CZECH REPUBLIC (Tier 1)
The Czech Republic is a source, transit, and destination country for women who are subjected to forced prostitution, and a source, transit, and destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor. Women from many countries including the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia, Nigeria, and Brazil are subjected to forced prostitution in the Czech Republic and also travel through the Czech Republic en route to Western European countries, including Germany and the United Kingdom, where they are subjected to forced prostitution. Roma women from the Czech Republic are subjected to forced prostitution and forced labor and in destination countries, including Sweden, Switzerland, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom. Men and women from the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Mongolia, Vietnam, Slovakia, Russia, Ukraine, and Sri Lanka are subjected to forced labor in the construction, forestry, agricultural, manufacturing, and service sectors in the Czech Republic. During the year, there was a case of domestic servitude in the house of a foreign diplomat working in Prague. In general, there was a shift in the origin of victims of trafficking from non-European Union to European Union countries, such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Employment agencies continue to be a leading source of labor trafficking in the country. These agencies often charge high fees to the workers, issue deceptive contracts, and withhold pay or identity documents until debts are paid.
The Government of the Czech Republic fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government improved its anti-trafficking prevention by passing a series of new regulations to tighten controls on potentially abusive labor agencies, including by raising barriers to entry into the market of labor agencies, levying fines against illegal employment, and putting limits on the temporary employment of third country nationals. The overall number of labor agencies decreased by 30 percent in the wake of passage of the regulations, although their total number remains very high. The Czech government passed a law permitting the imposition of criminal liability on corporations. The percent of trafficking offenders serving time in prison for their offenses continued to increase; all but one of the trafficking offenders convicted in 2011 were sentenced to time in prison. While the government increased prosecutions under labor trafficking statutes, it has yet to achieve a final precedential court decision on labor trafficking. Labor trafficking victims were still identified at a lower rate than sex trafficking victims. Czech government funding for victim care decreased during the year, though the government collaborated with the European Union to increase overall funding for this purpose. The government did not undertake any large scale public awareness campaigns, including any campaigns about labor trafficking, this year, although it did undertake other prevention activities.
Recommendations for the Czech Republic: Robustly implement new regulations to monitor and – as appropriate – investigate and prosecute labor agencies to ensure that they do not exploit foreign workers through debt bondage or forced labor using deceptive labor agreements, or the use of force or threat of force; develop regulations or controls to cover potential abuses of EU citizens, rather than only third-country nationals; ensure that workers are given written contracts that they are able to understand, as required by new legislation; ensure that trafficking victims are thoroughly explained their rights at the outset of identification, in a language they understand; increase training of judges on anti-trafficking legislation, including European Union law, on trafficking; modify existing trafficking identification criteria used by law enforcement authorities to clearly incorporate indicators for forced labor; continue to train first responders, including labor inspectors, police, and state contracting officers, on labor trafficking victim identification criteria and evolving trends in labor trafficking; ensure adequate shelter space is available for large-scale cases, including labor trafficking cases; continue to ensure that presumed victims of trafficking are referred promptly to care; vigorously investigate and prosecute labor trafficking cases; strengthen bilateral coordination on trafficking with source countries, including neighboring EU countries; conduct large-scale public awareness raising campaigns, particularly on labor trafficking; consider increasing minority representation on the Inter-Ministerial Coordination Group for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings; and continue to increase referrals to victims for assistance by law enforcement personnel.
The Czech government's law enforcement activities against trafficking improved this year; trafficking convictions doubled during the reporting period, though no final labor trafficking convictions were achieved using trafficking statutes. The Government of the Czech Republic prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons under Section 168 of its criminal code, revised in 2010, prescribing punishments of up to 16 years' imprisonment. These punishments are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government continued to prosecute some trafficking cases investigated as human trafficking before January 2010 under Sections 232a and 204 of the criminal code. During the reporting period, the police conducted 19 investigations of 29 offenders under Section 168, down from 24 investigations of 35 offenders investigations conducted in 2010. In 2011, Czech authorities prosecuted 21 alleged trafficking offenders under Section 168 and 12 individuals in cases investigated before January 2010 under the old Section 232a. In 2010, Czech authorities prosecuted 26 trafficking offenders previously investigated under Section 232a, and prosecuted 15 offenders under Section 168. In 2011, the Czech government convicted ten offenders under Section 168; an increase from the three offenders convicted under Section 168 in 2010. Seven of these offenders convicted in 2011 received prison sentences higher than five years; two lower than five years; one trafficking offender received a suspended sentence. Nine pre-2010 trafficking offenders were convicted under Section 232a in 2011; seven such trafficking offenders had been convicted in 2010. All nine trafficking offenders were sentenced to time in prison. Conviction rates for sex trafficking cases increased during the reporting period; law enforcement authorities attributed this increase to improved judicial understanding of trafficking. Law enforcement officials observed that sex trafficking cases were easier to prosecute when there was use of violence or when the victim was clearly vulnerable. While several labor trafficking cases resulted in convictions, these convictions were appealed; courts have yet to produce a final judgment or conviction of labor trafficking cases under trafficking statutes. Given the use of non-typical coercive practices, Czech judges more readily view labor cases as simple fraud rather than trafficking. Both government officials and NGOs observed that labor trafficking offenses were difficult to prove, particularly in the absence of physical violence. The government trained law enforcement officials on investigating and prosecuting trafficking offenses. The Czech judicial academy offered specialized training on trafficking; more prosecutors than judges attended the specialized training. In October 2011, the Ministry of Interior organized a two-day anti-trafficking training for 60 police and prosecutors. The Czech police maintained a specialized anti-trafficking unit; the unit organized 11 trainings for their investigators in 2011. Czech authorities collaborated on trafficking investigations during 2011 with foreign governments, including the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria. The Czech government did not report the investigation, prosecution, conviction, or sentencing of any government employees complicit in trafficking.
