Assistance to and protection of victims of trafficking in human beings
Rights of victims
Victims of trafficking in human beings have the right to:
- assistance and support as soon as the authorised authorities have reasonable grounds to suspect that the person has been a victim of trafficking in human beings;
- respect for their integrity;
- an individual interview with a representative of a non-governmental and/or humanitarian organisation before the Police launch an information gathering process;
- information (in a language the victim understands) on:
- institutions and organisations to which the victim can turn for help;
- the type of assistance the victim can get;
- where and how the crime can be reported;
- procedures that follow the report and the victim’s role regarding such procedures;
- how and under what conditions the victim may be protected;
- to what extent and under what conditions the victim has access to legal counselling, legal aid or any other form of advice;
- requirements to be complied with to entitle the victim to compensation;
- all special arrangements available to the victim to protect their interests if such victim resides in another Member State;
- how the victim can be entitled to the reimbursement of costs incurred as a result of their participation in criminal proceedings;
- the presence of representatives of non-governmental and/or humanitarian organisations or other persons whom the victim trusts in the interview with police officers;
- safe accommodation.
Provision of assistance to child victims of trafficking in human beings
- The conduct of all bodies and organisations in procedures involving children who are victims of trafficking in human beings must comply with the principles of the best interest of the child; these principles prevail over issues of immigration or crime prevention.
- The opinions and wishes of children who are victims of trafficking in human beings is to be established and considered whenever decisions related to children are taken, including in the form of assistance in their rehabilitation and training.
- Children who are victims of trafficking in human beings are entitled to assistance and support taking into consideration their specific circumstances. The primary consideration, i.e. the best interest of the child, is assessed in each individual case, however, the main approach is one adapted to the child's needs and one that considers the child's age and level of maturity, as well as their views, needs and concerns. The child and the holder of parental responsibilities or another legal representative, if there is one, is informed of all measures or rights specifically focused on the child.
- If the holder of parental responsibilities is prevented from enforcing the principle of the best interests of the child and/or their representation, the child is to be appointed a guardian or a representative. Further procedures following the identification of children who are victims of trafficking in human beings are to be conducted by personnel appropriately qualified to perform procedures with children.
- In the case of an unaccompanied minor who illegally entered the country or lives in the country, the interview with the minor foreigner is conducted by a professional worker from a social work centre who will also offer the foreigner emergency social assistance and obtain the foreigner's statement on the appointment of a guardian for a specific case. If, in the interview with the minor foreigner, there are indicators identified that suggest that the minor is a victim of trafficking in human beings or could become such victim given the circumstances, the social service responsible for the foreigner provides the victim with accommodation in an appropriate facility.
- If the victim is an unaccompanied minor, the authorities are to do everything to establish contact with the victim's family as soon as possible.
- In criminal proceedings conducted as a result of criminal offences of trafficking in human beings, the injured party who is a minor will throughout the criminal proceedings have an authorised representative to ensure their rights. Direct questioning of persons under 15 years of age who are victims of criminal offences of trafficking in human beings is not permitted in the main hearing.
Providing assistance to victims of trafficking in human beings
The Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities are responsible for the provision of assistance to victims of trafficking in human beings, in cooperation with NGOs and humanitarian organisations that in fact provide such assistance. In 2021, a project was also launched to support persons involved in prostitution and support them in their leaving it, which was co-financed by the Ministry of Health.
To begin with, the accommodation of victims is organised within the Crisis Accommodation Programme, which is (or may be) then extended to the Safe Accommodation Programme.
Crisis accommodation is provided by non-governmental and humanitarian organisations and co-financed by the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. This involves comprehensive assistance provided for up to 30 days to identified victims, both adults and children, who need immediate removal from their current environment. Upon placement the victims accept assistance and accommodation by way of a written statement whereby they acquire rights and obligations related to the implementation of the programme.
Victims are accommodated with their consent and accommodation comprises:
- appropriate and safe accommodation and assistance;
- material assistance;
- assistance in providing primary healthcare;
- psychological and social assistance and help;
- provision of information and counselling regarding the victims’ rights in a language understandable to the victims;
- translation and interpreting;
- assistance in the victims’ return to their homeland.
Victims with special needs are provided with appropriate help, in particular when their needs are related to pregnancy, their health condition, disability, mental and psychological disorders or severe forms of psychological, physical or sexual abuse that they experienced.
The victims have the right to:
- a 30-day period of recovery and reflection to recover, escape the influence of traffickers, and get information about the voluntary forms of the further support programme and possibilities of cooperating with state authorities;
- assistance and support prior to and during the criminal proceedings and in an appropriate period after their completion.
Accommodation, assistance and support are not conditional upon the readiness of the victim to cooperate in the pre-trial procedure or criminal proceedings.
The Police allow victims who reside illegally in the Republic of Slovenia to stay, upon their own request or ex officio, for a period of 3 (three) months (which includes the 30-day period of recovery and reflection), in order to decide voluntarily on further options which also include the possibility for victims who are citizens from third countries to decide whether to participate as witnesses in criminal proceedings regarding the criminal offence of trafficking in human beings. If reasonable grounds exist, the victims may be permitted to remain for another period of three months at the most.
The crisis accommodation programme continues to be implemented by the Slovenian Caritas. In 2022, nine persons were placed in crisis accommodation, namely:
- six women (one each from Colombia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Portugal and Germany, and two from Venezuela),
- three minors (children of two identified victims of trafficking, one Portuguese and one Spanish national).
