The government increased prevention efforts. During the reporting period, the government institutionalized its anti-trafficking committee, composed of government and civil society, under the Prime Minister’s Office, elevating the trafficking portfolio and mandating inclusion of civil society in a government committee. The Department for Community Social Responsibility and Vulnerable Groups within the Prime Minister’s Office managed the committee and monitored the implementation of the 2021-2022 NAP as part of the 2018-2022 national strategy. The NAP assigned financial and operational responsibility to various government agencies and ministries, which allocated approximately 30.28 million RON ($6.5 million) toward proposed activities in 2022. In addition to the NAP, the government also implemented the emergency ordinance and action plan for improving investigations of crimes against children, including trafficking, and assistance to vulnerable children and other at-risk populations. The ordinance established a missing child alert system and a national hotline focused on consolidating the government’s capacity to identify child abuse, including trafficking. ANITP continued to publish yearly reports with information on trends, statistics, and efforts to combat trafficking and organized several awareness campaigns and educational projects, including one on trafficking risks, targeting different social and professional groups. In 2022, ANITP organized a session with embassy representatives of main destination countries for Romanian trafficking victims, including Austria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK to discuss Romania’s national anti-trafficking system and procedures for the identification and referral of victims. Additionally, Romanian diplomatic missions engaged with Austrian, British, and Spanish government officials to exchange best practices on countering trafficking, develop opportunities for bilateral cooperation, and explore ways to better assist victims. Romanian and UK officials continued to develop strategic approaches on combating trafficking, including a project bringing together prevention efforts, victim protection, and prosecuting criminals. ANITP managed a 24-hour hotline and staffed an operator only during regular business hours. The hotline provided services in Romanian and English and primarily focused on informing Romanians about working abroad safely. The hotline received 20 calls that led to criminal investigations (16 in 2021). The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts by investigating seven individuals suspected of purchasing commercial sex from trafficking victims, including children. In addition, the government conducted awareness campaigns focused on reducing vulnerability and discouraging demand for commercial sex, including a joint social media campaign, targeting purchasers and service industry employees, with Spain.
In 2022, the government amended legislation requiring foreigners with work permits, who worked less than a year for an employer, to obtain a written consent from that employer to change jobs. This requirement did not apply if the employer terminated the employee, both parties agreed to terminate the employment contract, or the employer did not honor the contract. Romanian law also required employers of foreign workers to submit applications for work permits and the General Inspectorate for Immigration to issue work permits within 30 to 45 days of receiving an application. Before issuing work permits, the inspectorate verified job offers and employers’ profiles to prevent fraud. Observers expressed concern that the requirements for employers to provide written consent and submit work permit applications left foreign workers vulnerable to abuse, including trafficking, and sometimes working without appropriate documentation because work permits were a requirement for obtaining or extending residence permits. Observers also reported the government tolerated practices through which employers confiscated foreign workers’ residence permits and travel documents to limit their freedom and facilitate potential deportations. Over the past several years, to overcome labor shortages, the country gradually increased the number of non-EU migrants allowed to work in Romania. In 2022, the government approved an admission quota of 100,000 migrant workers, up from 50,000 in 2021, most of whom worked in the construction and hospitality industries and were at particular risk of trafficking because the lack of access to information in their native language and deceptive employment practices. To raise awareness about Romanian employment practices and trafficking among foreign workers, the government organized a learning session with embassy representatives of countries of origin, including Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. Additionally, throughout 2022, the government conducted multiple awareness campaigns on labor trafficking risks among foreigners seeking employment in Romania and Romanians seeking jobs abroad.
In 2022, the government enacted legislative amendments protecting Romanian citizens working abroad by more broadly defining temporary and seasonal workers, clarifying workers’ rights, regulating recruiting agencies, and increasing fines for labor law violations. According to an official, enforcement, however, remained the biggest hurdle to improving protections for Romanian workers abroad. The law prohibited Romania-based recruitment companies from charging recruitment fees and facilitating the exploitation of citizens abroad; violations were considered a misdemeanor and punishable by a civil fine. Experts noted a continued lack of awareness about labor trafficking among stakeholders and insufficient attention to identifying cases among labor law violations. According to NGOs, police remained unresponsive to some reports of labor trafficking, and labor inspectors lacked the competency for detecting trafficking and the legal authority for unannounced inspections to several categories of worksites. In November 2022, ANITP trained labor inspectors on the new NRM and associated responsibilities as it relates to labor trafficking. ANDPDCA monitored and coordinated all programs for the prevention and elimination of child labor and investigated child labor abuse reports, some of which may have been forced child labor. The government did not effectively enforce child labor laws, especially in rural areas and where social welfare services lacked personnel and capacity to address violations. Observers believed incidents of child labor were much higher than official statistics indicated.
According to the minister of foreign affairs, nearly 3.5 million refugees entered Romania since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In response, the government adopted several measures to combat trafficking, including developing procedures for identifying and reporting trafficking cases, particularly among unaccompanied, foreign, or stateless children; disseminating information on trafficking indicators to first responders providing assistance to refugees; and conducting awareness campaigns in Ukrainian at border crossing points, asylum centers, and accommodation centers. In collaboration with UNICEF, ANDPDCA developed a computer application to register all children arriving from Ukraine, which included mandatory child trafficking screenings. As of December 2022, the government registered 15,480 children from Ukraine but had not identified any child trafficking victims among that population. The government established procedures for the registration, transit, residency status, and protection of vulnerable children and helped UNICEF and UNHCR establish eight Blue Dot Centers – safe centers installed at border crossing points that provided children and families with essential information and services on a range of issues including education, psycho-social support, referrals to health care, and legal support. To prevent and identify potential trafficking, MOI performed daily safety checks at places of accommodation, and police established traffic checkpoints inspecting Ukraine-registered vehicles. In addition, the government established a working group and developed an action plan for refugees on the prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse, and trafficking. Other prevention measures included awareness campaigns, a dedicated helpline for refugees, and a referral mechanism developed by ANITP and civil society. Furthermore, the government also set up and continuously updated an official online platform with all information on the rights and services available for refugees, including information specifically for children and potential trafficking victims. Separately, according to Border Police, asylum-seekers continued to arrive in Romania through the southwestern border with Serbia. Observers criticized the government for violent pushbacks of asylum-seekers and migrants into Serbia, a practice that potentially increased trafficking risks, exacerbated distrust of foreign officials, and disallowed for the reporting of any exploitation experienced.
from 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report – U.S. Department of State
2023 Trafficking in Persons Report – United States Department of State