Macedonia drops from Tier 1 country list
In the latest, fifth Trafficking in Persons report of the State Department Macedonia has been moved form Tier 1 in the lower Tier 2 countries. In other words this means that Macedonia last year didn’t do much in the area of preventing human trafficking and that is especially in the area of prosecuting the perpetrators and protection of victims.
“The Government of Macedonia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Macedonia dropped from Tier 1 to Tier 2 in 2004 because of a lack of progress in strengthening its anti-trafficking efforts. The government passed new anti-trafficking legislation in 2004, but failed to demonstrate overall appreciable improvement in enforcement and prevention. Persistent institutional deficiencies in the judiciary continued to hamper the government’s ability to effectively combat trafficking. Its judicial system failed to appropriately and effectively prosecute, sentence, and detain traffickers or provide adequate safeguards for victims and witnesses in courtroom settings. The government should actively develop and implement its National Plan, vigilantly address trafficking-related corruption, and expand prevention programs for vulnerable groups.”
The report notes that the local NGO’s and international community present in the country report on the problem of internal trafficking. The same, as LOBI and Pressonline reported in several occasions, is not recognized by the state institutions.
This year report includes extensive country reports and covers period form April 2004 until March 2005.
Of the estimated 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children trafficked across international borders each year, approximately 80 percent are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. The data also illustrate that the majority of transnational victims are trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation.
With a focus on transnational trafficking in persons, however, these data fail to include millions of victims around the world who are trafficked within their own national borders.
The report also points out on the alarming enslavement of people for purposes of labor exploitation, often in their own countries, as a form of human trafficking that can be hard to track from afar.
Read in full the reports from Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Montenegro and Kosovo.
ALBANIA (TIER 2)
Albania is a source country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor, largely to Greece and Italy, where many victims are then further transited to the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands. Albanian children, especially ethnic Roma and Egyptian, continue to be trafficked externally for forced begging. Regional and international experts consider Albania to have significantly decreased as a transit country for trafficking in Western Europe.
The Government of Albania does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government remained committed to monitoring and preventing trafficking at the country’s main ports and produced successful interdictions.
However, implementation of Albania’s anti-trafficking tools remained inadequate and a critical area of concern. Greater, proactive steps in the areas of protection and reintegration are needed to ensure the safety of victims. The government must apply available laws and programs, in addition to improving prevention for vulnerable groups. Trafficking-related corruption must also be addressed.
In 2004, the Government of Albania continued to arrest, prosecute, and convict traffickers. Its courts prosecuted 132 traffickers and handed down 121 convictions. Commendably, over half of the sentences during the reporting period were over five years in length and 30 traffickers were sentenced to more than ten years’ imprisonment. In September 2004, the government adopted legislation that includes broad civil asset forfeiture provisions, requiring the accused trafficker to prove the legitimacy of sources of wealth. Prosecutors, however, had yet to employ the forfeiture provisions. Serious resource constraints and corruption among government officials continued to hamper anti-trafficking efforts. The government continued to investigate police involvement in trafficking; in 2004, four police officers were investigated for offenses related to trafficking. The government did not prosecute or convict any officials for trafficking complicity during the reporting period.
The government provided some facilities and personnel to assist trafficking victims, and operates its own National Reception Center; NGOs have two additional shelters. The government has begun work on a national referral mechanism involving law enforcement, social services, and NGO partners to improve the initial identification, reception, protection, and reintegration procedures for returnee victims. Police slightly increased the number of ad hoc referrals made to shelters in Albania via IOM and NGOs. Police referred 274 victims to the Vatra Center, a leading NGO in Albania providing shelter and reintegration services to victims. Notably, a number of police directorates opened their own temporary shelters to accommodate trafficking victims. However, regulations necessary for the implementation of witness-protection measures adopted in 2003 have yet to be finalized. In 2004, the Government of Albania established a witness relocation program and adopted special witness protection provisions allowing for endangered witnesses in trafficking cases to testify via remote video link. The program remains unfunded.
