The government increased victim identification but did not adequately screen vulnerable populations or provide adequate resources for victim services. The government reported 81 registered trafficking victims, a significant increase from 30 in 2018 and 33 in 2017. The government decree on the trafficking victim identification mechanism, which established the NRM, regulated the identification and referral of victims to assistance. The mechanism listed the authorities responsible for identifying victims, such as police, border guards, and health professionals; the questionnaire to be completed with suspected victims; and procedural protocols. Observers criticized the mechanism for lacking clarity and standards, for granting wide discretion to front-line officials, including the police, as well as for a lack of widespread dissemination of the protocols among officials. Furthermore, experts expressed concern that the decree did not apply to foreign victims without legal residence and criticized the government for not having an adequate referral mechanism in the transit zones. Subsequently, the immigration and asylum office did not identify any victims among third-country nationals, including asylum-seekers in the transit zones. NGOs had a minimal presence in the transit zones and did not have a formal role in the identification process. Experts reported that conditions in the transit zones were not conducive to creating an atmosphere of trust that would make it possible for victims to come forward and the persistence of collective expulsions conducted without pre-removal risk assessments. Additionally, experts expressed profound concern about children, including unaccompanied minors, in the transit zones. Unaccompanied minors younger than 14 years old were removed from the transit zones but did not have access to specialized services; children, including potential victims, between the ages of 14-18 could not leave the transit zones unless the government approved their asylum application. Experts also expressed concern about the lack of efforts made to identify trafficking victims among asylum-seekers and irregular migrants in Hungary. Overall, the government did not screen or adequately identify victims among vulnerable populations, such as asylum-seekers, unaccompanied minors, adults and children exploited in commercial sex, children living in government-run institutions, domestic workers, and foreign workers. In 2019, the government developed and distributed a handbook to assist front-line professionals in the identification and referral process for potential trafficking victims. According to NGOs, identification, referral, and assistance took place on an ad hoc basis, and NGOs and social service providers mainly based the process on their personal networks and connections. NGOs expressed the need for the government to allocate more effectively its resources, particularly in the identification and referral of victims. They also continued to criticize the lack of dedicated state funding for victims’ assistance services.
Victim assistance services remained scarce, uncoordinated, and inadequate, and they 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. In 2019, NGOs reported assisting 58 trafficking victims (79 in 2018 and 66 in 2017)—29 adult females, 13 adult males, and 16 children. Forty-one of the adult victims were Hungarian citizens, and one was a foreign citizen. While the NRM did not apply to foreign victims without legal residence, the government granted ad hoc approval to a government-funded NGO to provide services, such as financial support, shelter, and health care, in cases when the NGO requested it; the government did not report the number of cases in 2019. 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 for up to six months. Those who cooperated with authorities were entitled to a residence permit for the duration of their cooperation. The government did not report issuing any temporary residence permits, permanent residence permits, or exemptions from deportation for trafficking victims in 2018 or 2019.
At the end of the reporting period, the government passed anti-trafficking amendments to the criminal code, which included a non-punishment provision establishing that child trafficking victims not be penalized for committing offenses relating to offering sexual services. The amendments also included a general protection measure provision, which authorized police to place child trafficking victims in designated shelters for up to 60 days. These amendments will take effect in July 2020. Perennial issues persisted with protecting and providing assistance to child trafficking victims. The government lacked a framework for identifying, referring, or assisting child victims other than the general child protection system and state-run homes, which had insufficient staff and resources to provide appropriate care or security, leaving victims at risk for re-trafficking. Some experts criticized the chronic lack of assistance and dedicated shelters for child victims and specialized services in state-run homes. Children in state-run homes or orphanages were vulnerable to trafficking, both while living in the homes and upon their required departure at age 18. EU and national requirements required child protection institutions and state-run homes to report all suspected cases of children exploited in sex trafficking; however, some law enforcement treated such children as criminals rather than victims. Law enforcement reportedly treated many persons accused of prostitution, including children, as criminals, charging them with related administrative penalties and misdemeanor offenses. The government often did not implement a 2011 EU directive requiring authorities to treat individuals subjected to sex trafficking as trafficking victims regardless of victim consent—according to the government decree, authorities required victims’ written consent for identification and access to assistance. Some experts said police generally did not understand that people in commercial sex were vulnerable to trafficking or that the non-punishment provision for crime victims could apply to them; police rarely screened prostitution case defendants, including children, for trafficking indicators. In 2019, authorities penalized 30 children (54 in 2018, 67 in 2017), all of whom were girls, for prostitution offenses; 21 children received a warning, one received a fine, two received detention in a penitentiary, and six received community service. Experts questioned the accuracy of government data on child detention and estimated authorities held more than 200 children per year in detention for prostitution-related offenses. In 2019, the government gave an NGO 5.6 million forint ($19,030) to assist child sex trafficking victims and conduct prevention activities for vulnerable children in three state-run children’s homes, compared with five million forint ($16,990) in 2018 and 5.9 million forint ($20,050) in 2017.
The government allocated 24.3 million forint ($82,570), the same amount as in 2018, compared with 21.9 million forint ($74,420) in 2017, to an NGO operating two temporary shelters. Both shelters could accommodate up to 12 adult victims each with accommodation, transport, psycho-social support, and legal information; 15 victims received accommodation in 2019 (31 in 2018, 20 in 2017). Additionally, the government allocated 24 million forint ($81,550), an increase from eight million forint ($27,180) in 2018, to operate four halfway houses that could assist four victims each with reintegration services. The government also provided 80 million forint ($271,840) to another NGO for the establishment of a new temporary shelter projected to open in 2020 that could assist four victims and an additional 15 million forint ($50,970) for equipment purchases. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) victim support service provided financial aid, certificates of victim status, and witness care, if the government initiated criminal proceedings against the perpetrator. The government provided 338,230 forints ($1,150) in financial aid to six victims, an increase from 43,000 forints ($150) to one victim in 2018. The MOJ signed a public service contract in 2019 with an NGO to operate three victim support centers and assist the victim support line, with 115.2 million forints ($391,450) for 2019 operations. The centers, designed to provide services such as customized psychological and emotional support and information on victims’ rights did not report assisting any victims in 2019, compared with six in 2018. Experts criticized the centers for deficiencies in applying a multidisciplinary approach and for lacking means to provide comprehensive services, including accommodation, or a process for monitoring and evaluation. In 2019, the government repatriated four child trafficking victims and one adult victim. The government did not have a dedicated program to provide return and reintegration assistance for Hungarian victims identified abroad. No victims received state-ordered restitution or compensation.