ROMANIA: Tier 2
The Government of Romania does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Romania remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by significantly increasing prosecutorial use of the trafficking statute, increasing participation in joint investigative teams with several European counterparts, implementing new prevention campaigns, and developing a draft national action plan. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Lack of sufficient government funding to NGOs for assistance and protection services remained a problem, leaving most victims unprotected, susceptible to re-traumatization, without services, and vulnerable to re-trafficking. Bureaucratic procedures continued to impede victims’ access to medical care. Authorities investigated fewer trafficking crimes, courts convicted significantly fewer traffickers, and officials identified fewer victims. Judges continued to lack specialized training on working with trafficking cases and victims, which had detrimental effects on witness protection, restitution for victims, and sentencing for perpetrators.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ROMANIA
Significantly increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including complicit officials, and issue sentences that are proportionate with the severity of the crime; proactively identify potential victims, especially among vulnerable populations, such as migrants and asylum-seekers, children in government placement centers, children involved in begging, and individuals in prostitution, through enhanced training for police officers and labor inspectors on recognizing indicators of exploitation; provide financial support to NGOs for victim services and develop and institute a formal mechanism for administering the funds; amend legislation to allow authorities to sanction recruiting agencies for trafficking-related crimes; increase the quality of psychological counseling and improve access to medical assistance for victims; exempt all trafficking victims who testify in trials from the online disclosure of their names to protect participating witnesses from retaliation and stigma and to incentivize greater victim participation in prosecutions; expand efforts to train officials involved in judicial proceedings, particularly judges, on sensitivity to trafficking issues, understanding all forms of trafficking, and applying anti-trafficking laws; significantly increase anti-trafficking training for law enforcement officials on working with victims, evidence collection, and understanding psychological coercion; increase the number of financial investigators specializing in trafficking cases; finalize, adopt, and implement the 2018-2022 national action plan; and revise the restitution mechanism to include minimizing court fees and increasing efforts to ensure victims receive compensation.
The government decreased overall law enforcement efforts. Articles 210, 211, and 367 of the penal code criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of three to 10 years imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Authorities opened 675 new trafficking cases in 2017, a decrease from 864 and 858 in 2016 and 2015, respectively. A split reporting structure hindered police efficiency and coordination with investigations and prosecutions. Likewise, limited dedicated financial investigators impeded financial investigations and asset seizures, inhibiting evidence collection in trafficking cases and causing investigators and prosecutors to rely mainly on witness testimony. Prosecutors processed 481 alleged trafficking cases in 2017, compared to 552 in 2016; of these cases, 57 (12 percent) were prosecuted for pandering, rape, sexual activity with minors, and fraud, compared to 416 (75 percent) in 2016, indicating a significant increase in the use of the trafficking statute versus lesser crimes that carried weaker penalties. Prosecutors indicted 362 suspected traffickers in 2017, compared with 358 in 2016 and 480 in 2015. Courts convicted 222 traffickers in 2017, a decrease from 472 in 2016 and 331 in 2015. Fifty-five traffickers (25 percent) received suspended sentences, compared to 22 percent in 2016; the remaining traffickers received sentences of imprisonment, which ranged from one to more than 10 years. The government did not report how many fines were levied on convicted traffickers in 2017, compared with approximately 200,000 lei ($51,550) in 2016. Authorities participated in 43 joint investigative teams with several European counterparts, compared with 21 in 2016. Authorities extradited 44 traffickers to other European countries to serve sentences. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses.
The National Institute for Magistrates organized two conferences on strengthening legal knowledge and cooperation with prosecutors and judges to protect victims’ rights during judicial proceedings; 93 judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and psychologists participated. Prosecutors received training on investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases. The government provided training to government employees on the early identification of victims. The police organized a series of training programs for its staff that included an anti-trafficking component. Regardless of the numerous training events, NGOs reported many police officers and judges lacked specialized training and sensitivity toward sex trafficking cases and trafficking issues. Judges typically did not differentiate between prostitution and sex trafficking as distinct crimes, which had detrimental effects on sentencing for perpetrators and compensation for victims. Observers frequently criticized police for being unaware of the exploitation potential in prostitution, leading to a failure to check for indicators of force, fraud, or coercion when encountering individuals in prostitution.
The government maintained efforts in victim protection. Public officials and NGOs identified 662 victims in 2017, the lowest number identified in over a decade and a decline from 757 identified victims in 2016 and 880 in 2015; these statistics included victims from ongoing investigations and prosecutions initiated in previous years. Of these victims, 51 percent were children, 76 percent were female, and 69 percent were subjected to sex trafficking. Police used the government’s national victim identification and referral mechanism, although observers reported the government did not proactively identify victims. In 2017, 46 percent (307) of registered victims received assistance provided by public institutions and NGOs, compared with 41 percent in 2016. While the government relied on NGOs to assist victims, it did not provide sufficient financial support. The government did not allocate grants directly to NGOs due to legislation precluding direct funding for NGOs, and it declined to allow its national anti-trafficking agency to become an implementing agency for European funding programs, a status that would have allowed them to allot European funds to NGOs. Additionally, for the second consecutive year, the government failed to channel a Swiss-funded grant (approximately $2 million with the Romanian government co-financing 15 percent) to NGOs for victim assistance efforts. However, the government facilitated the transfer of the Swiss funds to IOM in order to disburse the funds to NGOs.
