CPS officials acted as accomplices to traffickers.  The General Police Inspectorate and the National Authority for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Children and Adoption (ANDPDCA) maintained an identification and referral mechanism for trafficking cases among children in government-run institutions.  The mechanism mandated police inspectorates and county-level CPS to cooperate and exchange information on a regular basis to help identify vulnerable children in government-run institutions who were at risk of trafficking; in 2022, CPS identified and referred 15 potential trafficking cases to police who started investigations into six of those cases.  To address the significant number of child sexual abuse cases, including potential child sex trafficking cases, the police maintained a unit dedicated to investigating such crimes.  NGOs noted some judges lacked awareness of the issue and showed bias against victims who often came from socially disadvantaged groups.

Deficiencies within law enforcement, such as staffing shortages and unsustainable workloads, as well as knowledge gaps continued to limit progress.  DIICOT and DCCO were responsible for investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases.  DIICOT maintained a dedicated anti-trafficking unit for prosecuting trafficking crimes and providing training and support to prosecutors in DIICOT’s regional offices.  Similarly, the DCCO operated a dedicated team of anti-trafficking police officers.  Both DIICOT and DCCO continued to operate with limited staff and resources, preventing them from effectively covering all jurisdictions.  Moreover, as a result of the Ukrainian refugee crisis, the government shifted resources, disrupting normal operations for the anti-organized crime police, Immigration Inspectorate, and other law enforcement structures; while authorities continued to conduct routine anti-trafficking efforts, their overall workloads significantly increased.  DIICOT reported investigators and prosecutors avoided specializing in trafficking because of the complexity of the crime and the trauma and burnout associated with handling trafficking cases.  As a result, overextended investigators and prosecutors handled multiple cases simultaneously, which resulted in difficulty building strong cases for prosecution within the six-month period allowed for a suspect to be held in pre-trial detention.  DIICOT also reported one specialized anti-trafficking prosecutor and investigator regularly covered regions with approximately one million residents and concurrently oversaw 100 investigations.  In addition, low retention and frequent transfers of prosecutors resulted in continuous reassignment of cases and, in turn, investigation delays.  To assist with investigations, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MOI) created 23 financial investigator positions nationwide.  Separately, DIICOT received approval to establish a specialized unit for financial investigations, including trafficking-related crimes.  Additionally, the National Agency for the Management of Seized Assets (ANABI) provided support for financial investigations, traced assets nationally and internationally, and was mandated to manage a national fund of confiscated criminal assets available to finance trafficking victim compensation and grants to service providers, once it becomes operational.  In 2022, ANABI seized more than €60 million ($64.1 million) in assets; authorities seized nearly 18 million Romanian lei (RON) ($3.9 million) in assets from one case.

During the last reporting period, the government equipped the police with and trained them on a computer forensics system for detecting online sex trafficking and performing faster and more effective online investigations.  However, authorities continued to report a gap in ways to track online criminal activities and identify and collect digital evidence.  Observers also reported a lack of necessary resources and skills to perform fast and effective online investigations, resulting in police sometimes using their personal phones and computers to conduct online investigations.

Experts reported, while authorities developed some sensitivity to trafficking victims’ situations and increasingly used a victim-centered approach, police, prosecutors, and judges continued to need training on trauma-informed, victim-centered practices.  The government, in partnership with other governments, NGOs, and international organizations, addressed knowledge gaps by training police, prosecutors, judges, labor inspectors, and other front-line workers throughout the year on various topics, such as trauma-informed and victim-centered approaches to investigations, trafficking indicators, and identification and referral.  The government supported additional educational efforts by maintaining, as part of the mandatory curricula for all local and central police, lessons on preventing and combating trafficking.

