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2017-2021 ARCHIVED CONTENT

You are viewing ARCHIVED CONTENT released online from January 20, 2017 to January 20, 2021.

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CZECH REPUBLIC: Tier 1

The Government of the Czech Republic fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore Czech Republic remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by increasing convictions, providing comprehensive care for victims, and successfully encouraging victim cooperation with law enforcement. Although the government meets the minimum standards, judges and prosecutors continued to enforce trafficking legislation unevenly and sometimes prosecuted trafficking crimes under the pimping statute when they involved initial victim consent. In some cases, the courts suspended the sentences of convicted traffickers, weakening the deterrent effect of the penalties. The government identified fewer trafficking victims, and labor inspectors remained underutilized in victim identification efforts.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CZECH REPUBLIC

Vigorously investigate both sex and labor trafficking, particularly at the regional level; prosecute suspected offenders of both sex and labor trafficking, using the anti-trafficking statute, and imprison convicted traffickers; increase training for prosecutors and judges on the severity of the crime and on applying the anti-trafficking statute to protect victims and ensure convictions result in proportionate and dissuasive sentences; train prosecutors and judges on the irrelevance of a victim’s initial consent when proving a trafficking crime; improve law enforcement data collection efforts, including by disaggregating sex and labor trafficking case data and report victim data more accurately; expand authority of labor inspectors to go beyond inspection of labor documents when investigating trafficking; increase specialized case management services for children and streamline procedures for identification of child victims; enhance collaboration between the labor inspectorate and police on investigating potential labor trafficking cases; improve victims’ ability to access court-ordered restitution; and train first responders, including labor inspectors, police, and state contracting officers, on sex and labor trafficking victim identification criteria and on evolving trends in labor trafficking.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Section 168 of the criminal code criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed punishments from two to 10 years imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government prosecuted some sex trafficking offenses as pimping crimes under sections 189 and 204 of the criminal code when the case involved the initial consent of a victim; this application of the law was inconsistent with its commitments under Directive 2011/36/EU, the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, and the Palermo Protocol. Section 189 prescribed penalties ranging from six months to four years imprisonment, a ban on business activities, or a sentence of forfeiture of property, which were significantly lower than the penalties prescribed under section 168.

In 2017, police initiated 16 trafficking investigations (22 in 2016), including investigating three minors for trafficking crimes. Authorities prosecuted 16 defendants under section 168 in 2017, compared with 19 in 2016. In 2017, the courts convicted eight for sex trafficking and one for labor trafficking (eight total convictions in 2016 and 19 in 2015); all perpetrators were Czech. Courts sentenced six traffickers to prison ranging from five- to eight-year terms. Judges fully suspended the sentences of three convicted traffickers (one for one year imprisonment and two for two years imprisonment). The government investigated 42 individuals for pimping; it was not clear whether any of these involved sex trafficking crimes. Courts sentenced 23 perpetrators of pimping to suspended sentences (21 under section 189 and two under section 204), and from these 23 cases, reported identifying 13 victims. The government seized 630,000 koruna ($30,170) in assets from suspected traffickers, comparable to 730,000 koruna ($34,950) seized in 2016. Authorities collaborated with foreign governments on one transnational investigation. The Labor and Social Affairs Ministry (MLSA) began an investigation into labor practices at massage parlors that employ Thai workers, after the Thai embassy reported two Thai employees were not paid the promised amount, a trafficking indicator. The government trained more than 250 law enforcement officials, labor inspectors, prosecutors, and judges involved in investigating and prosecuting human trafficking crimes, on par with training efforts in 2016.

The organized crime branch of the police was the lead investigative agency for trafficking; regional police were responsible for smaller-scale cases. Regional police directorates generally chose to devote their limited resources to fighting other types of crime, especially crimes deemed easier to solve and providing a greater opportunity for successful prosecution. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) released an updated manual in March 2018 to assist with victim identification. In 2017, the national labor inspectorate identified approximately 2,900 illegally employed persons, but did not identify any trafficking victims. Officials cited limited authority of labor inspectors to go beyond inspection of labor documents. Authorities reported the need for better collaboration between regional police and labor inspectors, as well as enhanced training for inspectors on labor trafficking indicators. Observers reported prosecutors and judges pursued trafficking cases unevenly due to lack of familiarity with the elements of the crime, unfamiliarity with obligations under international law regarding the irrelevance of victim consent, and a preference to prosecute traffickers for non-trafficking crimes to increase the likelihood of conviction, since Czech law did not allow prosecutors to prosecute under multiple statutes. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses.

PROTECTION

The government maintained victim protection efforts. Police identified 14 victims during the reporting period (38 victims in 2016, 92 victims in 2015, and 67 in 2014), including 10 minor victims, but the police may not have reported the accurate number of victims they identified since Czech law did not require reporting on victims. The government did not officially recognize victims who did not participate in the MOI’s victim assistance program and did not include them in official statistics. The MOI reported 24 new victims (17 labor trafficking and seven sex trafficking) in the program for victim services (14 victims in 2016, four in 2015, and 43 in 2014). Of the victims in the program, nine were Czech, five Ukrainian, five Moldovan, two Filipino, one Slovak, one Nigerien, and one Vietnamese. In 2017, government-funded NGOs provided services to 137 potential victims, compared to 139 in 2016.

