Protection against human trafficking in Romania (TIP 2023)

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The government slightly increased protection efforts.  In 2022, the government approved a new NRM for identifying and referring trafficking victims, which civil society and the Prime Minister’s Office jointly developed.  The NRM mandated specialized police, border guards, medical professionals, social workers, teachers, civil society, and other law enforcement bodies to proactively screen potential victims and follow expanded procedures for victim identification and referral.  The government identified 492 victims (336 victims sex trafficking, 73 labor trafficking, 83 unspecified forms of trafficking), compared with 488 in 2021 and 596 in 2020.  Of the 492 victims, 233 were children (nearly 50 percent), and 153 were girl sex trafficking victims.  The vast majority of identified victims were Romanian citizens of which 287 were exploited in country and 203 were exploited in Western Europe.  Authorities identified two foreign victims (one in 2021), but observers estimated there were numerous unidentified foreign victims, particularly among asylum-seekers.  NGOs reported authorities did not screen asylum-seekers and migrants for trafficking indicators and were reluctant to identify them because of the significant time and resources that an investigation would entail.  The General Inspectorate for Immigration maintained procedures for identifying victims among asylum-seekers and migrants and referring those victims to the National Agency against Trafficking in Persons (ANITP), the government’s lead agency for coordinating anti-trafficking efforts.  Authorities lacked specialized training on the psychological trauma of trafficking on victims, which hindered their ability to correctly identify potential victimization among individuals in commercial sex.  According to NGOs, authorities continued to fine persons in commercial sex without screening for trafficking indicators.  However, authorities typically dropped charges or fines once investigators and prosecutors realized a suspect was a trafficking victim.  Victims could also challenge fines after they were identified.  Authorities identified most victims after a criminal investigation started and not through proactive screening or other victim identification efforts.  After identification, authorities informed victims of the services available to them and subsequently referred adult victims to ANITP and child victims to CPS for assistance.

Victims were not required to participate in criminal proceedings to access assistance.  However, civil society reported in practice it was nearly impossible for victims to be identified or receive any government-supported assistance unless they participated in criminal proceedings.  In 2022, of the 492 identified victims, authorities referred 227 to assistance, but only 180 (37 percent) received assistance from government-supported NGOs, compared with 313 victims (64 percent) in 2021.  Observers recommended assigning advocates to help victims understand their rights and navigate the assistance system.  The government provided psychological counseling, legal assistance, and career counseling to domestic and foreign victims.  Victims received protection and assistance services in government-run facilities for victims of crime, including trafficking, and in NGO-run trafficking facilitates and shelters.  The government maintained a limited number of government-run shelters designated for vulnerable adults, including trafficking victims.  Authorities placed child victims in specialized facilities for child trafficking victims, general child facilities, or facilities for children with disabilities run by CPS.  County-level CPS provided services for child trafficking victims, which included emergency accommodation, counseling, social and psychological assessment, and other types of services.  CPS in each county received some funding from local governments to maintain multi-disciplinary teams composed of social workers, psychologists, legal advisors, and pediatricians who were responsible for advising case managers and conducting prevention activities.  In 2022, the government continued to establish these teams across the country, and, by the end of the reporting period, all counties had a multi-disciplinary team that could provide support to trafficking victims, including some adult victims.  NGOs reported county-level CPS did not have adequate expertise in trafficking or resources to provide quality care.  In an effort to provide consistent quality care to all child victims, the law required minimum standards of assistance for child victims of crime, including trafficking.  Under the law, licensed service providers offering shelter and assistance to identified child victims followed a set of specific requirements, including providing safe environments, specialized psychological counseling, and visitations with families.  The law also required local governments to include training programs for staff involved in providing services to child victims of crimes, including trafficking, in their annual budget requests.  Nonetheless, perennial problems of abuse and neglect of children in government-run institutions, coupled with the lack of proactive identification and assistance in government facilities, left children in placement centers vulnerable to trafficking.  Experts reported CPS employees who oversaw children in government-run institutions not only neglected to prevent trafficking, but were sometimes complicit in the trafficking.  Observers reported local government institutions were reluctant to intervene when underage Roma girls were “sold” into marriage, hindering authorities’ ability to correctly identify victims among this vulnerable group.  Furthermore, a senior government official claimed “cultural traditions” made it difficult for the government to address trafficking concerns among Roma children.