The government slightly increased protection efforts.  In 2022, the government approved a new NRM for identifying and referring trafficking victims, which civil society and the Prime Minister’s Office jointly developed.  The NRM mandated specialized police, border guards, medical professionals, social workers, teachers, civil society, and other law enforcement bodies to proactively screen potential victims and follow expanded procedures for victim identification and referral.  The government identified 492 victims (336 victims sex trafficking, 73 labor trafficking, 83 unspecified forms of trafficking), compared with 488 in 2021 and 596 in 2020.  Of the 492 victims, 233 were children (nearly 50 percent), and 153 were girl sex trafficking victims.  The vast majority of identified victims were Romanian citizens of which 287 were exploited in country and 203 were exploited in Western Europe.  Authorities identified two foreign victims (one in 2021), but observers estimated there were numerous unidentified foreign victims, particularly among asylum-seekers.  NGOs reported authorities did not screen asylum-seekers and migrants for trafficking indicators and were reluctant to identify them because of the significant time and resources that an investigation would entail.  The General Inspectorate for Immigration maintained procedures for identifying victims among asylum-seekers and migrants and referring those victims to the National Agency against Trafficking in Persons (ANITP), the government’s lead agency for coordinating anti-trafficking efforts.  Authorities lacked specialized training on the psychological trauma of trafficking on victims, which hindered their ability to correctly identify potential victimization among individuals in commercial sex.  According to NGOs, authorities continued to fine persons in commercial sex without screening for trafficking indicators.  However, authorities typically dropped charges or fines once investigators and prosecutors realized a suspect was a trafficking victim.  Victims could also challenge fines after they were identified.  Authorities identified most victims after a criminal investigation started and not through proactive screening or other victim identification efforts.  After identification, authorities informed victims of the services available to them and subsequently referred adult victims to ANITP and child victims to CPS for assistance.

Victims were not required to participate in criminal proceedings to access assistance.  However, civil society reported in practice it was nearly impossible for victims to be identified or receive any government-supported assistance unless they participated in criminal proceedings.  In 2022, of the 492 identified victims, authorities referred 227 to assistance, but only 180 (37 percent) received assistance from government-supported NGOs, compared with 313 victims (64 percent) in 2021.  Observers recommended assigning advocates to help victims understand their rights and navigate the assistance system.  The government provided psychological counseling, legal assistance, and career counseling to domestic and foreign victims.  Victims received protection and assistance services in government-run facilities for victims of crime, including trafficking, and in NGO-run trafficking facilitates and shelters.  The government maintained a limited number of government-run shelters designated for vulnerable adults, including trafficking victims.  Authorities placed child victims in specialized facilities for child trafficking victims, general child facilities, or facilities for children with disabilities run by CPS.  County-level CPS provided services for child trafficking victims, which included emergency accommodation, counseling, social and psychological assessment, and other types of services.  CPS in each county received some funding from local governments to maintain multi-disciplinary teams composed of social workers, psychologists, legal advisors, and pediatricians who were responsible for advising case managers and conducting prevention activities.  In 2022, the government continued to establish these teams across the country, and, by the end of the reporting period, all counties had a multi-disciplinary team that could provide support to trafficking victims, including some adult victims.  NGOs reported county-level CPS did not have adequate expertise in trafficking or resources to provide quality care.  In an effort to provide consistent quality care to all child victims, the law required minimum standards of assistance for child victims of crime, including trafficking.  Under the law, licensed service providers offering shelter and assistance to identified child victims followed a set of specific requirements, including providing safe environments, specialized psychological counseling, and visitations with families.  The law also required local governments to include training programs for staff involved in providing services to child victims of crimes, including trafficking, in their annual budget requests.  Nonetheless, perennial problems of abuse and neglect of children in government-run institutions, coupled with the lack of proactive identification and assistance in government facilities, left children in placement centers vulnerable to trafficking.  Experts reported CPS employees who oversaw children in government-run institutions not only neglected to prevent trafficking, but were sometimes complicit in the trafficking.  Observers reported local government institutions were reluctant to intervene when underage Roma girls were “sold” into marriage, hindering authorities’ ability to correctly identify victims among this vulnerable group.  Furthermore, a senior government official claimed “cultural traditions” made it difficult for the government to address trafficking concerns among Roma children.

