Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September 2014, 13:28 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Greece

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Greece, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30cc7b.html [accessed 19 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

GREECE (Tier 2)

Greece is a transit and destination country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and for men, women, and children in forced labor. Female sex trafficking victims originate in Eastern Europe – Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Romania, and Ukraine – the Balkans, and increasingly from Asia and Africa, including Maghreb countries. Labor trafficking victims are primarily men and children from Afghanistan, Albania, Bangladesh, India, Moldova, Pakistan, and Romania who reportedly have been forced to work primarily in the agriculture or construction sectors, with some in domestic servitude. One Greek NGO reported that teenage males, typically unaccompanied children from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, are forced into prostitution in Greece. Victims of trafficking from Italy, Malta, and other EU countries transited through Greece. Greek NGOs and police report that traffickers used deception to enter into romantic relationships with young female victims from poorer areas in countries such as Albania or Romania with the goal of forcing the victim into prostitution in Greece. The police reported that the majority of trafficking gangs in Greece were small, cell-based criminal organizations often linked to bars, clubs, and hotels, using restaurants, nightclubs, small businesses, and yacht rental companies as money-laundering fronts. Greek police estimated that there had been likely hundreds of forced labor victims in Greece over the past few years. Police report an increase in "family-based" trafficking, in which Romanian parents bring their own children into Greece and force them to work. NGOs reported children, mainly Roma from Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania, were forced to sell small items, beg, or steal. Adolescents from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh smuggled into Greece were sometimes forced to repay their debt to smugglers by trafficking drugs. Some trafficking victims in Greece had been re-trafficked to Greece multiple times.

The Government of Greece does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government identified a greater number of trafficking victims during the reporting period, compared to the previous year. Few trafficking victims were certified for victim assistance, despite a progressive statutory scheme. The government investigated many trafficking cases and imposed serious prison sentences for some of the 19 trafficking offenders convicted in Greece during the reporting period. Unresolved cases of complicity remained a challenge. Despite allegations of low-level police involvement in trafficking, the government did not report convicting any government employees for trafficking complicity. As a consequence of Greece's serious economic crisis, government funding for anti-trafficking NGOs ceased entirely; services were inconsistent and some smaller trafficking shelters struggled to remain open. However, the Ministry of Health's National Center for Social Solidarity (EKKA) operated non-trafficking-specific shelters for 80 persons (including minors) and in cooperation with NGOs had access to another 120 beds. The judiciary continued to suffer from structural and legal inefficiencies that resulted in low conviction rates, although there was some progress on faster resolution of trafficking cases. Even with dwindling government resources dedicated to NGOs, the government and NGOs created multiple partnerships this year, cooperating and sharing resources to address trafficking, including trafficking awareness training for students.

Recommendations for Greece: Ensure victims of trafficking have an opportunity to be certified under the government program and are offered assistance and deportation relief available under Greek law, including in cases in which a criminal case is not brought; take measures to improve success rates and resolve trafficking prosecutions more quickly, such as increased specialization of prosecutors and judges; vigorously prosecute traffickers with a view to increasing convictions, including against officials complicit in trafficking; collect and provide data on length of sentences for trafficking convictions; encourage victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions by incorporating incentives, such as restitution or other benefits, into criminal proceedings and by providing enhanced protection for victims who testify; encourage sustainable funding for anti-trafficking NGOs; ensure access to specialized assistance for male victims; strengthen the central authority to coordinate and monitor anti-trafficking efforts, giving it a mandate of accountability within the inter-ministerial process; enhance public awareness campaigns targeted toward a Greek audience, including potential clients of the sex trade.

Prosecution

Government law enforcement efforts against trafficking during the reporting period were mixed, with continuing strong investigations against trafficking but low conviction rates. Greek Law 3064/2002 and Presidential Decree 233/2003 prohibit trafficking for both sexual and labor exploitation and prescribe punishments of up to 10 years' imprisonment and fines the equivalent of $14,000 to $70,000. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Hellenic Police's Anti-Trafficking Unit, whose head now also leads the Organized Crime Unit, focused on dismantling organized trafficking rings such as various Bulgarian, Romanian, Greek, and other rings, in cooperation with law enforcement authorities from those countries. The police conducted 41 human trafficking investigations in 2011, a decrease from 62 investigations in 2010. Six of the investigations concerned forced labor or forced begging, down from 15 labor trafficking investigations in 2010. In 2011, Greek authorities prosecuted 220 suspected offenders, in contrast to the prosecution of 246 suspected trafficking offenders in 2010. Greek authorities reported 19 new convictions of trafficking offenders in 2011, and six acquittals, compared with 28 new convictions and 14 acquittals in 2010. The Ministry of Justice did not report any suspended sentences in 2011. Sentences for convicted trafficking offenders ranged from one to 18 years' imprisonment. In many cases, the trafficking offenders were also required to pay large penalties, up to the equivalent of $140,000. While the government did not report whether cases investigated or prosecuted were sex or labor trafficking cases, the Greek police were known to have investigated a few labor trafficking cases, including cases involving forced begging and forced labor in strawberry fields. There were reports that many judges and attorneys continued to lack a basic understanding of human trafficking and displayed a lack of sensitivity toward victims; nevertheless, NGOs reported some progress in prosecutors' sensitivity toward trafficking. In some of the successful trafficking prosecutions, NGOs played a key role in victim support, including legal and psychological assistance and payment of court fees.

