In Romania, only one victim of human trafficking was awarded compensation over a three-year period.
Victims have their names and addresses published on judicial websites making them even more vulnerable. Traffickers, however, can expect lenient sentences, Europe’s human rights watchdog says.
The Council of Europe’s human trafficking department on Thursday published a report assessing justice and effective remedies for trafficking victims human trafficking from 2016 to 2019.
It called on Romania to ensure that human trafficking offenses are sanctioned and victims of trafficking have access to compensation.
Germany, Italy, Spain, and Britain are the main countries of destination.
Romania amended trafficking laws in 2020 to increase the minimum penalty for trafficking in children. Authorities have adopted a new national strategy against human trafficking for 2018-2022.
The report welcomed the development. However, it noted that “a significant number” of sentences are suspended, and the use of plea bargaining means offenders can get their punishment reduced.
GRETA said that plea bargaining procedures should only be used “exceptionally” in such cases and trafficking offenses should result in “proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.”
The group said it was concerned that victims were rarely paid compensation because perpetrators’ assets haven’t been identified or frozen.
The number of victims identified by Romanian authorities has fallen over the years. A total of 2,613 victims were identified from 2016 to 2019. Three out of four were women and half of them children. Sexual exploitation remaining the most common purpose of trafficking.
Only one trafficking victim was given state compensation from 2016-2019, the report said.
We call on “Romanian authorities to make additional effort to guarantee access to compensation for victims, in particular by making full use of the legislation on the freezing of assets, simplifying the procedures to claim state compensation, and setting up a fund using assets confiscated from perpetrators.
The group said it was concerned by the practice of making names and addresses of victims of trafficking publicly available on judicial websites. It urged authorities to “effectively protect” victims and witnesses of trafficking and to prevent their intimidation during the investigations and court proceedings.
GRETA is an independent body composed of experts that monitor the way countries implement the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.