The MOI program, which was administered by an NGO, was available to both foreign and Czech adult victims of sex and labor trafficking regardless of their legal status and required victims cooperate with law enforcement if they want to stay in the program after 60 days of support, unless subject to a serious health issue. Victims willing to cooperate with law enforcement, even in situations where law enforcement did not pursue a case, could enter the program and be eligible for long-term residency. The government provided medical care, psychological and crisis counseling, housing, legal representation, vocational training, and other specialized services to victims in the program. Victims could voluntarily withdraw from the program at any time. Victims unwilling to cooperate with law enforcement were eligible to access MLSA-funded welfare benefits, including housing, in-person and telephone crisis help, social counseling and rehabilitation, a drop-in center for children and youth, and social services for families with children. The MOI-funded NGO managed these benefits for trafficking victims. Only legal residents could access the welfare program, but NGOs could provide most of the services anonymously; therefore, legal status was not usually a limitation for support. Although there was a unique national referral mechanism for child and youth victims, observers reported identification procedures were insufficient. Municipal-level offices of the department of social and legal protection of children made decisions to place children with an institution or NGO based on their specific needs. Child victims received MLSA-funded welfare benefits, such as shelter, food, clothing, and medical and psychological counseling. During legal proceedings, victims were eligible to receive a free legal advocate and, in egregious sex trafficking cases, the option to choose the gender of the judge. A witness protection law allowed the government to conceal the identity of the witness, provide a new identity to the victim, and assign bodyguards. Police offered short-term protection, including physical protection, use of safe houses, and security monitoring, to potential witnesses; the government did not report whether any victim received protection during the reporting period.

The MOI funded the cost for the victim assistance program, which included funding for voluntary returns. In 2017, the MOI allocated approximately 1.65 million koruna ($79,000), compared to 1.2 million koruna ($57,460) allocated in 2016. An international organization used some of this funding to repatriate six victims. Observers commended the government for funding the repatriation of Czech victims and foreigners, but reported government funding for voluntary returns was insufficient given the demand. The MLSA provided an additional 27.5 million koruna ($1.3 million) to support the integration of foreigners and victims of trafficking, which included funding for welfare benefits provided by NGOs to trafficking victims not in the MOI program. Some experts noted a lack of funding for victim housing, especially female victims with more than one child.

Authorities provided victims with a 60-day reflection period, during which victims received care and determined whether to cooperate with law enforcement; victims with a medically recognized disability, including trauma, received an additional 30 days. Under the law, victims could not be deported, arrested, or fined for offenses that were committed as a result of being trafficked, such as previous illegal stays in the country, current overstays, or false documents, during this period. Foreign victims accepted into the victim care program by MOI’s crime prevention department could receive temporary residence and work visas for the duration of relevant legal proceedings. Upon conclusion of court proceedings, victims could apply for long-term residency; no new victims received long-term residency in 2017, compared with one victim in 2016 and none in 2015.

Some experts criticized the Refugee Facility Administration (RFA) for charging a daily fee to some migrants for stays in transit zones; such fees increase the vulnerability of potential victims. The RFA implemented a system where potential victims identified in an entrance interview for asylum-seekers were removed from the transit zone and referred to NGOs for services; the RFA did not report identifying any victims in the transit zones.

Victims had the legal option of seeking court-ordered compensation from their traffickers in both civil and criminal proceedings, although such restitution was rare as victims often feared retribution from their traffickers during criminal cases and could not afford attorney fees for a civil suit. To seek civil damages, the law required a finding of criminal misconduct against the defendant. The government did not report any victims who received compensation in 2016 or 2017. NGOs reported concern about potential trafficking victims in custody, but there were no reports the government penalized identified victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.

PREVENTION

The government maintained prevention efforts. The MOI chaired an inter-ministerial body that coordinated national efforts and implemented the 2016-2019 national strategy. A unit in the MOI served as the national rapporteur and prepared a comprehensive annual report on patterns and programs, which it released publicly. The government continued to fund an NGO-run hotline to identify victims of trafficking and domestic violence, which operated six hours per day on weekdays. The law did not criminalize confiscation of workers’ passports. MOI funds from the 1.65 million koruna ($79,000) for the victim assistance program were available for prevention campaigns and field work; the government-funded NGOs to conduct a public awareness campaign targeted at individuals vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation, which involved leaflets distributed on public transit and advertisements posted in subway stations. Regulations imposed on employment agencies recruiting short-term labor from abroad helped reduce vulnerabilities to trafficking; however, they did not prevent unregistered agencies from luring victims from overseas, or registered agencies from engaging in trafficking of victims within Czech Republic. To increase foreign workers’ awareness of their rights, the MLSA and the labor inspection office websites published information in multiple languages about laws governing the employment of foreigners. In cooperation with the Thai embassy, the MLSA conducted a training on labor rights for Thai nationals working in massage parlors.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, Czech Republic is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and a source, transit, and destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor. Women, girls, and boys from Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Vietnam are subjected to sex trafficking in Czech Republic and also transit through Czech Republic to other European countries where they are subjected to sex trafficking. Men and women from Czech Republic, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Mongolia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, and Vietnam are subjected to forced labor in Czech Republic, typically through debt bondage, in the construction, agricultural, forestry, manufacturing, and service sectors, including in domestic work. They may also transit through Czech Republic to other countries in Europe where they are exploited. Most identified victims in the country are Czech, although law enforcement reported an increase in EU victims. Romani women from Czech Republic are subjected to forced prostitution and forced labor internally and in destination countries, including the UK. Most traffickers are Czech citizens, and foreign traffickers often recruit victims from their own home countries and work in cooperation with local Czech citizens. Law enforcement report an increase in “marriages of convenience” between Czech women and non-EU men that involve sex trafficking. Private, unregistered labor agencies often used deceptive practices to recruit workers from abroad as well as from inside the country.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future