SLOVAK REPUBLIC (Tier 1)
The Slovak Republic (or Slovakia) is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Slovak men and women are subjected to forced labor in agriculture and construction in Western Europe, primarily in the United Kingdom. Slovak children are subjected to forced criminal behavior in the United Kingdom. Slovak women are subjected to sex trafficking in the Netherlands, Slovenia, Denmark, Germany, and other European countries. In 2012, two Slovak women were identified in forced labor in the United States. Ukrainian, Moldovan, Bulgarian, Romanian, and potentially Vietnamese men and women are forced to work in the Slovak Republic. A sharp increase of foreign citizens, mainly from Romania, begging in Slovakia may indicate potential trafficking. Victims are reportedly transported to and through the Slovak Republic from countries in the former Soviet Union and forced into prostitution within the country and throughout Europe. In 2012, a Bulgarian victim was identified in Slovakia, en route to Germany, and a Cameroonian victim was identified in the country after being subjected to sex trafficking in Ukraine. Slovak children, women, and men of Roma ethnicity are subjected to forced begging in Switzerland and other countries in Western Europe. Roma from socially segregated rural settlements were disproportionately vulnerable to human trafficking, as they were underemployed, and undereducated, due to lack of access to quality education in segregated schools. Traffickers, particularly prominent individuals in Roma communities, found victims through family and village networks, preying on individuals with disabilities or large debts. NGOs report that children who leave institutional care facilities lack sufficient support and sometimes fall victim to human trafficking.
The Government of the Slovak Republic fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to collaborate closely with NGOs to offer comprehensive care to trafficking victims, continued to raise awareness about human trafficking, and launched a pilot database to improve sharing of anti-trafficking information. Improvements, however, are needed. The government's efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations were inadequate. Low sentences for convicted trafficking offenders continued to be a weakness.
Recommendations for the Slovak Republic: Greatly increase efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims; increase efforts to identify trafficking victims in Roma communities and among beggars, including by law enforcement outreach; consider children under age 18 in prostitution as trafficking victims; continue joint inspections and improve victim identification efforts at agriculture and construction sites; consider inviting civil society groups to participate in these joint inspections; adopt systematic procedures for all relevant government ministries to refer trafficking victims – particularly children – to care facilities; establish long-term protection services for trafficking victims; continue training and capacity building for investigators, prosecutors, and judges, to ensure that trafficking crimes are vigorously prosecuted and offenders are convicted and punished with sufficient sentences; train all government officials that may come into contact with victims about human trafficking indicators; establish an independent national anti-trafficking rapporteur to produce critical assessments on the government's anti-trafficking efforts; ensure that all judicial trainings and law enforcement training programs address labor trafficking within Slovakia; conduct more robust awareness campaigns, beyond the provision of leaflets, for homes that accommodate unaccompanied minors; encourage trafficking victims to participate in investigations; ensure that law enforcement officials do not unintentionally cause harm to trafficking victims when interacting with them, particularly during investigations; provide information to unaccompanied minors on where to seek protection in Slovakia and potential destination countries; improve the functioning of the Expert Group by ensuring government agencies are accountable for complying with the government's anti-trafficking plan; amend the law to prohibit the prosecution of trafficking victims for offenses committed as a result of their trafficking; ensure the provision of adequate specialized care for male victims of trafficking; and include coverage of legal assistance in victim care funding.