Government funding for NGO assistance and protection services remained limited.  While the government relied on NGOs to accommodate and assist victims, it did not allocate grants directly to NGOs due to legislation precluding direct funding and NGOs’ lack of necessary licensing.  The government answered civil society’s call for a funding mechanism for service providers and other NGOs by establishing a program authorizing funding at the local level to an NGO for victim services; however, no NGOs were able to take advantage of the program, which required a license.  According to several NGOs, obtaining the necessary license entailed complying with unrealistic standards, such as requiring NGOs to divulge personal information about victims and burdensome bureaucratic procedures.  NGOs noted complying with such standards required additional work that would limit their ability to perform their core missions; thus, they preferred to operate without such a license and seek non-governmental funding.  NGOs emphasized the need for an updated licensing mechanism for service providers and a more flexible funding mechanism in the anti-trafficking space.

NGOs continued to report the quality of care was overall inadequate, especially medical services and psychological counseling.  Despite Romanian law entitling all victims to psychological and medical care, the government did not provide more than one mental health counseling session or finance medical care costs.  Moreover, access to medical care required Romanian victims to return to their home districts to obtain identification documents; the process presented logistical and financial hurdles for many trafficking victims.  The government maintained a working group on increasing the quality of medical assistance for trafficking victims, composed of public and private health care providers and Ministry of Health officials, and created an action plan for providing tailored medical services to trafficking victims and training medical service providers to identify victims.

Reports of victim intimidation during and after court proceedings persisted.  NGOs reported many courts did not impose sanctions on traffickers’ lawyers when they harassed and mocked the victims during proceedings.  Judges relied heavily on the victim’s in-person testimony, preferably in front of the trafficker, but, in 2022, judges heard two victims under a special pre-trial procedure to mitigate re-traumatization.  To also mitigate re-traumatization, prosecutors conducted extensive initial hearings and argued against requests for confrontation made by defendants.  In 2022, the government operationalized 42 private hearing rooms for child victims of crime, approved an action plan to standardize child-friendly questioning methodologies, and trained police on interacting with child victims.  In 2022, the government provided physical protection and transportation services to 343 trafficking victims who participated in criminal proceedings and included three victims in a witness protection program.  While the government offered free legal aid to victims, court-appointed lawyers often lacked experience working with trafficking victims; in 2022, the government continued to work with the National Bar Association to develop a program creating a pool of lawyers available to work with trafficking victims and providing those lawyers with access to trafficking laws and information.  Furthermore, court appointed lawyers were not aware of the special laws on compensation for trafficking victims and did not inform victims who could unknowingly renounce compensation claims during proceedings.  The law allowed trafficking victims to receive restitution from their trafficker in a criminal case, file a civil suit against the trafficker, or receive compensation from the government.  If victims did not obtain restitution in court, the government could reimburse them for expenses related to hospitalization, material damage caused by the traffickers, and lost income.  In the event traffickers’ assets were not seized but a guilty verdict was reached, the government could pay material damages for documented expenses such as medical bills.  Throughout 2022, courts ordered restitution to 86 victims, totaling €490,800 ($524,360) and 764,000 RON ($165,120).  Romanian law permitted foreign victims who cooperated with authorities to receive a renewable, six-month temporary residence permit and entitled them to the same benefits as Romanian citizens.  Additionally, the law granted asylum-seekers the right to work after three months and permitted foreign victims “tolerated status” for up to six months.  However, foreigners with “tolerated status” were not entitled to victim services, had no legal right to stay in Romania, had their movements restricted under certain circumstances, and could not depart the country for selected reasons, such as participation in criminal proceedings.  According to NGOs, non-EU foreign labor trafficking victims were not protected from receiving “tolerated status” even after being identified and while participating in criminal proceedings.

