The government decreased victim protection efforts. In 2022, the government identified three confirmed sex trafficking victims and 14 potential victims, a significant decrease compared with 40 confirmed victims and two potential victims identified in 2021. The three identified victims were adult women, two from Venezuela and one from Colombia. Experts continued to raise 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 all three victims during the reporting period. The three victims entered the crisis housing program and then the safe accommodation program. This was an increase compared with two victims assisted in the crisis housing and safe accommodation programs in the prior reporting period. The government allocated €133,320 ($142,440) for housing victims in 2022, a slight increase compared with €119,208 ($127,360) in 2021, and comparable to funding in prior years. Government officials continued to utilize the national Manual for Identification of Victims of Trafficking in Persons. In April 2022, the government drafted updated guidelines for labor inspectors to identify victims; at the close of the reporting period the guidelines remained awaiting finalization and approval. 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 by police was required for access to 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 victims. However, as in the previous reporting period, experts noted a lack of uniform implementation of victim referral procedures for some vulnerable groups like undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers. Police stated identifying asylum-seekers as trafficking victims was difficult in part because asylum seekers were often only in Slovenia a few days, while in transit to other EU countries. NGOs noted continued strong cooperation with police on the identification of sex trafficking victims, with NGO care-providers included in police interactions with commercial sex establishments to assist in victim identification; however, authorities did not report cooperating with such NGOs in similar operations intended to identify labor trafficking victims.
The government continued to partially fund two NGOs, supplemented by private donations, which provided victims trafficking-specific crisis support and safe housing. Both NGOs were among a wider range of organizations providing services such as counseling, medical care, psycho-social support, legal representation during investigations and court proceedings, and filing of documentation for residency status. The law allowed non-EU foreign victims a 90-day reflection period during which they could remain in Slovenia while recovering and considering whether to cooperate with law enforcement in investigations. 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, the law required victims receive a temporary residence permit based on either law enforcement cooperation in criminal proceedings or 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. The government did not report issuing any temporary residence permits to trafficking victims during the reporting period.
Both Slovenian and foreign victims had access to the same protection services and had free movement in and out of shelters. GRETA expressed concern in the past over unaccompanied child victims disappearing from public care, urging the development of more suitable accommodations for children with fully trained staff or foster parents. Although the government did not identify any child trafficking victims during the reporting period, it provided in-kind contributions for a foreign government-funded pilot project that opened a children’s facility in May 2022 to provide victim support, welfare assessments, and child-friendly criminal justice procedures for unaccompanied children and child victims of abuse, including trafficking. In 2022, the government did not budget for the operation of the facility, due to the existing foreign government funding.
When participating in pretrial and criminal proceedings, victims had a right to interpretation services and a protective escort, although 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. On March 28, 2023, the government passed amendments to the Act on Employment, Self-Employment, and Work of Foreigners granting asylum seekers the ability to legally work three months after arriving in Slovenia – which likely decreased asylum seekers’ vulnerability to labor trafficking – where previously asylum seekers were unable to legally work for nine months while awaiting their asylum case adjudication. 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 still 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 award compensation to any victims during the reporting period. Additionally, prosecutors did not request restitution for any victims in criminal proceedings; historically, prosecutors typically did not do this, although there were no legal barriers to prevent it, instead requiring victims to seek damages themselves in a separate civil court case. NGOs urged prosecutors to systematically request restitution for victims at criminal trials. All victims could seek damages by filing a civil suit, although most victims did not pursue compensation due to legal costs, victim re-traumatization, and the desire to avoid additional court proceedings. 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. Under the witness protection act, victims could provide testimony via video or written statements, and courts kept victim identities confidential.