Government funding for NGO assistance and protection services remained limited.  While the government relied on NGOs to accommodate and assist victims, it did not allocate grants directly to NGOs due to legislation precluding direct funding and NGOs’ lack of necessary licensing.  The government answered civil society’s call for a funding mechanism for service providers and other NGOs by establishing a program authorizing funding at the local level to an NGO for victim services; however, no NGOs were able to take advantage of the program, which required a license.  According to several NGOs, obtaining the necessary license entailed complying with unrealistic standards, such as requiring NGOs to divulge personal information about victims and burdensome bureaucratic procedures.  NGOs noted complying with such standards required additional work that would limit their ability to perform their core missions; thus, they preferred to operate without such a license and seek non-governmental funding.  NGOs emphasized the need for an updated licensing mechanism for service providers and a more flexible funding mechanism in the anti-trafficking space.

NGOs continued to report the quality of care was overall inadequate, especially medical services and psychological counseling.  Despite Romanian law entitling all victims to psychological and medical care, the government did not provide more than one mental health counseling session or finance medical care costs.  Moreover, access to medical care required Romanian victims to return to their home districts to obtain identification documents; the process presented logistical and financial hurdles for many trafficking victims.  The government maintained a working group on increasing the quality of medical assistance for trafficking victims, composed of public and private health care providers and Ministry of Health officials, and created an action plan for providing tailored medical services to trafficking victims and training medical service providers to identify victims.

Reports of victim intimidation during and after court proceedings persisted.  NGOs reported many courts did not impose sanctions on traffickers’ lawyers when they harassed and mocked the victims during proceedings.  Judges relied heavily on the victim’s in-person testimony, preferably in front of the trafficker, but, in 2022, judges heard two victims under a special pre-trial procedure to mitigate re-traumatization.  To also mitigate re-traumatization, prosecutors conducted extensive initial hearings and argued against requests for confrontation made by defendants.  In 2022, the government operationalized 42 private hearing rooms for child victims of crime, approved an action plan to standardize child-friendly questioning methodologies, and trained police on interacting with child victims.  In 2022, the government provided physical protection and transportation services to 343 trafficking victims who participated in criminal proceedings and included three victims in a witness protection program.  While the government offered free legal aid to victims, court-appointed lawyers often lacked experience working with trafficking victims; in 2022, the government continued to work with the National Bar Association to develop a program creating a pool of lawyers available to work with trafficking victims and providing those lawyers with access to trafficking laws and information.  Furthermore, court appointed lawyers were not aware of the special laws on compensation for trafficking victims and did not inform victims who could unknowingly renounce compensation claims during proceedings.  The law allowed trafficking victims to receive restitution from their trafficker in a criminal case, file a civil suit against the trafficker, or receive compensation from the government.  If victims did not obtain restitution in court, the government could reimburse them for expenses related to hospitalization, material damage caused by the traffickers, and lost income.  In the event traffickers’ assets were not seized but a guilty verdict was reached, the government could pay material damages for documented expenses such as medical bills.  Throughout 2022, courts ordered restitution to 86 victims, totaling €490,800 ($524,360) and 764,000 RON ($165,120).  Romanian law permitted foreign victims who cooperated with authorities to receive a renewable, six-month temporary residence permit and entitled them to the same benefits as Romanian citizens.  Additionally, the law granted asylum-seekers the right to work after three months and permitted foreign victims “tolerated status” for up to six months.  However, foreigners with “tolerated status” were not entitled to victim services, had no legal right to stay in Romania, had their movements restricted under certain circumstances, and could not depart the country for selected reasons, such as participation in criminal proceedings.  According to NGOs, non-EU foreign labor trafficking victims were not protected from receiving “tolerated status” even after being identified and while participating in criminal proceedings.

from 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report – U.S. Department of State

2023 Trafficking in Persons Report – United States Department of State

Prevention of human trafficking in Romania (TIP 2023)

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