Persons admitted to crisis accommodation are provided with accommodation, food, emergency psychological and social assistance, first aid, counselling, information about their legal rights, linguistic interpreting, advocacy, social activities, companionship, escort, security, assistance with returning to their home country and material assistance. People admitted to crisis accommodation are provided with a 24-hour availability of a professional worker; in addition, lay workers (two women and one man), as well as trained volunteers, are involved in working with them.
During crisis accommodation, victims are offered long-term assistance and safe accommodation. Safe accommodation is provided by non-governmental or humanitarian organisations and co-financed by the Ministry of the Interior. By way of a written statement the victim accepts assistance and accommodation and acquires rights and obligations related to the programme implementation.
Safe accommodation of victims comprises:
- appropriate safe accommodation and assistance
- material assistance
- assistance in providing primary healthcare
- psychological and social support and assistance
- provision of information and counselling regarding the victims’ rights, in a language understandable to the victims
- assistance in settling legal status in Slovenia
- assistance in ensuring that the rights and interests of victims are represented at suitable stages in the prosecution of perpetrators of criminal offences
- assistance with integration into society
- translation and interpreting
- assistance in the victims’ return to their homeland.
The victims must respect the house rules and participate in the implementation of each individual assistance and protection programme. During accommodation the victims are provided with all the needed protection on the basis of a preliminary assistance and protection programme.
For victims who are citizens of third countries such a form of long-term safe accommodation is conditional on their having a permit to stay and a temporary residence permit. After the termination of the 30-day period of recovery and reflection within the programme of crisis accommodation these victims are included in the safe accommodation programme for the period of validity of the permit to stay.
A temporary residence permit may be issued to victims of trafficking in human beings if the victims are willing to participate as witnesses in criminal proceedings or if there are personal circumstances justifying their residence in the Republic of Slovenia. For more information, see Article 50 of the Foreigners Act.
Accommodation within the programme is voluntary and for the victims from third countries it may last until the conclusion of the criminal proceedings, while for other victims the legislation does not define any time limit.
Victims with special needs are to be provided with appropriate help, in particular when their needs are related to pregnancy, their health condition, disability, mental and psychological disorders, or severe forms of psychological, physical or sexual abuse that they experienced.
The Safe Space Placement Programme continued to be implemented by the Ključ Society in 2022. Nine victims were included in the safe accommodation programme.
"Reintegration of victims of trafficking in human beings" project
The "Reintegration of victims of trafficking in human beings" project was co-financed by the Ministry of the Interior (the Police) within the framework of the EU Internal Security Fund. The project is intended for citizens of the Republic of Slovenia who have been treated as victims of trafficking in human beings abroad and for EU citizens and third-country nationals who have been treated as victims of trafficking in human beings in the Republic of Slovenia in pre-trial or criminal proceedings and legally reside there. Reintegration is the first step for victims towards leading an independent life free from violence, exploitation and violations of human rights.
The programme is implemented by the Ključ Society. In 2022, eight people were included in the programme: one citizen of Madagascar, one citizen of Colombia, four citizens of Slovenia, one citizen of Slovenia and one citizen of Ukraine. The users of the programme participated in therapeutic workshops, learning support, regular physical activities and organised excursions, as well as counselling and relief sessions. According to the expressed needs, all persons were also provided with psychotherapy, assistance and support in procuring documents, medical examinations and other services agreed in personal plans.
The "PATS – Identifying, assisting and protecting victims of human trafficking and/or sexual abuse in asylum procedures in the Republic of Slovenia" project is intended for informing those seeking international protection about the phenomenon of trafficking in human beings.
These are individual interviews that are conducted in a language that is understood by the applicant. The purpose of the project is to raise the awareness of people who mostly do not recognise the dangers and results of human trafficking, and to use a suitable approach to encourage them to actively participate in preventing various forms of exploitation. The overall objective is to identify more effectively vulnerable groups (potential victims of human trafficking, sexual or gender-based violence) in need of special treatment. In the case of children and adolescents, information is provided in a way that is appropriate and adapted to their age and stage of development. In the event of suspicion that a person is a potential victim of trafficking in human beings, the UOIM informs the competent institutions.
In 2022, interviews were conducted by social workers trained by the Ključ Society. They conducted 39 in-depth individual interviews aimed at raising awareness of trafficking in human beings. The social services provide information on trafficking in human beings in each individual interview, regardless of the original purpose of the interview. Given the number of arbitrary departures within a very short period of time after placement, most of the information on trafficking in human beings is provided in a shortened form at the time of placement itself.
Ključ Society also carried out activities aimed at providing information on trafficking in human beings in accommodation facilities where persons from Ukraine are accommodated.
"Support to persons involved in prostitution and support in their leaving it" project
The Ministry of Health also provided funding for a project of support to persons in prostitution and those leaving it, as part of a public tender to co-finance health protection and promotion programmes in 2022. The project is aimed at people in prostitution who, due to their specific life circumstances, are not (yet) ready to cooperate with law enforcement authorities but need support. People were involved in continuous individual and group counselling activities.
In 2022, 11 persons were included in the programme implemented by the Association Ključ, specifically seven adult women (six Slovenian and one BiH citizen), one under-age girl (a citizen of Ukraine) and three adult men (two Slovenian and one Ukrainian citizen).