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Slovaks 'at risk of slavery'

DESPITE the adoption of treaties and laws prohibiting slavery, evidence shows that many men, women and children continue to live in modern-day slavery through human trafficking, commented US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the release of the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report prepared by her department.

(Source: SME)

DESPITE the adoption of treaties and laws prohibiting slavery, evidence shows that many men, women and children continue to live in modern-day slavery through human trafficking, commented US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the release of the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report prepared by her department.

For the second year in a row, Slovakia achieved a Tier 1 ranking, demonstrating the government’s continued commitment to combating human trafficking, wrote the US Embassy in Bratislava on its website.

The report notes that the Slovak government fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, yet improvements are needed. Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) of the US Embassy Thatcher Scharpf said at a press conference on September 4, adding that marginalised groups in the population, such as Roma communities, require more attention since they are more likely to become targets of human traffickers, the SITA newswire reported.

“Roma from socially segregated rural settlements were disproportionately vulnerable to human trafficking, as they were underemployed, undereducated and lacked access to quality education due in part from segregated specialised schools, and subjected to discrimination by law enforcement personnel,” reads the report. “Traffickers, particularly prominent individuals in Roma communities, found victims through family and village networks, preying on individuals with large debts owed to usurers or individuals with disabilities.”

According to the report, Slovakia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour, suggesting that Slovak men and women are subjected to forced labour in agriculture and construction in western Europe, primarily the United Kingdom.

“Slovak children are subjected to forced criminal behaviour in the United Kingdom,” reads the report, adding that Slovak women are subjected to sex trafficking in the Netherlands, Slovenia, Denmark, Germany, and other areas of Europe, while Ukrainian and Romanian men and women are allegedly forced to work in Slovakia.

The report states that victims are reportedly transported through Slovakia from the former Soviet Union and forced into prostitution within the country and throughout Europe. Roma children, women, and men are subjected to forced begging in Switzerland and other countries in Western Europe.
The latest trend in human trafficking is a more frequent occurrence of criminal activity in forced labour, noted Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák at a press conference on September 4.

“Trafficking in persons was linked initially with sex, however today the issue of forced labour is starting to prevail, while the victims are not only women but also men,” said Kaliňák as quoted by SITA newswire.

According to Zuzana Vatráľová, head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Bratislava, victims of human trafficking most often work on construction sites and in sweatshops. They often work more than 14 hours a day for no money, TASR newswire reported.

There have been 11 cases of human trafficking uncovered in Slovakia in 2012, while last year there were 19 such cases recorded by the police. Vatráľová, however, cautions that in each of these cases there may be multiple victims.

Vatráľová also said that Slovaks fall victim to such abuse most often abroad. “Every year there are some 50 victims recorded, but it can be estimated that there might be as many as 100 or 200 in reality,” she stated.

The report notes that the government successfully convicted a former mayor who had been complicit in the sex trafficking of Slovak women, sentencing the mayor to a four-and-a-half year imprisonment. The report also notes that the government launched a successful campaign to raise awareness of labour trafficking.

Recommendations

“Nevertheless, government efforts to make victim identification by police more proactive remained weak,” according to the report.

“Despite indications of labour trafficking in Slovakia, police again failed to identify any foreign victims in the country.”

The report also notes that the government does not have any legal provisions that would allow authorities not to prosecute trafficking victims for crimes they committed as a result of their trafficking.

Yet NGOs did not report any cases of trafficking victims having been prosecuted for such crimes, the report noted.

The report recommends increasing efforts to identify trafficking victims proactively; increasing efforts to identify trafficking victims in Roma communities, including through greater outreach by law enforcement personnel; identifying children under the age of 18 who are engaged in prostitution as trafficking victims; and increasing proactive victim identification at labour sites, among others.

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