The Hellenic Police incorporated anti-trafficking training in all its police academies. The Anti-Trafficking Unit ensured continuous training for police officers on duty and also provided training to first responders on trafficking, including all 160 first responders in the Attica region. The Greek government enhanced partnerships with NGOs to improve identification at the border. The Greek anti-trafficking unit targeted organized crime groups, such as a Bulgarian trafficking ring that used force and threats to force children and people with mental and other disabilities to beg in Greece. In 2011, the Greek Anti-Trafficking Police reported cooperating with Italy, Romania, Russia, Albania, and Bulgaria on trafficking cases.

There were allegations that local police and vice squad officers took bribes from trafficking offenders. Although the government reported it discharged and investigated corrupt officers in general, the government did not report the investigation, prosecution, conviction, or sentencing of any government employees for trafficking-related crimes. Older trafficking-related corruption cases remained pending, with no accountability reported.

Protection

The government's efforts to protect victims of trafficking diminished during the reporting period. Funding for NGOs ceased as the result of the economic crisis, so some smaller trafficking shelters struggled to remain operational, and fewer victims were certified for care. However, more victims were identified over the year. The government has strong legislative provisions to protect trafficking victims, including three to five month reflection periods and provisions for legal aid. NGOs reported that the reflection period was rarely offered and that victims were sometimes asked to make a decision regarding participation in prosecution immediately when interviewed, even in cases in which the victim still feared the trafficking offenders. NGOs also reported that legal aid provisions are rarely implemented in practice. The Ministry of Interior reported that it granted legal residency permits to 62 trafficking victims – nine new permits and 53 renewals; this is down from 87 residency permits in 2010-21 new permits and 66 renewals. The police explained that the number of residency permits decreased because the majority of victims were EU citizens originating in Romania or Bulgaria and thus had the right to residency without a permit.

In 2011, in the wake of newly announced austerity measures, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ceased funding to NGOs for assistance of trafficking victims even while they continued support and assistance by establishing valuable partnerships with NGOs. As a result, NGOs reported uneven provision of victim support services, including shelter and legal aid. While the government-run and non-government funded NGO shelters continued to provide care to victims, some smaller domestic NGOs struggled because of lack of private support and unreliable government funding. Nevertheless, the Government of Greece operated various mixed-use shelters to accommodate trafficking victims (including children) and victims of domestic abuse in Athens, and helped victims of trafficking find safe shelter in all areas of the country. The government did not detain victims of trafficking in these shelters; they could leave unchaperoned and at-will. The Greek government did not have special shelters available for adult male victims of trafficking; adult male victims were generally repatriated. In 2011, the Greek government officially identified 97 victims of sex and labor trafficking, in contrast to 92 victims of trafficking identified in 2010. Some NGOs and the police reported that victim identification procedures improved during the last year among front-line Border Police, Coast Guard, and vice squad officers. Of the total number of victims, 70 were referred to care facilities for assistance. Out of the 97 victims identified, approximately nine received official certification as victims, a condition precedent for government-provided care. NGOs reported that it was difficult for victims to receive certification, particularly in cases in which victims chose not to participate in police investigations. Victims could obtain restitution only if they filed civil suits against trafficking offenders. However, obtaining compensation for victims of trafficking was difficult in practice, given the high cost of filing civil lawsuits and the inefficiency of the administrative court system. NGOs reported that, even though victim identification improved over the long term, it continued to be a weakness for the government. The government worked on increasing international partnerships and allocated the equivalent of $28,000 to an international project aimed to develop common guidelines on trafficking victim identification, collaborating with the governments of France, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Romania, and Spain.

Prevention

The Government of Greece improved its prevention activities during the reporting period. The General Secretariat for Gender Equality of the Ministry of Interior launched a new anti-trafficking public awareness campaign targeting both victims and clients, broadcasting anti-trafficking messages through major national TV and radio channels. In collaboration with UNHCR and the Ministry for Citizen Protection, the General Secretariat for Gender Equality issued a booklet in Greek and in English with guidelines for first-contact personnel for the protection upon their entrance to Greece of women and girls at risk of trafficking. The Parliament established an anti-trafficking parliamentary committee in January 2012. The government had a national action plan to address trafficking in persons, which it developed in coordination with NGOs. The government also passed a new law, providing that migrants to Greece must be interviewed and informed of their rights on arrival; if this law is applied, it should give trafficking victims an opportunity to be identified. The government collaborated with IOM, NGOs, foreign governments, and other partners on multiple anti-trafficking conferences in 2011, including on promoting a victim-centered approach to trafficking in persons, training of prosecutors and judges, and a trilateral border anti-trafficking conference in collaboration with Bulgaria and Turkey. During the reporting period, the National Coordination Mechanism headed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had the authority only to coordinate activities, but did not have a mandate of accountability. A state-operated gender hotline was available to receive anti-trafficking calls; in 2011, it received one call regarding trafficking in persons. The Greek government collaborated with IOM and other entities to support several anti-trafficking awareness raising events during the reporting period, including a film screening for 500 judges and prosecutors, a theater presentation, and high school outreach. The government did not undertake specific projects to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period. The Greek government trained military personnel on trafficking in persons prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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