The government maintained insufficient protection efforts. The government did not screen or adequately identify victims among vulnerable populations, such as adults and children involved in commercial sex, children living in government-run institutions, foreign workers, and unaccompanied minors, including asylum-seekers. The government decree on the trafficking victim identification mechanism listed the institutions responsible for identifying victims, the questionnaire to be completed with suspected victims, and procedural protocols. Observers criticized the mechanism for lacking clarity and standards, granting wide discretion to identifying bodies, including the police, as well as a lack of widespread dissemination of the protocols among front-line responders. Law enforcement generally treated all persons accused of prostitution as criminals, charging them with related administrative penalties and misdemeanor offenses. Hungarian anti-trafficking law did not protect trafficking victims, including children, from inappropriate administrative or criminal penalties for crimes committed as a direct result of their trafficking; the general non-punishment provision for victims of crime did not apply to misdemeanors or administrative offenses and was not implemented for trafficking victims. The government consistently failed to implement a 2011 EU directive requiring authorities to treat individuals subjected to trafficking in prostitution as trafficking victims regardless of initial consent, and Hungarian law did not include a provision on the irrelevance of victim consent. Authorities penalized 67 children (88 children in 2016), including 66 girls and one boy, for prostitution offenses; 33 children received a warning, 26 received a fine, five received detention, two were sentenced to community service work, and one had property confiscated. The Hungarian ombudsman for fundamental rights reported in March 2018 that the penalization of 14- to 18-year-olds for prostitution violated children’s rights. The ombudsman recommended the interior minister consider amending the law to protect children under 18 years of age from punishment for prostitution, and that the national police review existing protocols on the handling of child trafficking for prostitution. The ombudsman also recommended that the government provide more efficient support and protection to child victims, and that it produce an action plan with dedicated government funding and targeted training for child protection experts.
The NBI trafficking unit did not report identifying any victims. In total, the government identified 33 victims, compared with 44 victims in 2016. Hungarian embassies identified nine victims, compared with 11 in 2016, but not all cases identified by embassies are reported through the system, making it difficult to compare numbers from year to year. The victim support service of the Office of Justice identified two victims, compared with nine in 2016. The victim support service provided 117,500 forint ($450) in financial aid for the two victims. The national crisis telephone information service (OKIT) provided support in 20 cases in connection with trafficking-related phone calls, involving 22 potential victims, compared with 23 in 2016. Eleven of the 22 victims received shelter. NGOs reported assisting approximately 66 trafficking victims, compared with 143 victims in 2016.
Victim assistance services remained scarce, uncoordinated, and inadequate, and exposed victims to the risk of re-victimization. All Hungarian and EU victims were eligible for government-provided financial support, psychological services, legal assistance, witness care, and shelter. The national referral mechanism did not apply to non-EU citizens without legal residence and did not provide a basis for funding services to these victims. The Ministry of Human Capacities (MHC) granted special approval to a government-funded NGO to provide services to non-EU national victims in a few cases when the NGO requested it. Experts criticized the government’s lack of harmonized guidelines on protective services for victims, noting the referral system was ineffective, and reported there was no consensus among the responsible ministries regarding protected placement options for third country national victims, regardless of residency. Hungarian and EU victims were eligible to receive services through two temporary shelters for up to six months, independent of a victim’s cooperation with law enforcement. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) established three new crime victim support centers to provide comprehensive services to victims of crime, including trafficking victims, such as customized psychological and emotional support and information on victims’ rights. The centers did not support any victims of trafficking as of the end of the reporting period. The government did not have a dedicated program to provide return and reintegration assistance for Hungarian victims identified abroad. Experts noted services for long-term reintegration were lacking. No victims received state-ordered restitution or compensation.
The government lacked a framework for identifying, referring, or assisting child victims other than the general child protection system and state-run homes, but this system had insufficient staff and resources to provide appropriate care or security, leaving victims vulnerable to re-trafficking. The government-funded specialized services for eight minor female trafficking victims in a correctional facility. Experts criticized the chronic lack of assistance and specialized shelters for child trafficking victims. Children in state-run homes or orphanages were vulnerable to trafficking, both while living in the home and upon their required departure at age 18. Observers reported the government did not provide specialized services for child victims in state-run homes, which they described as “prison-like.” In 2016, the MHC set up an expert working group, comprising NGO and government representatives, to focus on research, protection, prevention, and victim assistance regarding child sex trafficking in state care institutions; the group produced an assessment with recommendations in May 2017, which was distributed among the NGOs in the working group but not published. The government reported unaccompanied minors under 14 years old could be removed from transit zones and placed in a children’s home in Fot, which did not offer specialized services for victims. The government planned to close the home in 2018 and did not report alternative accommodation for unaccompanied minors in the facility; media reports indicated authorities would transfer the children to a closed juvenile correctional facility. Unaccompanied minors between the ages of 14 and 18 could not leave the transit zone or be referred to the home in Fot until their asylum applications were approved.
The government provided 21.9 million forint ($84,740), compared to 19 million forint ($73,520) in 2016, in the form of one-year grants to one NGO to run two temporary shelters that could assist eight victims each with accommodation, psycho-social, and legal support. The NGO reported providing services for 20 victims (64 in 2016 and 62 in 2015), including one minor, as well as 12 dependent children and one adult relative. Authorities provided 5.4 million forint ($20,890), compared to 2 million forint ($7,740) in 2016, to another NGO to support its shelters providing services to trafficking victims. The government provided 6 million forint ($23,220) to an NGO to implement a trafficking prevention and training program for vulnerable children in two juvenile correctional centers in 2018. The MOJ subsidized two NGOs that assist crime victims, including trafficking victims, with 24.7 million forint ($95,570), compared to 76.6 million forint ($296,380) in 2016. There was a severe lack of funding for victim services.
Foreign victims could receive a 30-day reflection period to decide whether to assist law enforcement, during which they were eligible for a certificate of temporary stay. Victims who cooperated with authorities were entitled to a residence permit for the duration of their cooperation. The government did not issue any temporary residence permits, permanent residence permits, or exemptions from deportation for trafficking victims during the reporting period. NGOs remained concerned about inadequate government protection for victims who testified against traffickers; no victims assisted in an investigation or prosecution or participated in the witness protection program during the reporting period.