In 2004, the government conducted few prevention programs, and continued to reply primarily on
NGOs and international organizations to carry out such activities. The Ministry of Education began to incorporate prevention activities into school curricula. In 2004, the government adopted a newly improved Strategic Framework and National Action Plan that outlines a comprehensive and targeted approach to trafficking. However, few aspects of the plan have been funded or initiated. In February 2005, the government also finalized its Child Trafficking Strategy and Action Plan.
MACEDONIA (TIER 2)
Macedonia is a country of transit and, to a lesser extent, destination for women and children trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation from the former Soviet Union and Eastern and Southeastern Europe. A number of victims transit through Macedonia and on to Western Europe for sexual exploitation. Macedonian women continued to be trafficked regionally throughout the former Yugoslavia. NGOs and the international community reported a growing problem of internal trafficking.
The Government of Macedonia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Macedonia dropped from Tier 1 to Tier 2 in 2004 because of a lack of progress in strengthening its anti-trafficking efforts. The government passed new anti-trafficking legislation in 2004, but failed to demonstrate overall appreciable improvement in enforcement and prevention. Persistent institutional deficiencies in the judiciary continued to hamper the government’s ability to effectively combat trafficking. Its judicial system failed to appropriately and effectively prosecute, sentence, and detain traffickers or provide adequate safeguards for victims and witnesses in courtroom settings. The government should actively develop and implement its National Plan, vigilantly address trafficking-related corruption, and expand prevention programs for vulnerable groups.
During 2004, the Government of Macedonia amended its trafficking law to establish mandatory minimum sentences of eight years’ imprisonment for traffickers in cases where there are aggravating circumstances. The government reportedly investigated 39 suspected human trafficking cases, charged 38 persons, and submitted 19 cases for prosecution. An appellate court upheld a lower court verdict sentencing four defendants to 12 years in prison. The Human Trafficking Unit engaged in two regional operations coordinated by the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative Center. However, instances of official impropriety and poor courtroom procedures continued to hamper judicial effectiveness.
Trafficker Dilaver Bojku-Leku was sentenced to 3 years and 8 months in prison for “mediation in prostitution,” but is in an “open regime,” which allows him to regularly leave the prison on his own recognizance. At his March 2005 retrial for additional charges, the court failed to adequately safeguard the victim-witness’s identity or prevent the defendant’s apparent intimidation of the victim and of court officials. Trafficking-related corruption remained a serious problem, which the government failed to vigorously investigate and prosecute.
The government continued to operate the Transit Shelter Center for trafficked persons. Police deported some trafficking victims after improper screening. The government assisted 38 victims at the Center, a significant decrease from the 143 victims assisted the previous year. Victims may be granted refugee status or asylum under Macedonian law. Macedonia has no witness protection law, but recent amendments to the criminal code contained some witness protection provisions. By law, the government seeks to ensure protection for all victims, and the police have provided 24-hour protection for victims testifying in court. However, in 2004, one victim was jailed for four days during criminal proceedings.
The National Commission for Combating Trafficking monitored the government’s anti-trafficking efforts but has yet to evolve into an effective action-oriented entity. The Commission, created in 2001, has neither finalized a national action plan nor developed an adequate strategy and timeline for its implementation. NGOs reported that a recently created Subgroup on Trafficking in Children was the most active component of the Commission. During 2004, the government continued to rely on NGOs to conduct information campaigns. Several government officials participated in prevention- oriented working groups and publicly spoke out against trafficking. The police academy included a mandatory introduction course on trafficking for all its cadets. However, the program did not provide adequate tools for identification of victims. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs required all consular officers to receive training on victim identification. Consular officers may not independently issue visas for women in the so-called entertainment industry and must send all requests through an Internal Affairs review board.
