KOSOVO: Tier 2
The Government of Kosovo does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Kosovo remained on Tier 2. These efforts included revising the criminal code to reclassify all forced prostitution offenses as trafficking; appointing a regional prosecution coordinator for trafficking in western Kosovo; and conducting robust joint investigations and inspections. The judiciary reduced its overall case backlog and the Supreme Court adopted new sentencing guidelines in an effort to ensure that judges apply aggravating or mitigating factors correctly and equitably, including for trafficking cases. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government convicted fewer traffickers and identified fewer victims. Judges continued to impose weak sentences on convicted traffickers. The government decreased funding for NGO-run shelters for the fourth consecutive year, forcing NGOs to rely on foreign donors. First responders lacked guidance and proactive identification efforts for victims of forced begging, especially children.
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, and impose strong sentences. • Provide adequate and consistent funding for NGO-run shelters. • Designate trained prosecutors and judges in every region to handle trafficking cases. • Develop written guidance and enhance efforts to identify and assist children subjected to forced begging. • Continue providing advanced training to judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement on trafficking investigations and prosecutions. • Further reduce the judiciary’s backlog of cases, including trafficking cases. • Work with local authorities to strengthen victim protection in the northern municipalities. • Increase government support for comprehensive vocational training and reintegration services for victims. • Standardize data collection and create a database that disaggregate statistics for trafficking and trafficking-related prosecutions and convictions.
The government increased law enforcement efforts. Article 171 of the criminal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed punishments of five to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine for offenses involving adult victims and five to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine for offenses involving child victims. These punishments were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In November 2018, the government revised the criminal code to reclassify all forced prostitution offenses as trafficking and increased the minimum punishment for child trafficking from three years to five years. Authorities filed 12 criminal reports for trafficking (21 in 2017). Police arrested 22 suspects (28 in 2017) and seven additional suspects for “utilizing sexual services from a trafficking victim” (10 in 2017). The government prosecuted 34 for trafficking (27 in 2017). Courts convicted nine traffickers (29 in 2017) and convicted five perpetrators who “utilized sexual services from a trafficking victim” (one in 2017). Judges continued to issue sentences below the minimum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. Five traffickers received imprisonment between two and four years and a fine between €200 ($230) and €4,000 ($4,590), one trafficker received imprisonment of six months, and three traffickers received suspended sentences. Five perpetrators who “utilized sexual services from a trafficking victim” received imprisonment between four and six months or a fine between €1,800 ($2,060) and €3,600 ($4,130). Courts reduced the overall backlog of cases, including trafficking cases; 78 cases remained open from previous years (88 in 2017).
The Trafficking in Human Beings Directorate (THBD) within the Kosovo Police (KP) investigated all trafficking cases with its eight regional units. THBD maintained a unit in the northern municipalities, a region that was recently integrated into Kosovo’s judicial system. The Chief State Prosecutor’s Office (CSPO) continued to designate a special coordinator for trafficking and appointed a regional coordinator for trafficking in western Kosovo. THBD conducted joint investigations with prosecutors and social workers resulting in the temporary closure of 91 out of 214 investigated bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and massage parlors. Separately, THBD cooperated with the Labor Inspectorate to conduct 157 joint inspections of bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and massage parlors (153 in 2017). Observers reported the lack of trafficking training and experience among most prosecutors and judges resulted in weak sentences or cases downgraded to a lesser crime, especially cases involving emotional control or psychological coercion of a victim. The Supreme Court adopted new sentencing guidelines to ensure that judges applied aggravating or mitigating factors correctly and equitably, including for trafficking cases. Additionally, KP, especially border police, continued to not screen for and lacked guidance on when to classify forced begging of children by their parents as trafficking instead of as parental neglect or abuse.
CSPO trained judges and prosecutors and the KP training department, in cooperation with international organizations, held 44 training workshops (31 in 2017). The Justice Academy trained prosecutors, judges, and victim advocates on trafficking issues; however, many prosecutors trained under the Yugoslav criminal code required further training on the Kosovo criminal code. The government exchanged information with foreign governments on 21 trafficking cases (22 in 2017), conducted joint investigations with Albania and the Czech Republic, signed an extradition treaty with Turkey, and prepared to bring an extradition treaty with the United States into force. The government extradited one suspect to Albania. THBD, CSPO, and the KP Inspectorate cooperated to investigate government employees potentially complicit in trafficking offenses but did not report prosecutions or convictions. Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. In 2016, prosecutors indicted two police officers on separate cases of suspected abuse of an official position and sexual exploitation of trafficking victims. Trials were ongoing at the end of the reporting period. An appellate court affirmed four 2017 convictions against KP officers for sexual abuse of a trafficking victim and misuse of authority.