The government increased prevention efforts.  During the reporting period, the government institutionalized its anti-trafficking committee, composed of government and civil society, under the Prime Minister’s Office, elevating the trafficking portfolio and mandating inclusion of civil society in a government committee.  The Department for Community Social Responsibility and Vulnerable Groups within the Prime Minister’s Office managed the committee and monitored the implementation of the 2021-2022 NAP as part of the 2018-2022 national strategy.  The NAP assigned financial and operational responsibility to various government agencies and ministries, which allocated approximately 30.28 million RON ($6.5 million) toward proposed activities in 2022.  In addition to the NAP, the government also implemented the emergency ordinance and action plan for improving investigations of crimes against children, including trafficking, and assistance to vulnerable children and other at-risk populations.  The ordinance established a missing child alert system and a national hotline focused on consolidating the government’s capacity to identify child abuse, including trafficking.  ANITP continued to publish yearly reports with information on trends, statistics, and efforts to combat trafficking and organized several awareness campaigns and educational projects, including one on trafficking risks, targeting different social and professional groups.  In 2022, ANITP organized a session with embassy representatives of main destination countries for Romanian trafficking victims, including Austria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK to discuss Romania’s national anti-trafficking system and procedures for the identification and referral of victims.  Additionally, Romanian diplomatic missions engaged with Austrian, British, and Spanish government officials to exchange best practices on countering trafficking, develop opportunities for bilateral cooperation, and explore ways to better assist victims.  Romanian and UK officials continued to develop strategic approaches on combating trafficking, including a project bringing together prevention efforts, victim protection, and prosecuting criminals.  ANITP managed a 24-hour hotline and staffed an operator only during regular business hours.  The hotline provided services in Romanian and English and primarily focused on informing Romanians about working abroad safely.  The hotline received 20 calls that led to criminal investigations (16 in 2021).  The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts by investigating seven individuals suspected of purchasing commercial sex from trafficking victims, including children.  In addition, the government conducted awareness campaigns focused on reducing vulnerability and discouraging demand for commercial sex, including a joint social media campaign, targeting purchasers and service industry employees, with Spain.

In 2022, the government amended legislation requiring foreigners with work permits, who worked less than a year for an employer, to obtain a written consent from that employer to change jobs.  This requirement did not apply if the employer terminated the employee, both parties agreed to terminate the employment contract, or the employer did not honor the contract.  Romanian law also required employers of foreign workers to submit applications for work permits and the General Inspectorate for Immigration to issue work permits within 30 to 45 days of receiving an application.  Before issuing work permits, the inspectorate verified job offers and employers’ profiles to prevent fraud.  Observers expressed concern that the requirements for employers to provide written consent and submit work permit applications left foreign workers vulnerable to abuse, including trafficking, and sometimes working without appropriate documentation because work permits were a requirement for obtaining or extending residence permits.  Observers also reported the government tolerated practices through which employers confiscated foreign workers’ residence permits and travel documents to limit their freedom and facilitate potential deportations.  Over the past several years, to overcome labor shortages, the country gradually increased the number of non-EU migrants allowed to work in Romania.  In 2022, the government approved an admission quota of 100,000 migrant workers, up from 50,000 in 2021, most of whom worked in the construction and hospitality industries and were at particular risk of trafficking because the lack of access to information in their native language and deceptive employment practices.  To raise awareness about Romanian employment practices and trafficking among foreign workers, the government organized a learning session with embassy representatives of countries of origin, including Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.  Additionally, throughout 2022, the government conducted multiple awareness campaigns on labor trafficking risks among foreigners seeking employment in Romania and Romanians seeking jobs abroad.

In 2022, the government enacted legislative amendments protecting Romanian citizens working abroad by more broadly defining temporary and seasonal workers, clarifying workers’ rights, regulating recruiting agencies, and increasing fines for labor law violations.  According to an official, enforcement, however, remained the biggest hurdle to improving protections for Romanian workers abroad.  The law prohibited Romania-based recruitment companies from charging recruitment fees and facilitating the exploitation of citizens abroad; violations were considered a misdemeanor and punishable by a civil fine.  Experts noted a continued lack of awareness about labor trafficking among stakeholders and insufficient attention to identifying cases among labor law violations.  According to NGOs, police remained unresponsive to some reports of labor trafficking, and labor inspectors lacked the competency for detecting trafficking and the legal authority for unannounced inspections to several categories of worksites.  In November 2022, ANITP trained labor inspectors on the new NRM and associated responsibilities as it relates to labor trafficking.  ANDPDCA monitored and coordinated all programs for the prevention and elimination of child labor and investigated child labor abuse reports, some of which may have been forced child labor.  The government did not effectively enforce child labor laws, especially in rural areas and where social welfare services lacked personnel and capacity to address violations.  Observers believed incidents of child labor were much higher than official statistics indicated.

