CROATIA (Tier 1)

Croatia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women and children trafficked across national borders for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor. Croatian females are also trafficked within the country, and women and girls from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and other parts of Eastern Europe are trafficked to and through Croatia for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Two other notable trends were seen in Croatia in 2008: an increase in the trafficking of men for the purpose of forced labor; and, for the first time, Croatia serving primarily as a destination, not largely as a transit country, for victims of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor. The seasonal migration of foreign women in prostitution to and from the Dalmatian coast during high tourist seasons continued to raise concerns about sex trafficking. In the past, cases were reported of children, including Roma, trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation; however, no cases were reported in 2008.

The Government of Croatia fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. In 2008, the government continued to increase punishment of convicted trafficking offenders. It generously funded NGOs providing assistance and shelter to trafficking victims, continued its comprehensive and proactive training efforts, and initiated new trafficking prevention and awareness raising projects.

Recommendations for Croatia: Expand efforts to detect trafficking victims among vulnerable populations such as women in prostitution and men in the agricultural sector; enhance prosecution efforts to increase convictions and continue to toughen sentences imposed on convicted traffickers; ensure the responsible repatriation of foreign victims; vigorously investigate possible trafficking within high tourism sectors along the Croatian coastline; expand awareness efforts to educate clients about the demand for commercial sex acts and forced labor; and develop a unified database to increase coordination and information sharing among government bodies combating trafficking.


The Government of Croatia continued to make appreciable progress in prosecuting and punishing convicted trafficking offenders under its trafficking law in 2008. During the reporting period, there were no suspended sentences, and the harshest penalty to date – eight years' imprisonment – – was imposed on a convicted trafficker. Croatia criminally prohibits trafficking offenses for sexual and labor exploitation through Criminal Provision 175 of its penal code. Prescribed penalties for all forms of trafficking are one to ten years' imprisonment; penalties are sufficiently stringent and are commensurate with those for rape. In 2008, the government investigated 15 suspected trafficking offenders – a decrease from 20 investigated in 2007 – and prosecuted 12 during the reporting period. Nine trafficking offenders were convicted and given sentences ranging from one to eight years, compared to 10 convictions obtained in 2007. In 2008, the government provided general anti-trafficking training to 2,372 police officers, and continued its "train-the-trainer" program involving 26 police officers training counterparts on ways to recognize and assist trafficking victims. In coordination with IOM and the British government, the government delivered training to an additional 27 border police. In December 2008, the government amended its criminal code to include a minimum mandatory sentence of five years for any state official's involvement in trafficking. However, there were no specific reports of trafficking-related complicity during the reporting period.


The Government of Croatia sustained generous funding to NGOs and its two anti-trafficking shelters for the protection and assistance of trafficking victims, totaling $161,912 in 2008. The government continued to emphasize a victim-centered approach in its official response to victim identification and protection; however in practice, it identified only seven victims during the reporting period, a decline from 15 in 2007. According to one Croatian NGO, some victims of forced prostitution are not recognized as victims of trafficking, and subsequently face punishment for prostitution-related offenses. The government made efforts to ensure that recognized trafficking victims were not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. The government provides foreign victims with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. In December 2008, the parliament amended the Criminal Procedure Act to give additional rights to victims of grave crimes, including victims of trafficking. In June 2008, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare signed a cooperation agreement with two NGOs to delineate the responsibilities of each signatory in providing victim assistance. In some initial cases in 2008, the government repatriated victims by returning them to the border in a police vehicle, putting these victims at risk of re-trafficking; the government reported it has since remedied the problem. Croatia continued to implement, through the use of mobile teams, its national mechanism to proactively identify potential trafficking victims and refer them to service providers. Reportedly, border and immigration police routinely utilize instructions on interviewing illegal migrants who are suspected trafficking victims. The government actively encourages victim participation in trafficking cases; assistance was not conditional upon victim cooperation with law enforcement investigators.


The Government of Croatia continued to show strong leadership and initiative in its trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period. To address concerns about prostitution and sex trafficking during the tourist season along the Adriatic coast, the government trained 130 government and nongovernmental actors on assisting trafficking victims in Rijeka and Split in 2008. Recognizing the need for awareness raising within the tourist industry, the government organized a seminar for 40 tourism sector employees on identifying victims of trafficking. It conducted outreach activities with approximately 500 students and 40 children in orphanages to prevent their possible trafficking. Croatia produced and aired a nationwide television campaign in preparation for the June 2008 Soccer Cup alerting the public that individuals they see in prostitution and child labor may be victims of trafficking. The campaign's slogan was "Open your eyes, you can help, and possibly save a life," and was aimed at potential clients. In November and December 2008, the government conducted anti-trafficking training for 60 of its soldiers prior to their deployment to Afghanistan.


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