The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified 15 trafficking victims (32 in 2017). Of these, 11 were subjected to sex trafficking, two to forced labor, one to “slavery and servitude,” and one to domestic servitude through forced marriage (in 2017, 18 were subjected to sex trafficking, seven to forced labor, three to forced begging, and four to “slavery and servitude”). Twelve were children (19 in 2017); 14 were female and one male (29 were female and three were male in 2017); and 12 were from Kosovo, two from Albania, and one from the Czech Republic. First responders used standard indicators to screen vulnerable populations; however, observers reported a lack of guidance and proactive identification efforts for victims of forced begging, especially children. A multi-disciplinary national referral mechanism (NRM) provided standard operating procedures (SOPs) for identifying and referring victims to services. The NRM required an investigator from the THBD and a victim’s advocate from the Victim’s Assistance and Advocacy Office to convene and assess the victim as low-, medium-, or high-risk of danger and coordinate victim care and placement. SOPs required a social worker to attend for child victims. NGOs continued to report the NRM functioned well and highlighted good cooperation among actors.
The government licensed and partially funded two NGO-run shelters to provide services to victims, along with the state-run Interim Security Facility (ISF). These shelters provided legal assistance, medical, and psychological services, counseling, education, recreational services, and other rehabilitative support. Authorities afforded foreign victims the same rights and services as domestic victims. Victims also had access to nine Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MLSW) support facilities, but the government did not have a care facility in the country’s four northern municipalities. ISF temporarily accommodated victims assessed as high-risk. Authorities required victims to have a police escort outside of the ISF while court proceedings were ongoing and required an approval from a prosecutor and the KP for victims to permanently leave the ISF while assessed as high-risk. The facility had the capacity to shelter 40 individuals with separate rooms for females, males, and families. Victims stayed at the ISF for an average of 90 days before transferring to a NGO-run shelter. ISF accommodated 17 victims (35 victims in 2017). The two NGO-run shelters provided support services to victims assessed as low- to medium-risk; one of these NGO-run shelters was solely for children. Observers reported reintegration programs had limited success due to a lack of resources and high overall unemployment.
The government allocated €150,680 ($172,800) for victim protection compared to €152,870 ($175,310) in 2017. The government continued to decrease funds for NGO-run shelters, which received €70,680 ($81,060), compared to €72,870 ($83,570) in 2017, €91,010 ($104,370) in 2016, and €101,930 ($116,890) in 2015. ISF received €80,000 ($91,740) in 2017 and 2018. NGO-run shelters continued to report government funding was inadequate and operations could not continue without foreign donors. In 2018, MLSW required funding applications for eight-month periods, an increase over the six month duration from the previous year. While the government allocated emergency funds to cover the activities during funding gaps, NGOs reported funds were insufficient and sometimes interrupted programming. The law entitled foreign victims to a 30- to 90-day reflection period in which victims can recover before deciding whether to cooperate with law enforcement. The law entitled foreign victims to a temporary residence permit for at least six months; no foreign victims requested a permit (one in 2017). The government repatriated three victims (11 in 2017). All 15 victims participated in investigations and court proceedings (32 in 2017). The government reported suspected traffickers were not present when victims provided statements and foreign victims could return to their countries of origin after testifying without waiting for the conclusion of the trial. The law allowed compensation from the state if victims could not get restitution from their traffickers. No victims received compensation in 2018, compared to 2017 when the first trafficking victim was compensated with approximately €5,000 ($5,730).
The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons (NAATIP) coordinated interagency efforts and held monthly meetings to monitor the implementation of the 2015-2019 anti-trafficking national action plan (NAP). The government did not report the amount of funds allocated towards implementation of the NAP in 2016, 2017, or 2018, compared to €288,000 ($330,280) in 2015. NGOs reported strong cooperation with NAATIP and the national coordinator, including responsiveness to recommendations and concerns. Twenty-eight of 38 municipalities allocated funds to participate in an annual month-long campaign aimed at potential victims. The government, in cooperation with an NGO, produced a film on how traffickers recruit victims. The government-operated hotline for victims of domestic violence and other crimes received 929 calls (907 in 2017), including eight potential trafficking cases (seven in 2017). The government did not report efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.
As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Kosovo, and traffickers exploit victims from Kosovo abroad. Most victims are internally subjected to trafficking for sexual exploitation. Many sex trafficking victims in Kosovo are girls, although Kosovo criminal groups also force women from Albania, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, and other European countries into sex trafficking. Women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking in private homes and apartments, nightclubs, and massage parlors. Children from Kosovo, Albania, and other neighboring countries are forced to beg within the country. Traffickers subject Kosovo citizens to sex trafficking and forced labor throughout Europe. Marginalized Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities are vulnerable to forced begging and sex trafficking. Government corruption creates an environment that enables some trafficking crimes.