Montenegro is primarily a transit country for the trafficking of women and girls from Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia, Albania, and Kosovo to Western Europe for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. There have been reported cases of forced labor in the construction industry. There is anecdotal evidence that foreign children, mainly Roma, are also trafficked through Montenegro for the purpose of forced begging. In 2008, there were no reports of Montenegrins being trafficked to other countries. Groups that are vulnerable to trafficking include women in prostitution, unaccompanied foreign minors, ethnic Roma, and foreign construction workers. Refugees and displaced persons also are vulnerable, as their lack of legal status in Montenegro limits their access to legal employment and social rights.
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. Despite these overall significant efforts, the government did not provide adequate evidence of progress in punishing convicted traffickers or proactively identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable groups; therefore, Montenegro is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. In a positive development late in the reporting period, the new anti-trafficking coordinator has made it a priority to create a mechanism that accurately tracks anti-trafficking law enforcement statistics, conduct outreach to the judicial branch to address concerns about trafficking prosecutions, and raise awareness about human trafficking within Montenegro. It is expected that these positive steps should portend tangible results in the coming year.
Recommendations for Montenegro: Continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and sentence trafficking offenders, including any public officials complicit in trafficking; ensure that convicted trafficking offenders receive adequate punishment; improve tracking of human trafficking law enforcement data; increase efforts to identify victims among vulnerable groups, such as women arrested for prostitution violations, undocumented migrants, and child beggars, and refer them to the government shelter or trafficking NGOs; provide protection for potential child victims of trafficking; continue the recently launched anti-trafficking public awareness campaign; and continue vigorous efforts to coordinate all anti-trafficking entities within Montenegro.
The Government of Montenegro did not demonstrate vigorous anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts in 2008. Montenegro prohibits sex and labor trafficking through Article 444 of its criminal code, which prescribes penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for rape. Precise trafficking-related statistics for 2008 were unavailable, but the new coordinator is working on establishing a mechanism that would address this concern as well asimproving overall prosecution efforts. According to information provided by the government and media reports, the government initiated 18 trafficking prosecutions and secured the convictions of eight trafficking offenders during the reporting period. Sentences ranged from two years to six years’ and 10 months’ imprisonment. The government reported that four of the eight convicted traffickers are currently in serving time in jail. The government also confirmed that three convicted trafficking offenders sentenced each to five years’ imprisonment in 2007 were not serving their sentences in jail. Although corruption is a significant problem in Montenegro, during the reporting period, neither civil society, nor media outlets, nor government agencies reported specific allegations of official complicity in trafficking in persons crimes.
The Montenegrin government continued efforts to protect trafficking victims over the last year, although results were mixed. The government funded all expenses for a trafficking victim shelter and provided medical and legal assistance as well as vocational training for victims. The government reported it used a formal mechanism to guide police in referring potential trafficking victims to the government shelter, but authorities reported identification of just three victims, two of whom were referred to the shelter in 2008. Also during the reporting period, at least 75 minors were apprehended for begging; police determined they were not trafficking cases and did not refer any of the children to the government’s trafficking shelter, which can accommodate potential child victims. Police conducted raids on nightclubs and illegal construction sites but reported no additional referrals. According to official policy, the government encouraged victims to participate in the investigations or prosecution of trafficking offenders; lengthy court proceedings lead to prolonged shelter stays and delayed repatriation for victims while they waited to participate in prosecutions. In practice, few victims have participated in the prosecution of their traffickers beyond giving statements to the police due to fear of reprisals; as noted previously, many convicted traffickers have not been sentenced to prison. The government reported that trafficking victims have not been penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. Under Montenegrin law, the government can provide temporary or permanent residency status to foreign victims, depending on the circumstances of the case.
The government acknowledged that human trafficking was a regional problem, but has not specifically acknowledged that there is a problem occurring in Montenegro. During the reporting period, the government funded six workshops for various ministries involved in combating trafficking and performed an awareness raising campaign in schools. The government also signed a memorandum of understanding with NGOs to facilitate cooperation on combating human trafficking. The government adopted a new action plan in December 2008 valid through 2009. The government did not fund Montenegro’s hotline for trafficking victims but pledged to do so in the future. The new coordinator has brought renewed focus to the government’s efforts to combat trafficking in persons, reinstating regular meetings of the anti-trafficking working group. There were no awareness efforts aimed at reducing the demand for sex or labor trafficking during the reporting period.