Last Updated: Friday, 26 December 2014, 13:50 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Austria

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Austria, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30ce537.html [accessed 29 December 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.

AUSTRIA (Tier 1)

Austria is a destination and transit country for women, men, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Victims originate from Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. Some domestic servitude occurs at the hands of foreign diplomats from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa working in Austria. According to a March 2011 study funded by the European Commission, forced labor also occurs in the agricultural, construction, and catering sectors. The forced begging of Roma children and other children from Eastern Europe continues to be a problem. An NGO that works with Nigerian trafficking victims in Austria reports traffickers abuse the legal prostitution and asylum processes to control their victims.

The Government of Austria fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period the government prosecuted its first forced labor case and significantly increased the number of trafficking victims it identified and referred for care. The government continued its proactive efforts to prevent domestic servitude in diplomatic households, and it identified victims subjected to domestic servitude by diplomats during the year. However, many convicted trafficking offenders continued to receive inadequate sentences of one year or less in prison. There were also reports that the government treated some trafficked children as offenders, particularly in areas outside of Vienna.

Recommendations for Austria: Aggressively prosecute and convict trafficking offenders to ensure that more of them receive sentences that are proportionate to the gravity of the crime; establish a case-based analysis of trafficking cases to help demonstrate vigorous prosecution of trafficking offenders; step up training and outreach efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims among children in prostitution and men working in agriculture, construction, and other sectors where foreign migrants are vulnerable to exploitation; expand the use of systematic procedures to identify indications of trafficking among women in the legalized prostitution sector; establish and formalize a nationwide trafficking identification and referral system, including in reception centers for asylum seekers; and continue to explore ways to increase victims' incentives to cooperate with law enforcement.

Prosecution

In 2011, the Austrian government demonstrated important progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, including the first conviction for forced labor. However, courts continued to hand down suspended sentences and penalties of less than one year's imprisonment to trafficking offenders. The government prohibits both sex trafficking and labor trafficking under article 104(a) of the Austrian criminal code, but continued to use primarily article 217, which prohibits the transnational movement of persons for prostitution, to prosecute suspected traffickers. Paragraph 2 of article 217 prohibits the movement of people into Austria for prostitution. Article 104 criminalizes "trafficking for the purpose of slavery" and prescribes penalties ranging from 10 to 20 years in prison. Penalties prescribed in article 104(a) range up to 10 years' imprisonment, while penalties prescribed in article 217 range from six months' to 10 years' imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

In March 2011, the government successfully prosecuted its first labor trafficking case when a Serbian woman was sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment for subjecting Romanian women to forced labor in the cleaning sector. In September 2011, the government took an important step towards improving the handling of trafficking cases and increasing the penalties for traffickers when it established a human trafficking division within the Vienna criminal court staffed by a judge dedicated to trafficking cases. The government reportedly prosecuted 65 offenders using articles 217 and 104(a) in 2010 – the most recent year for which comprehensive data were available – which is the same number of offenders prosecuted under these statutes in 2009. Austrian courts convicted 14 offenders in 2010, the majority under article 217, a decrease from the 32 convicted trafficking offenders reported in 2009. Five offenders convicted under article 217 were sentenced to one to five years' imprisonment; one received a suspended sentence and no jail time, and six received partially suspended sentences resulting in jail time of one month to one year. Two offenders convicted under Article 104(a) received suspended sentences and no jail time.

The Council of Europe's Group of Experts on Trafficking (GRETA) September 2011 report on Austria noted the "dissuasiveness of penalties provided in article 104(a)" and urged the government to increase maximum penalties to reflect that trafficking is a serious human rights abuse. According to a media report, a trafficker received a 27-month sentence for the commercial sexual exploitation of a child. A case-based analysis of trafficking cases prosecuted under 217 in 2011 and early 2012 demonstrates that the government used article 217 to convict at least nine human trafficking offenders. In March 2012, a court convicted six Bulgarian nationals under article 217 for subjecting 31 Bulgarian women to forced prostitution or forced begging. The ringleader received a full four-year prison sentence, the others five offenders received sentences of between 12 months' and four years' imprisonment. On April 3, 2012, a court convicted three Serbian nationals under article 217 for subjecting a Serbian woman to forced prostitution in the escort sector. Sentences for these three offenders ranged from 12 months' to two years' imprisonment. In 2011, the government reported it secured one conviction under its slavery law, article 104, which prescribes a minimum ten-year sentence; however, sentencing data was not available for this case. In October 2011, the government, in partnership with NGOs, conducted an anti-trafficking seminar for judges, prosecutors, and other officials. The government also addressed trafficking perpetrated by diplomats posted in Austria, despite challenges that diplomatic immunity posed to the prosecution of these offenders. The government reported that several diplomats left the country in 2011 due to pressure from the Austrian government, which included requiring diplomats suspected of trafficking to renew their diplomatic identification cards every three months. The government did not prosecute any acts of trafficking-related complicity.