According to the minister of foreign affairs, nearly 3.5 million refugees entered Romania since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.  In response, the government adopted several measures to combat trafficking, including developing procedures for identifying and reporting trafficking cases, particularly among unaccompanied, foreign, or stateless children; disseminating information on trafficking indicators to first responders providing assistance to refugees; and conducting awareness campaigns in Ukrainian at border crossing points, asylum centers, and accommodation centers.  In collaboration with UNICEF, ANDPDCA developed a computer application to register all children arriving from Ukraine, which included mandatory child trafficking screenings.  As of December 2022, the government registered 15,480 children from Ukraine but had not identified any child trafficking victims among that population.  The government established procedures for the registration, transit, residency status, and protection of vulnerable children and helped UNICEF and UNHCR establish eight Blue Dot Centers – safe centers installed at border crossing points that provided children and families with essential information and services on a range of issues including education, psycho-social support, referrals to health care, and legal support.  To prevent and identify potential trafficking, MOI performed daily safety checks at places of accommodation, and police established traffic checkpoints inspecting Ukraine-registered vehicles.  In addition, the government established a working group and developed an action plan for refugees on the prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse, and trafficking.  Other prevention measures included awareness campaigns, a dedicated helpline for refugees, and a referral mechanism developed by ANITP and civil society.  Furthermore, the government also set up and continuously updated an official online platform with all information on the rights and services available for refugees, including information specifically for children and potential trafficking victims.  Separately, according to  Border Police, asylum-seekers continued to arrive in Romania through the southwestern border with Serbia.  Observers criticized the government for violent pushbacks of asylum-seekers and migrants into Serbia, a practice that potentially increased trafficking risks, exacerbated distrust of foreign officials, and disallowed for the reporting of any exploitation experienced.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Romania, and traffickers exploit victims from Romania abroad.  Romania remains a primary source country for sex trafficking and labor trafficking victims in Europe.  The vast majority of identified victims are female sex trafficking victims exploited in Romania and other European countries, including Austria, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and the UK.  Vulnerable groups include children in or aging out of government-run institutions, children whose parents travel abroad for work, members of the Roma community, women with little education and income, migrants, and asylum-seekers.  Traffickers operate individually or in small groups based on familial ties or common interests.  Authorities report fewer cases involving large, organized crime groups with a strict hierarchy and powerful leader.  Traffickers continued to use the “lover-boy” recruitment method through which victims accept dubious and risky offers of work in various fields, and then, through different methods and forms of control, are forced into commercial sex.  Experts continue to report Romanian women recruited for sham marriages in Western Europe; after entering these marriages, traffickers force the women into commercial sex or labor.  Government officials and NGOs report traffickers increasingly use the internet and social media to recruit victims, particularly children.  Children represent nearly half of identified trafficking victims in Romania.  Children in government-run institutions, particularly girls living in homes and placement centers for persons with disabilities, remain vulnerable to sex trafficking.  Several NGOs note former residents of government-run homes or residential centers serve as recruiters of underage girls from the same facilities.  Traffickers exploit Romani children in sex trafficking and forced begging.  Child labor abuse continues to be underreported, with children as young as five exploited in child labor.  Media reports continue to reference cases of seasonally employed children in the hospitality industry along the Black Sea coast.  Traffickers subject Romanian adults and children to labor trafficking in agriculture, construction, hotels, manufacturing, and domestic service, as well as forced begging and theft in Romania and other European countries.  Some reports suggest traffickers operating in Romania and Moldova exploit Moldovan women and girls from Romania in operations in Europe; the extent of the trafficking is unknown.  Traffickers exploit migrants from Africa, Europe, and South and Southeast Asia in the construction, hotel, and food-processing industries.  Migrants from East Asia, who work in the construction and hospitality industries, are at a particular risk of trafficking due to the lack of access to information in their native language and deceptive practices by employers.  Migrants from the Middle East and South and Central Asia entering Romania at the Serbia border, whose main goal is to continue their path toward Western and Northern Europe, may be or may become trafficking victims while in Romania.  Nearly 3.5 million refugees fleeing Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine are highly vulnerable to trafficking; approximately 107,000 are staying in country and nearly half are children.  Government corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary continues to enable some trafficking crimes, and officials have been investigated for suspected involvement in trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future