The government maintained five government-run shelters and one shelter jointly run by the government and an NGO that were designated for trafficking victims; these shelters also housed domestic violence victims in separate living areas. Officials referred victims to government-run domestic violence or homeless shelters or privately run shelters when the six trafficking shelters were full. Authorities placed child trafficking victims in general child facilities or in facilities for children with disabilities run by the governmental child protection service, which generally did not offer specialized assistance and frequently re-traumatized children. Perennial problems of abuse and neglect of institutionalized children and the lack of proactive identification in government facilities left children in placement centers and orphanages vulnerable to trafficking. Romanian victims abroad received free travel documents issued by Romanian embassies; the government, NGOs, or an international organization paid for transport costs. Local governments financed and operated transit centers that could assist repatriated victims. The law entitled all victims to legal aid, reintegration support, and psychological and medical care. However, the government did not necessarily provide for more than one mental health counseling session and did not finance medical care costs. NGOs paid for all psychological services costs for victims due to the government’s refusal to reimburse psychologists who assisted victims, and for emergency medical care costs because the government lacked financial assistance and medical care required payment upfront. Moreover, access to medical care required Romanian victims to return to their home districts to obtain identity documents. The process presented logistical and financial hurdles for many trafficking victims; NGOs also covered those costs.
The law permitted foreign victims to request asylum and granted asylum-seekers the right to work after three months. In 2017, an NGO identified one foreign victim from Pakistan among refugees and asylum-seekers, but suspected dozens of other cases. The law also permitted foreign victims who cooperated with authorities to receive a renewable, six-month temporary residence permit. In 2017, 496 victims participating in criminal proceedings accessed services available to victims assisting law enforcement; these services included transporting victims to court and returning them home. Some victims chose not to testify because the justice ministry published the names of all trial witnesses, including children, on its public website, putting victim-witnesses at risk of retaliation and societal or familial ostracization. While the law allowed victims to provide testimony from a separate room, this was rarely done in practice due to judges’ preference for live testimony in front of traffickers. The law entitled victims to restitution from their traffickers; however, victims generally could not afford the fees necessary to initiate civil trials or, in cases in which judges ordered restitution, to pay court officers to collect the money owed from traffickers. Additionally, NGOs reported victims rarely received restitution money because when ordered by courts to pay restitution, traffickers did not do so. Prosecutors typically dropped charges and fines against victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subject to human trafficking.
The government increased prevention efforts. The government developed a draft national action plan for 2018-2022; the last action plan expired in 2016. The national anti-trafficking agency made operational a three-year EU internal security fund grant of €160,000 ($192,080) for prevention campaigns focusing on sexual exploitation in 2018 and forced begging in 2019. In collaboration with an NGO, the agency developed and deployed an online prevention tool for a job and commerce website, warning potential job seekers of possible trafficking risks before they view job offers and providing contact information for the authorities in case of suspicious activity. The agency also organized a number of anti-trafficking awareness campaigns. The agency continued to publish yearly reports and statistics on trafficking. Despite a 2006 amendment to the criminal code that prohibited Romania-based recruitment companies from facilitating the exploitation of citizens abroad, the government did not have the power to punish recruitment agencies for trafficking-related crimes, such as illegal recruitment fees. Observers noted police were unresponsive to reports of labor trafficking and labor inspectors lacked the competency for detecting trafficking as well as the legal authority for unannounced worksite inspections. The government continued to operate a hotline during regular business hours that primarily focused on informing Romanians about working abroad safely. The government took steps to reduce demand for commercial sex acts and forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions.
As reported over the past five years, Romania is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and women and children subjected to sex trafficking. Romania is a significant source of sex and labor trafficking victims throughout Europe. Romanian men, women, and children are subjected to labor trafficking in agriculture, construction, hotels, manufacturing, and domestic service, as well as forced begging and theft in Romania and other European countries. Romanian women and children are victims of sex trafficking in Romania and other European countries. Romani children, as young as 12 years old, are particularly vulnerable to forced begging and sex trafficking. Reports indicate some children were subjected to trafficking while in the care of the state, particularly in small towns. Romania is a destination country for a limited number of foreign trafficking victims, including trafficking victims from Pakistan and the Philippines. Romanians living in privately run institutions for the mentally disabled are vulnerable to forced labor.