Protection

The Government of Austria sustained effective partnerships with civil society to assist female victims of trafficking; these partnerships resulted in the identification of a significant number of trafficking victims in 2011. NGOs reported the police improved cooperation, particularly in referring victims to NGOs for the victims' recovery and reflection period. The government, in coordination with NGOs, identified 251 trafficking victims in 2011, compared to 63 identified in 2010. The GRETA report for Austria, however, noted shortcomings in the government's identification of child victims of trafficking. The report noted potential victims of child trafficking are sometimes treated as offenders and arrested for theft, drug trafficking, or prostitution-related offenses. The government's anti-trafficking police unit used a database to track when local law enforcement arrested a child for prostitution in order to check for indications of trafficking. The government's regulation of Austria's sizable, legal, commercial sex sector continued to include weekly health checks for sexually transmitted infections and periodic police checks of registration cards. In 2011, the police began screening women in prostitution for trafficking indicators. Police had at their disposal various manuals on trafficking and victim identification – including a pocket card developed in coordination with NGOs – that listed the main indicators for identifying victims of trafficking. In 2011, the government, in cooperation with an NGO, launched a pilot project in a reception center for asylum seekers to facilitate the identification of trafficking victims. During the reporting period, the government identified 12 victims of domestic servitude in the residences of Asian, Middle Eastern, and African diplomats working in Austria.

The Austrian government continued to fund a specialized anti-trafficking NGO that provided shelter, housing, and services in Vienna to female trafficking victims; victims provided such shelter were not detained involuntarily. The government provided the equivalent of $744,000 to this NGO in 2011, compared with the equivalent of $840,000 in 2010. During the year, the NGO provided counseling, outreach, and other assistance services, including responsible repatriation, to the 251 trafficking victims it identified in cooperation with the police. The government reported it provided foreign victims of trafficking with legal alternatives to their removal through its 2009 Residence and Settlement Act, which listed victims of trafficking as a special category with a right for temporary resident status of at least six months. The government reported that between April and December 2011, it issued 24 temporary residence permits or renewals to trafficking victims. Residence permits are generally granted for a period of one year. In July 2011, via an amendment to the Law on Foreigners, the government granted trafficking victims who hold residence permits access to the Austrian labor market. The government encouraged victims to assist with investigations and prosecutions, though NGOs reported that few victims assisted in prosecution of their traffickers due to fear of retaliation. The government continued to fund the city of Vienna's specialist center for unaccompanied minors, which accommodated approximately 17 child victims of trafficking in 2011, a decrease from the 40 it assisted in 2010. The government reportedly ensured identified victims were not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.

Prevention

Austria sustained strong efforts to prevent domestic servitude within diplomatic households, requiring all foreign domestic workers to appear in person at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to receive information on how to get help if they become victims of forced labor. In addition, the government required diplomatic employers of domestic servants to provide evidence of direct salary transfers to accounts held in the domestic servant's name. In July 2011, it enhanced this oversight by requiring domestic workers to obtain their own ATM cards. The government continued its series of school exhibitions to sensitize Austrian youth to sex trafficking and continued to run an anti-trafficking hotline. Austria continued a campaign to encourage tourists and travel agencies to report cases of child sex tourism; it reported it prosecuted three child sex tourists in 2011. The government demonstrated transparency in its anti-trafficking efforts in 2011 by drafting a report on the implementation of its 2009-2011 national action plan, released in March 2012. The government continued to fund courses conducted by an anti-trafficking NGO to sensitize troops prior to their deployment on peacekeeping missions.

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