The Government of Slovakia continued efforts to prosecute human trafficking offenses and convict trafficking offenders during the reporting period, though sentences imposed remained weak. The Slovak Republic prohibits all forms of trafficking through Sections 179, 180, and 181 of its criminal code, which prescribe penalties between four years' and life imprisonment for trafficking offenses. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. According to the Prosecution Service, in 2012 Slovak officials initiated the prosecutions of 19 trafficking offenders, compared with prosecutions initiated of 14 offenders in 2011. The Ministry of Justice reported that 11 trafficking offenders were convicted in 2012, an increase from nine in 2011 under Section 179 and Section 246 of the previous criminal code. Short sentences given to convicted offenders remained a weakness of Slovak courts. Only seven out of the 11 offenders convicted in 2012 received prison sentences that were not suspended, which ranged from two years' to eight years' imprisonment. In 2011, three out of the nine trafficking offenders were sentenced to time in jail. The investigation of a high-profile case cited in the 2011 TIP Report involving approximately 340 forced laborers from Ukraine and Romania stalled during the year without prosecution. The pimping of children was not always charged as trafficking offenses. The government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of public officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during the reporting period. The Slovak Judicial Academy continued to incorporate trafficking in persons in its non-compulsory curriculum of basic prosecutorial and judicial training programs.
The Slovak government displayed mixed efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period. The government, sometimes in partnership with an international organization, trained hundreds of government officials, including police in the migration and organized crime units, diplomats, labor inspectors, and orphanage staff on victim identification techniques. Despite this training, Slovak law enforcement authorities made very weak efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims. The Labor Inspectorate jointly examined agriculture and construction sites with police, but failed to identify trafficking victims despite indicators of forced labor in agriculture. There was no information on how many trafficking victims were proactively identified by government officials, beyond the Ministry of Interior's identification, in partnership with an international organization, of a Cameroonian victim. Most victims were identified by civil society groups. In 2012, 37 trafficking victims were identified, approximately 15 of whom were labor trafficking victims. The government does not have a national, established system to refer identified victims to protection services, but some government institutions have procedures to refer victims to care facilities. There were no special procedures for the referral of child trafficking victims for care. Twenty-two of the 37 identified victims entered into the government-funded victim care program – compared with 31 victims received by care facilities in 2011 – where shelter and specialized care services were provided by NGOs. Adult victims were permitted to leave the shelters without a chaperone and at will. There was no information on the welfare of the victims that were not provided with protection services. The government did not provide long-term rehabilitation assistance to trafficking victims. Seven of these 22 victims were subjected to forced labor, and two of the 22 victims were foreign women. Foreign children who left a specialized facility for unaccompanied children may have been subsequently subjected to human trafficking in third countries; a recent Council of Europe GRETA report concluded that the care of unaccompanied minors in Slovakia needs improvement.
The government did not encourage victims to participate in trafficking investigations. NGOs reported that victims risked secondary victimization during the investigative process, when victims were interviewed multiple times. While the government can offer foreign victims, upon their identification, renewable 90-day legal status in Slovakia to receive assistance and shelter and to consider whether to assist law enforcement, no foreign victim has ever been granted this status. The law authorized the extension of permanent residence to victims of trafficking who faced hardship or retribution if returned to their country of origin; however, no such residence permits have ever been issued. There were no reports that the government penalized victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked during the year, although the law does not prohibit the prosecution of trafficking victims.
The government sustained its activities to prevent human trafficking. The government continued to fund an anti-trafficking hotline operated by IOM. The government launched an anti-trafficking campaign targeting parents of potential victims, which included billboards and posters. In December 2012, the MOI launched a pilot database to share anti-trafficking information. The MOI and IOM distributed leaflets targeting potential victims at airports, land border entry points, detention facilities for undocumented migrants, and facilities for unaccompanied children. The government continued to coordinate its anti-trafficking activities through its Expert Group for the Area of the Fight against Trafficking in Human Beings, a multidisciplinary entity involving officials from various ministries, local governments, and NGOs. In 2012, the government introduced a change which brings the final approval of the Expert Group recommendations to a cabinet-level council on crime prevention, whose conclusions are binding for all ministries. These changes, when implemented, may address NGO complaints that government agencies which were charged with anti-trafficking responsibilities were not held accountable. The government did not establish a national rapporteur, as it is obliged to do under Article 19 of the European Union anti-trafficking directive. The government did not conduct any activities to reduce the demand for commercial sex during the year. The government did not provide training sessions on human trafficking for Slovak security personnel prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.