Trafficking in Persons Report 2016 - Country Narratives - Greece

GREECE: Tier 2

Greece is a destination, transit, and, to a very limited extent, source country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and men, women, and children subjected to forced labor. Some women and children from Eastern and Southern Europe, South Asia, Nigeria, and China are subjected to sex trafficking in Greece. Victims of forced labor in Greece are primarily children and men from Eastern Europe, South Asia, and Africa. Migrant workers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are susceptible to debt bondage, reportedly in agriculture. Some labor trafficking victims enter Greece through Turkey along irregular migration routes from the Middle East and South Asia. Traffickers lure most victims through false job opportunities. Economically marginalized Romani children from Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania are forced to sell goods on the street, beg, or commit petty theft in Greece. The increase in unaccompanied child migrants in Greece has increased the number of children susceptible to exploitation. Some public officials have been investigated for suspected involvement in human trafficking.

During the reporting period, many countries in the EU and Southeast Europe—including Greece—experienced an unprecedented wave of migration from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, consisting of a mix of asylum-seekers/potential refugees, economic migrants, and populations vulnerable to trafficking, among others. One international organization estimated Greece received more than 862,000 migrants and asylum-seekers in 2015; some of these individuals, such as unaccompanied minors and single women, were highly vulnerable to trafficking. Most migrants and asylum-seekers are believed to rely on smugglers at some point during their journey and in some instances are forced into exploitation upon arrival in Greece.

The Government of Greece does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Greece’s economic crisis and the influx of refugees and migrants to the country placed a significant strain on government resources, which affected its law enforcement efforts. The government prosecuted somewhat fewer suspects compared with the previous two years. Police identified fewer trafficking victims, but the government provided all identified victims assistance, unlike in 2014. The government operated or provided funding or in-kind assistance to some shelters that could assist trafficking victims; however, the government did not operate a trafficking-specific shelter. The government issued renewable residence permits to 29 trafficking victims in 2015, compared with none in 2014. In November, the government issued a joint-ministerial decision to grant six-month work permits for some third country nationals residing in Greece without a residence permit, aimed at reducing this population’s vulnerability to trafficking.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GREECE:

Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including officials complicit in trafficking; increase efforts to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and refer them to specialized services; provide training to prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement on a victim-centered approach to prosecutions; establish specialized shelters for trafficking victims and provide shelter for adult male and child victims; employ witness protection provisions already incorporated into law to further encourage victims’ participation in investigations and prosecutions; draft a national action plan for combating trafficking; integrate messages targeted towards vulnerable minority populations into existing awareness campaigns; and create a national database to digitize the collation of trafficking case information from national courts.

PROSECUTION

The government sustained law enforcement efforts on convictions, but decreased it in other areas. Law 3064/2002 and Presidential Decree 233/2003 prohibit both sex trafficking and forced labor and prescribe punishments of up to 10 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Police investigated 32 human trafficking cases, six of which were for forced begging or labor, compared with 36 cases in 2014. Due to limitations in data collection capabilities, conviction information was not available from all courts, and information related to specific charges in prosecutions was available only once convictions were reached; therefore, government data could not disaggregate human trafficking trials from prosecutions of non-trafficking crimes involving sexual and labor exploitation. In 2015, the government prosecuted 117 defendants on suspicion of committing trafficking-related crimes, a decrease from 125 in 2014 and 142 in 2013. Of these, 20 defendants were prosecuted for labor exploitation, including forced begging, and 97 defendants for sexual exploitation. Only partial data on convictions from approximately half of the courts was available, although the number of courts that reported data increased from previous years. This partial data shows that the government convicted 34 traffickers in 2015, compared with 31 in 2014. Sentences ranged from 2.5 to 32.5 years’ imprisonment and fines up to 100,000 euros ($113,000). An NGO reported one instance in which a court convicted sex traffickers under pimping laws that carried lesser penalties.

Police units focusing on human trafficking are centered in Athens and Thessaloniki; those units provide staff to other regions to assist in the investigation of trafficking cases. Severe budgetary constraints stemming from Greece’s seven-year financial crisis continue to impact police efforts. Law enforcement, in cooperation with NGOs, trained police serving in seven areas considered to be sensitive, including near the border with Turkey, and in the islands most affected by the flow of migrants. The government, sometimes in cooperation with NGOs, conducted several other training programs for police, First Reception Service staff, and public and private sector legal experts, on areas including identifying and protecting unaccompanied minors, trafficking in persons sensitivity training, a victim-centered approach to combating trafficking in persons, labor trafficking, and the nexus between the asylum process and human trafficking. The government did not provide comprehensive training for judges or prosecutors on trafficking or using a victim-centered approach. Amendments to law 4128/2013 made penalties for trafficking crimes more stringent if committed by public officials in the performance of their duties, starting with a minimum of 10 years’ imprisonment and fines ranging between 50,000 and 100,000 euros ($56,000 to $113,000). There were isolated cases of government officials allegedly complicit in trafficking crimes. In August 2015, authorities arrested a police officer for alleged participation in an illegal prostitution ring, potentially involving trafficking victims; the investigation was ongoing at the close of the reporting period. In September 2015, authorities arrested three municipal employees alleged to have accepted bribes in exchange for issuing permits for night clubs and bars where trafficking victims were exploited; the prosecution was ongoing at the close of the reporting period. Law enforcement actively cooperated with regional governments, especially in the Balkans and Southeast Europe, on specific trafficking cases and investigations.

