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Hungary must ramp up anti-trafficking efforts, says GRETA

Hungarian authorities must step up efforts to prevent child trafficking, by sensitizing and training staff working with children and raising awareness of trafficking and online safety among children, the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) says in its latest report.

The report calls on Hungary to repeal legislation that imposes fines, and even prison sentences, for children engaged in prostitution. It calls on the police to consider 14-18-year-olds engaged in prostitution as possible trafficking victims instead of offenders.

GRETA also calls on the Hungarian authorities to better identify potential trafficking victims among migrants and asylum seekers, including in transit zones.

Since its last report on Hungary, GRETA welcomes the extension of professional groups that can officially identify victims of trafficking, including victim support services and probation and legal aid services. At the same time, it calls on the Hungarian authorities to take further efforts to proactively identify victims of trafficking, including among migrants and asylum seekers, and to strengthen labor inspections in at-risk sectors.

The report also urges authorities to provide proper assistance for trafficking victims, and to ensure that the assistance envisaged in law for victims is guaranteed in practice, regardless of their migration status. Legislation criminalizing the promotion and facilitation of irregular migration should not be applied in a way that would prevent NGOs from assisting trafficking victims, it adds.

GRETA also states that specialized anti-trafficking NGOs should not be prohibited from entering areas close to Hungary’s border, making it impossible for them to identify or assist trafficking victims in transit zones.

Proactive investigations

The report also calls for proactive investigations of cases of human trafficking by law enforcement, including trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation. It says that there is a need for more training for police officers and prosecutors to ensure that human trafficking investigations or charges are not re-qualified into other offences which carry lighter penalties and deprive victims of access to protection, support and compensation.

In addition, GRETA says that Hungarian authorities should ensure that victims of trafficking are systematically informed of their right to legal aid and enabled to exercise their right to compensation, regardless of their nationality or immigration status.

On the other hand, GRETA also notes progress in Hungary since its first report in 2015. The Ministry of Justice has established new support centers for victims of crime, which provide psychological support and help prepare victims for criminal proceedings.

GRETA says that it welcomes new provisions that protect witnesses and victims, which have been introduced into the Criminal Procedure Code. Even though a database launched in 2017 to register presumed trafficking victims should be made fully operational to compile comprehensive and coherent statistical data upon which to base policy measures, the report welcomes this tool as a step forward.