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO (TIER 2)
The union of Serbia and Montenegro is a source, transit, and destination country for women and girls trafficked internally and internationally for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Internal trafficking of ethnic Roma children for forced begging continues to be a problem. Victims identified in Serbia and Montenegro came from Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Moldova, Georgia, and from the former Yugoslavia. In Serbia, more than half of victims that are trafficked internally originate in the northern province of Vojvodina. Foreign destinations for victims from Serbia and Montenegro include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Western Europe (principally Italy), as well as the UN-administered province of Kosovo.
The Governments of constituent republics Serbia and Montenegro, to which most authority has devolved, do not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, they are making significant efforts to do so. The two republics do not have joint counter-trafficking institutions, but do conduct joint counter-trafficking activities occasionally on an ad hoc basis; this report consequently provides a separate analysis for each. The Tier 2 designation is based on the weighted aggregate of their efforts, which showed considerable, but unbalanced, progress.
The Government of the Republic of Serbia made significant progress in providing anti-trafficking resources for law enforcement and created a new humanitarian visa for victims. However, the weak adjudication of trafficking cases, inefficiency of the judiciary, and inadequate victim protection hampered its anti-trafficking efforts. The government should pass witness protection legislation currently before parliament to formalize the current ad hoc victim safety efforts in court proceedings.
The Republic of Montenegro made good faith efforts to improve its overall anti-trafficking performance from the previous year, increasing its anti-trafficking enforcement efforts and devoting more resources to combat the problem. The government should demonstrate increased implementation of its anti-trafficking laws and ensure full implementation of the recent memorandum of understanding between the government and NGOs governing the treatment and referral of possible victims. Because inconsistency in the administration of justice in trafficking cases continued, largely due to the individual discretion of judges and prosecutors, the government should conduct outreach with the judiciary to stress the importance of improving its record on trafficking prosecutions and convictions.
THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA
In 2004, Serbia took important steps to increase its law enforcement capacity to combat trafficking. Serbia established two full-time police anti-trafficking units consisting of six officers within the organized crime police and nine officers within the border police. Over the reporting period, the police units increased trafficking investigations and victim identification. Police filed criminal charges for 24 investigations involving 51 suspects in 2004. Five trials were concluded during the reporting period and resulted in convictions of all 25 defendants. The majority of defendants continued to be released pending appeal, following standard judicial practice in Serbia. As of the end of the reporting period, the government was prosecuting one case involving ten defendants. The National Anti-trafficking Coordinator took proactive steps to counter poor statistics-keeping by the judiciary by ordering regional police secretariats to follow up with local prosecutors on all trafficking cases filed during the year. Overall, the judiciary failed to treat trafficking cases with the seriousness they deserved and in some cases did not demonstrate sufficient sensitivity to trafficking victims. There were no reports of official complicity in trafficking.
The Serbian Government increased its institutional ability to coordinate and provide victim protection during the reporting period. The Agency for the Coordination of Protection to Victims of Trafficking, established in March 2004, coordinated NGO and international organization provision of assistance and protection. Some NGOs indicated better cooperation with police on victim protection matters.
Notably, in 2004 the Interior Minister established temporary residence permits for trafficking victims. Victims are allowed unconditional three-month recovery and reflection period, and given six months to one-year residency if they participate in an investigation or prosecution. A victim may also be granted one year’s residency with no requirement for cooperation if returning to his or her home country would put the victim’s life at risk. In some instances, victims were questioned by police and judges in front of their traffickers, who threatened them. Due to fear of traffickers and the government’s informal, ad hoc approach to witness protection, many victims refuse to participate or cooperate in judicial proceedings.
The government’s anti-trafficking prevention activities remained weak in 2004; NGOs continued to organize and fund the majority of Serbia’s public information campaigns on the issue. The National Coordinator initiated and created a documentary on the government’s anti-trafficking efforts that enjoyed wide viewership. In 2004, the Foreign Ministry of Serbia and Montenegro hosted a meeting for diplomats in source and destination countries to present protection mechanisms available for victims.
The police participated in debates in schools as part of a joint NGO/IOM public awareness campaign that included spots in the media. The government adopted a plan for children in 2004 targeted at decreasing their vulnerability to trafficking.
