EC Human Trafficking Watchdog Urges Bulgaria Improve Access to Justice for Victims
The Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) with the Council of Europe on Thursday published a report in which it urges Bulgaria to improve access to justice and compensation for victims of human trafficking.
This is the third report on the implementation by Bulgaria of the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, which assesses the implementation of recommendations made in the previous report of 2016.
The report acknowledges progress made in some areas, such as amendments to the Law on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and the adoption of the first National Strategy for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings for the period 2017-2021. However, GRETA considers that the Bulgarian authorities should strengthen the systematic provision of information to victims of trafficking regarding their rights.
According to the report, as little as one third of victims have access to compensation because of the high eligibility criteria.
GRETA urges the Bulgarian authorities to guarantee effective access to compensation for victims of trafficking, by collecting evidence, as part of the criminal investigation, about the harm the victim has suffered, and making full use of the legislation on the freezing and forfeiture of assets to secure victim compensation.
A victim compensation fund, which uses confiscated assets of perpetrators of human trafficking to fund compensation, should also be set up, according to GRETA.
GRETA urges the Bulgarian authorities to take measures to ensure that human trafficking offences lead to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions. The plea-bargaining procedure should be used only exceptionally in human trafficking cases, subject to appropriate safeguards. Bulgaria continued to be predominantly a country of origin for trafficked persons, a transit country and, to a much lesser extent, a country of final destination.
Around 65 per cent of the identified victims in the period 2015-2019 were Bulgarian women and girls trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation abroad (in particular to Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland) and within Bulgaria. There has been an increase in the number of men, women and children trafficked abroad for the purpose of forced labour, forced begging and forced criminality, according to the report. BTA
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