USDOS – US Department of State (Author)
Montenegro is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Victims of sex trafficking identified in Montenegro are primarily women and girls from Montenegro, neighboring Balkan countries, and, to a lesser extent, other countries in Eastern Europe. Sex trafficking victims are exploited in hospitality facilities, bars, restaurants, night clubs, and cafes. Children, particularly Roma, are subjected to forced begging. Romani girls from Montenegro reportedly have been sold into marriages in Romani communities in Montenegro and, to a lesser extent, in Kosovo, and forced into domestic servitude. Internationally organized criminal groups occasionally subject Montenegrin women and girls to sex trafficking in other Balkan countries.
The Government of Montenegro does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government maintained strong prevention efforts, but it did not convict any traffickers and acquitted one alleged offender, citing reasons inconsistent with international standards. Other law enforcement efforts were limited; the government initiated five new investigations and prosecuted one suspect. The government provided victim services, but victim identification remained inadequate. In December 2014, the government passed the Foreigners Act, which enables foreign trafficking victims to obtain three- to twelve-month residence permits and requires police to work with NGOs and social workers to determine if a minor is a trafficking victim and eligible to receive healthcare, education, and social services.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MONTENEGRO:
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including complicit officials; greatly increase proactive screening of potential victims, especially for children in forced begging and women in forced prostitution; develop a multi-disciplinary approach to proactive victim identification and include civil society groups and NGOs in the national referral mechanism; train law enforcement and judiciary officials on victim assistance and the prosecution of traffickers; train law enforcement, border police, and public officials working with vulnerable populations on victim identification and referral procedures; make efforts to ensure raids to free trafficking victims minimize harm to victims and include arrangements to segregate traffickers from victims, conduct victim-centered interviews, cross-reference victims’ accounts, and quickly transition identified victims to post-rescue care and shelter; and encourage trafficking victims’ participation in prosecutions in a manner that protects victims.
The government continued to make inadequate law enforcement efforts to address human trafficking. Montenegro prohibits sex and labor trafficking through Article 444 of its criminal code, which prescribes penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2014, the government launched five trafficking investigations involving 14 suspects, compared with one investigation in 2013. The government initiated the prosecution of one defendant in 2014, the same as in 2013. The government did not secure any new convictions in 2014, a decrease from seven in 2013. In one case, a court dismissed sexual exploitation and forced labor charges against a defendant due in part to the victim being married to the defendant; however, neither Montenegrin nor international law on human trafficking provides for such an exception. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. Authorities provided specialized training for police officers, prosecutors, 260 border officers, 15 labor inspectors, and other officials on victim identification.
The government continued to make inadequate protection efforts. Though it continued to fund victim services, efforts to identify victims were lacking, particularly among children in forced begging. The government identified two trafficking victims in 2014—one woman and one girl—the same number identified in 2013. Both were subjected to trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation. Authorities formally identified no labor trafficking victims, despite the police identifying 156 child beggars in 2014. The government provided shelter to both identified sex trafficking victims and one potential sex trafficking victim. Authorities repatriated both victims in collaboration with receiving country officials. No victims participated in the prosecution of their traffickers in 2014. Observers believe the numbers of trafficking cases and victims are underestimated, given the general stigma and fear attached to reporting a criminal case. The police’s organized crime unit, responsible for investigating trafficking cases, regularly conducted raids in commercial sex sites, escort agencies, and bars; however, police did not identify any victims through raids in 2014. In cooperation with international organizations, the government disseminated a victim identification checklist containing trafficking indicators in the form of business cards to all law enforcement agencies, including border police and prosecutors, health and social workers, and school directors. The government allocated 152,422 euro ($184,000) to the anti-trafficking coordinator’s office, a seven percent decrease from approximately 164,111 euro ($199,000) in 2013. A portion of this budget funded a shelter for trafficking victims jointly operated with an NGO. The shelter was open to both domestic and foreign victims; male victims were accommodated in separate living quarters in the shelter. Children were accommodated in the shelter separately from adults. Victims could leave the shelter after an assessment made by police, or by the social welfare centers in the cases of children. Authorities offered victims medical, psychological, legal, and social assistance. Montenegrin law provides for the possibility for victim restitution, although there were no cases in which a victim requested or obtained restitution. The law authorizes foreign victims to receive a temporary residence permit lasting from three months to one year, although no victims applied for residency in 2014. In December 2014, Parliament passed the new Foreigners Act, effective as of April 2015, which enables foreign trafficking victims to obtain three- to 12-month residence permits and work authorization. The Act also requires police to work with NGOs and social workers to determine if a minor is a trafficking victim and, therefore, eligible to receive healthcare, education, and social services. The Foreigners Act also guarantees child victims will receive witness protection if necessary and will not be returned to their country of origin if doing so would endanger their wellbeing. There were no reports the government penalized trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
The government maintained strong prevention efforts. The government had an anti-trafficking strategy for 2012-2018 and adopted a 2014 action plan in March 2014; the 2015 action plan was adopted in January 2015. The government produced semiannual reports of the progress made on the strategy and action plan. The anti-trafficking office had the overall lead on anti-trafficking efforts. The head of the office was also the national coordinator for the anti-trafficking taskforce, comprising members from the government, two NGOs, and the international community. NGOs reported good cooperation with government agencies on tasks arising from the action plan. Taskforce members held the first meeting of a coordination team established in September 2014 and met twice to coordinate assistance to two potential trafficking victims. The government organized workshops in high schools and continued to fund the SOS hotline for victims of abuse and domestic violence, including trafficking victims. In addition, the government conducted a national awareness campaign that included a video shown on television stations. Authorities provided specialized training to labor inspectors; however, inspectors failed to identify any cases of forced labor during employment inspections. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.