THE REPUBLIC OF MONTENEGRO
The Government of the Republic of Montenegro improved its support of police and enhanced its ability to conduct anti-trafficking operations in 2004. The police anti-trafficking team was re-established in April 2004 and subsequently submitted six cases to the judiciary resulting in charges against 18 perpetrators. At the end of the reporting period, five prosecutions involving 14 people were underway. The government increased its 2005 funding for the Office of the National
Coordinator, who now works on trafficking full time. In April 2004, the Montenegrin Government adopted a new criminal procedure code that allows for enhanced surveillance techniques and mitigated punishment for cooperating suspects. While the government actively investigated cases of trafficking, Montenegro’s judiciary remained weak; judges exhibited insufficient understanding of trafficking cases, allowed long delays in trafficking prosecutions, and imposed inadequate sentences upon conviction. There were no reports of official complicity in trafficking.
In October 2004, the Republic of Montenegro passed a witness protection law applicable to trafficking victims. The government provided space for a new trafficking shelter and allocated funding for the next year. The predominant anti-trafficking NGO reported good relations and coordination with the National Coordinator. A government commission investigating a controversial 2002 trafficking prosecution released its report in 2004. The report questioned the character of the trafficking victim who served as the prosecution’s key witness, giving rise to allegations that the report was a cover-up of high-level corruption in the case. OSCE and Amnesty International sharply criticized the 2004 report.
Montenegrin courts continued to show insensitivity to the needs of trafficking victims. Victims who were not identified by the police or prosecutor as victims could potentially be charged with prostitution or, if they were foreign nationals, be deported. The government did not report any deportations, but NGOs suggested that in many cases potential trafficking victims not properly identified were deported.
The Montenegrin Government conducted some public awareness campaigns, mainly in schools, but efforts were constrained by limited funding; the government also participated in NGO sponsored programs.
The Ministry of Interior Affairs worked to ensure local media coverage when the Minister spoke publicly about trafficking. Montenegro improved its coordination mechanisms in 2004 and established a subgroup on trafficking in children under the National Project Board. Moreover, the
National Coordinator chaired a working group that was developing detailed action plans for each ministry to implement Montenegro’s national strategy adopted in 2003.
Kosovo, while technically a part of Serbia and Montenegro, continued to be administered under the authority of the United Nations Interim Administrative Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Since June 1999, UNMIK has provided transitional administration for Kosovo, and retains ultimate authority over anti-trafficking actors such as police and justice. UNMIK is aware of the trafficking problem in Kosovo and continued to conduct anti-trafficking efforts with the OSCE, the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG), and local and international NGOs. Responsibility for social support to victims of trafficking is shared by UNMIK, PISG, and international organizations.
Kosovo is a source, transit, and destination point, primarily for women and children trafficked for sexual exploitation and, to a lesser degree, domestic servitude. Internal trafficking continued to be an increasingly serious problem. In 2004, UNMIK’s Trafficking and Prostitution Investigation Unit (TPIU) made 77 arrests, conducted 2,386 raids, and assisted 48 victims, 17 percent of whom were minors. The number of victims assisted in Kosovo consistently declined; this is believed to be due to increasingly sophisticated criminal networks reacting to anti-trafficking enforcement efforts and shifting the commercial sex trade out of public bars and into private homes. There are three shelters for trafficking victims in Kosovo. Weak sentencing for convicted traffickers and lack of adequate witness protection continued to be serious problems. Anti-trafficking awareness campaigns in 2004 were largely carried out by NGOs. In 2004, the Ministry of Education worked with one NGO to train teachers to incorporate trafficking into civics education curricula. UNMIK established a helpline for trafficking victims in 2004. The PISG is leading the effort to create a Kosovo Action Plan and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for assisting internal trafficking victims. SOPs for assisting foreign trafficking victims were implemented in 2004.
The full Trafficking in Persons 2005 report can be find here