The Czech government had mixed victim protection efforts during the reporting period. The government continued to fund its comprehensive Program of Support and Protection of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings, which was available for both foreign and Czech victims and provided for both short-term and longer-term assistance. Government-funded NGOs provided shelter and care to approximately 100 victims of trafficking in 2011, of whom at least 27 were newly identified. The government reduced its victim protection funding this year by approximately twenty percent, providing the equivalent of approximately $250,000 to three NGOs specializing in trafficking in persons, a decrease from the $305,600 provided to NGOs in 2010. However, overall program funding was increased, as NGOs received EU matching funds for trafficking victim care based on funding from the Czech government and other international organizations. The Ministry of Interior provided the equivalent of approximately $190,000 for trafficking prevention projects and support for trafficking victims who had entered into the Program. As of November 2011, due to a change in the Ministry of Interior's funding mechanism, a Ministry of Interior agreement with two NGO partners came to an end. The NGOs' financing was not renewed on a longer term basis, though support for current victims in the program continued throughout the reporting period. Subsequently, funds for all NGOs will be directed through one NGO, in an effort to improve oversight of ministry funds. The government has adopted formal victim identification procedures and a victim referral mechanism, although NGOs raised concerns about the effectiveness of victim identification in practice. NGOs observed that victims sometimes did not trust officials or were too frightened to approach police. In 2011, the government referred to the Program 10 victims of trafficking; three were victims of labor trafficking, and seven were victims of sex trafficking. This was an increase from 2010, when the government referred seven new trafficking victims to the Program. Police reported identifying an additional 51 victims of trafficking who did not enter the program, in contrast to 76 victims last year. The government did not penalize victims who entered the program for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked, though victims not admitted to the program were potentially vulnerable to such penalties. NGOs did not report any victims of trafficking outside the Program who were prosecuted for trafficking offenses. Foreign victims who cooperated with investigators after the initial 60-day reflection period were granted temporary residence, work visas, and support for the duration of the relevant legal proceedings. Upon conclusion of the court proceedings, victims had the opportunity to apply for permanent residency. Three victims applied for this residency provision in 2011 and were granted permanent residency. The government encouraged victims of trafficking to participate in prosecutions, including by providing witness protection during trial; one trafficking victim was protected through witness protection this year.
The Czech government significantly improved its prevention activities during the reporting period, particularly by increasing efforts to prevent exploitative labor recruitment. As of January 2012, the government hired 400 new staff members for the Labor Inspection Offices and increased inspection requirements. These inspectors were trained to identify labor trafficking victims and were empowered to collaborate with police and customs officials in investigating businesses and potential labor exploitation. The government introduced several new regulations to address labor trafficking and abusive employment by labor agencies, including: requirements that agencies have written work contracts, such as provisions that the contract must be able to be understood by the worker; tighter rules governing the responsible representatives of labor agencies; provisions requiring labor agencies to have bankruptcy insurance to cover at a minimum three months of wages for all workers; and prohibiting agencies from assigning third country nationals to temporary jobs. Under the new regulations, businesses engaged in illegal employment are barred from government procurement for three years, lose their business license, and are barred from re-applying for a license for three years. As a result, the number of employment agencies with permits dropped from 1,800 to 1,250, reducing the number of potentially predatory agencies. Some of these regulations applied primarily to third country nationals, while the employment of workers from other EU member states, such as Romania and Bulgaria, were governed by existing EU regulations. As of January 2012, the government adopted legislation permitting corporate criminal liability, enabling the Czech Republic to ratify the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons. In 2011, the Ministry of Interior conducted a study of EU nationals in the Czech labor market to prepare further activities on labor trafficking. The Czech government enhanced its outreach to potential trafficking victims abroad. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized five anti-trafficking trainings for consular officers, reaching 50 attendees. The government published a Romanian language brochure on labor trafficking to distribute at the Czech Embassy in Bucharest. The government did not provide specific funding for any major public trafficking awareness raising campaigns this year. The government organized its anti-trafficking efforts through the Ministry of Interior and through the Inter-Ministerial Coordination Group for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings. The National Rapporteur's office at the Ministry of Interior prepared a comprehensive annual report on anti-trafficking patterns and programs, which it released publicly. The government also allocated the equivalent of $189,500 for NGO-run prevention activities. The government funded an NGO-run hotline to identify victims of trafficking; the hotline received calls from 465 separate individuals, of whom thirty were calling on behalf of groups of potential victims ranging from three to thirty people. The government took no formal steps to reduce demand for commercial sex acts. The government provided anti-trafficking training to Czech soldiers prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.
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