PROTECTION

The government increased protection efforts in some areas, but decreased it in others. Police identified 57 potential trafficking victims, compared with 64 in 2014; 34 were victims of sexual exploitation, including four children, and 23 of forced begging or labor exploitation. Seven victims were children. Twenty-six victims were from Romania; 12 from Bulgaria; five from Greece; four from Moldova; four from Ukraine; three from Albania, and one each from Bangladesh, Poland, and Russia. The government provided assistance to all 57 victims, an increase from assistance provided to 30 in 2014. The Secretariat for Gender and Equality reported 43 trafficking victims received psycho-social support, legal and employment counseling, and emergency shelter through its hotline, counseling centers, and shelters. Greece’s National Center for Social Solidarity reported it assisted 14 victims, including four children, in its shelters for victims of violence. NGOs and international organizations also identified and provided services for an additional 106 potential sex or labor trafficking victims during the reporting period. A privately funded NGO ran the only shelter exclusively for female trafficking victims. Male victims could be accommodated in short-term government shelters for asylum-seekers or homeless persons. Child victims were served in government-run shelters, NGO shelters, and facilities for unaccompanied minors, but were not housed in specialized facilities for trafficking victims. Limited government resources affected its ability to expand shelter services during the reporting period. NGOs also administered shelters funded by government and by private funding where children, including trafficking victims, are referred for shelter and support services.

The government was unable to determine how much funding was spent exclusively on victim assistance, and NGOs expressed concerns regarding government funding shortfalls caused by Greece’s seven-year economic crisis and fiscal measures imposed as part of its international bailout. The government had cooperation agreements and memoranda of understanding in place with three NGOs receiving government funding to house, protect, and assist children in danger, including underage trafficking victims, and female victims of violence, including trafficking victims. NGOs reported good cooperation with the police generally and excellent cooperation with police anti-trafficking units during the reporting period. Although access to victim services was the same by law for both domestic and foreign trafficking victims regardless of residency status, some victims reportedly had difficulty obtaining medical care authorized for them through the law, as some health workers were unaware of victim service provisions. The government trained Greek and foreign law enforcement, immigration officers, social service workers, labor inspectors, and health workers in identifying trafficking victims through written procedures. Police had a screening process to ensure possible victims of trafficking in custody were not deported or sent to migrant detention centers. NGOs recommended that formal training should be compulsory for migrant detention center staff. NGOs and police both reported improvements in victim identification procedures; however, some NGOs assessed the government still needed to improve victim identification, particularly among irregular migrants.

The law provides witness protection to victims during trial; however, an NGO reported no trafficking victims it has served have received full witness protection privileges to date, while authorities state no requests for witness protection were made. The law provides for the presence of mental health professionals when victims are testifying and the use of audiovisual technology for remote testimony, but many courts lacked the capabilities to deploy these resources. Foreign nationals identified by a public prosecutor as trafficking victims could be granted one-year residence permits, renewable every two years during ongoing criminal investigations. The government issued renewable residence permits to 29 trafficking victims in 2015, compared with none in 2014. No victims were detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. Police conducted hundreds of unannounced and targeted checks of studios, brothels, and bars; inspections occurred twice a week with an average of 10 locations inspected per week and screened for trafficking indicators amongst individuals in prostitution. It is unclear whether police identified any trafficking victims in these inspections during the year.

PREVENTION

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The Office of the National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking, which is charged with coordinating anti-trafficking efforts, established focal points at the first reception service receiving migrants, the Asylum Service, the Labor Inspectorate, and in state hospitals to identify and refer trafficking victims. The office of the national rapporteur, jointly with the Ministry of Justice, created a working group to increase coordination between law enforcement and prosecutors to combat trafficking. There was no national action plan exclusively for anti-trafficking efforts; however, during a June session of a parliamentary committee, the office of the national rapporteur submitted a joint memo for discussion on the development of a national action plan to combat trafficking. In March, the parliament speaker approved one of the office of the national rapporteur’s suggestions by reinstating the parliamentary sub-committee on issues related to trafficking in persons. Article 54, Paragraph 7 of Law 4369 (Civil Administration Reform Bill) approved by Parliament February 27 provides for additional screening of local staff members contracted for temporary employment in Greek diplomatic missions overseas, including the requirement that the employee must have no previous convictions for any crime relating to sexual exploitation. The government monitors its anti-trafficking efforts and made its assessments publicly available, but ministries continued to be inconsistent in their reporting. The development of a national database for trafficking statistics remained pending during the reporting period. In October, the government organized and funded its first ever national two-day multimedia anti-trafficking awareness festival, attended by more than 3,000 people. In November, the government issued a joint-ministerial decision to grant six-month work permits for some third country nationals residing in Greece without legal residency status whose deportation orders had been temporarily revoked or revoked on humanitarian grounds. This aimed at reducing this population’s vulnerability to trafficking. The government continued a public awareness campaign with a hotline targeting female victims of violence, including trafficking victims. NGOs reported a need to increase trafficking prevention efforts in border areas where Romani and Muslim minorities are concentrated, and in areas where migrant and refugee populations are concentrated. The government continued efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking guidance for its diplomatic personnel and manuals on identifying trafficking victims to facilitate granting visas.