European Anti-Trafficking Day: special attention focused on the Western Balkans region
18 October is European Anti-Trafficking Day and the Government of the Republic of Slovenia would like to take this opportunity to raise awareness on trafficking in human beings.
In the field of anti-trafficking, Slovenia attaches great importance to international cooperation on the operational and the strategic levels, with special attention focused on the Western Balkans region. Over the years, the Slovenian Ministry of the Interior has been carrying out a number of regional activities, encouraging the countries in the region to align their legislation and standards with the acquis.
In the framework of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, the informal network of National Anti-Trafficking Coordinators of South-East Europe (NATC SEE) is to hold an informative campaign on the issue of impunity of perpetrators, one of the strategic priorities for 2020–2024 set forth in the Strategy Paper of the Network of Anti-Trafficking Coordinators of SEE. Even though the countries in the region having already adopted the adequate legislation, the impunity of perpetrators remains largely widespread. The data shows a discrepancy between the high number of estimated victims and the consistently low number of identified victims on the one hand, and the very low rate of prosecutions and convictions on the other. This challenge has been recognised by the European Union in the new EU Strategy on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings (2021–2025), which calls for stronger criminal justice capacity building to counter the culture of impunity.
In order to step up the efforts in this field, the members of the NATC SEE network adopted a joint statement in which they have committed to increase the measures to end impunity of trafficking offences, to allocate adequate resources for an efficient response of the criminal justice system and to cooperate more closely on a regional level in countering trafficking in human beings. Between 18 October and 7 November 2021, the member countries of the NATC SEE will publish promotional messages on their social media profiles focusing on three main topics: the policy of countering trafficking in human beings and cooperation of all stakeholders to end impunity (week one), law enforcement and judiciary capacity building to end impunity (week two) and the provision of assistance for the victims (week three).
On European Anti-Trafficking Day, the Slovenian National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator Tina Princes Damjanovič highlighted the issue of migrant smuggling, often closely linked to the criminal offence of trafficking of human beings. »In search of their way out of poverty, armed conflict, political instability and different forms of prosecution, migrants often seek out smugglers to take them abroad, where better life awaits them. The traffickers in human beings often take advantage of their vulnerability, which is why we should follow the phenomenon of illegal migrations, particularly in our proximity, very closely. In order to limit the phenomenon, we need to facilitate continuous professional development of all competent authorities, in order to ensure timely identification of trafficking victims as well as identification and prosecution of perpetrators. We need to strive to prevent the culture of impunity, which protects all the actors in the human trafficking chain. This should be particularly reflected through the case-law, which should demonstrate that trafficking in human beings is a highly risky and less profitable offence rather than the opposite.«
Established in 2010 on the initiative of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Slovenia, the informal network of National Anti-Trafficking Coordinators of South-East Europe (NATC SEE) unites eleven participating countries from the region. Within the network, the National Anti-Trafficking Coordinators discuss the current movements and challenges in countering trafficking in human beings and coordinate relevant policies. With the support of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, which provides expert and administrative support to the network, the NATC SSE has become a major regional forum for cooperation in the field of countering trafficking in human beings.
In Slovenia, exploitation for prostitution and sexual abuse predominate as the most common forms of trafficking, while other forms of trafficking are less frequently identified. In general, Slovenia is identified as a destination country for the exploitation of trafficked persons, but also as a transit country for persons from South-East Europe who continue their journey through Slovenia to other EU Member States.
According to Article 113 of the Slovenian Criminal Code, the perpetrator of a crime of trafficking in human beings is punishable by imprisonment of one to ten years and a fine. If such a crime is committed against a minor or with force, threats, deception, abduction or the exploitation of a subordinate or dependent position or by giving or taking payment or benefits in order to obtain the consent of a person who exercises control over another person, or in order to force somebody to become pregnant or undergo artificial insemination, the perpetrator is punished by imprisonment of three to fifteen years, including a fine. Moreover, according to Slovenian legislation adopted in 2015, persons who use services of trafficked victims may be punished provided that they are aware of the fact that they have used such services.
In 2020, the police dealt with 29 criminal offences of trafficking in human beings and identified 27 perpetrators of such crimes. Over the past year, 33 natural and three legal persons were prosecuted while two indictments were brought against six natural persons for this crime by the competent prosecutors. Courts found five natural persons guilty of the crime of trafficking in human beings in 2020, and a total of 32 persons have been convicted of this crime in the last five years.