Montenegro is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Trafficking victims are mostly women and girls from Eastern Europe and other Balkan countries, including Serbia and Kosovo, who migrate or are smuggled through the country en route to Western Europe and are subjected to sex trafficking in Montenegro. Children, many of whom are Roma, are coerced by their family members into street begging in Montenegro; many of these children come from Kosovo, Serbia, or from within Montenegro. There have been reports that Roma girls from Montenegro, who are often forced into domestic servitude, have been sold into servile marriages in Roma communities in Switzerland and Germany. De facto stateless individuals were vulnerable to trafficking in persons. While there were no reports of labor trafficking during the year, in prior years, there were reports that mainly foreign men and boys were subjected to forced labor in Montenegro’s growing construction industry. Montenegrin women and girls are vulnerable to sex trafficking in other Balkan countries, including Serbia. NGOs reported that Roma teenagers in Montenegro were engaged in prostitution, some of which was allegedly sex trafficking.
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’s efforts to address trafficking in persons have been undermined by its officials’ position that trafficking did not exist as a prevalent phenomenon in Montenegro, but rather in isolated cases. At the same time, the government identified human trafficking as an important policy issue and its anti-trafficking prevention activities were robust and diverse. The government proactively identified only one trafficking victim during the year. This number is low, despite the government having conducted large-scale operations to suppress child begging and received NGO referrals. The government did not initiate the prosecution of any trafficking offenders during the year. NGOs reported that the government did not take protective action on occasions when potential victims were brought to the centers for social work. Nevertheless, the governments did provide care to more trafficking victims than during the previous year. The court achieved convictions in a high-profile sex trafficking case, including convicting, among others, three police officers for complicity in alleged human trafficking. The government took some efforts to address forced begging, including conducting a study of children involved in begging to assess their demographics and vulnerability.
Recommendations for Montenegro: Improve efforts to proactively identify more potential victims among vulnerable groups, such as Roma children involved in prostitution, women arrested for prostitution violations, undocumented migrants, refugees and displaced persons – particularly Roma – and child beggars, and refer them to the government shelter or NGO service providers; improve outreach to Roma communities to ensure prevention of trafficking and effective victim identification; ensure that all state institutions responsible for the care of trafficking victims implement their memorandum of understanding defined roles; enhance training and engagement of the centers for social work on trafficking victim assessment and care; vigorously investigate and aggressively prosecute sex trafficking and labor trafficking crimes, enhance judicial understanding of trafficking offenses, and convict and sentence trafficking offenders, including public officials complicit in trafficking; continue to ensure that the rights of trafficking victims are respected while victims are given care in shelters, including the right to free movement; adopt a public stance toward trafficking in persons that acknowledges trafficking in persons in the country; improve protections for potential victim witnesses to empower more victims to testify against their traffickers; and improve specific protections for child victims of trafficking, ensuring that the best interests of potential trafficking victims guide their care.
The Government of Montenegro made no reported progress during the reporting period in prosecuting new cases of trafficking offenses, although it achieved convictions in cases from previous years. Montenegro prohibits sex and labor trafficking through Article 444 of its criminal code, which prescribes penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment for violations and 12 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving aggravated circumstances; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, the government investigated only three trafficking cases. It failed to initiate new prosecutions of any trafficking offenders, in contrast to the 22 alleged trafficking offenders prosecuted in 2010. However, the government convicted 14 trafficking offenders during the year from earlier cases. In one of these cases, eight defendants were convicted of sexual exploitation and organized crime. In 2010, 12 trafficking offenders were convicted and received sentences of between 12 months’ and six years’ imprisonment. While the trial court initially acquitted the defendants of trafficking charges and convicted them on charges related to forced organized prostitution and criminal association, the appellate court reinstated the trafficking charges and returned the case to the trial court. Among those convicted were three police officers who had transported young women, including trafficking victims, for the purpose of prostitution and served as security guards for the strip clubs. They were convicted for failing to report the prostitution although they were aware of it. Despite conducting investigations of the organized begging of children, authorities did not prosecute any trafficking cases for forced begging. Authorities did, however, charge 11 adults with organizing the begging by children. The government did not provide any specialized anti-trafficking training for prosecutors, police officers, judges, or other investigators this year, although anti-trafficking training remained a mandatory subject for all new police trainees. Montenegrin authorities collaborated with their Serbian law enforcement counterparts to investigate trafficking offenses.
The government displayed mixed trafficking victim protection efforts during the reporting period and needs to improve the implementation of victim identification procedures. During the year, the government proactively identified one victim of trafficking in Montenegro and a foreign government identified and repatriated two victims to Montenegro. The Montenegrin government provided care to a greater number of trafficking victims than in the prior reporting period. The national coordinator fully funded an NGO shelter, providing the equivalent of $52,224 for a range of services, including housing, medical, and psychological care to trafficking victims. During the previous year, the government provided the equivalent of $152,000. The drop in funding was attributed to a change in the funding structure, which resulted in the operational costs of the shelter being covered directly under the budget of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The government also provided the equivalent of eight dollars per day for each victim who received care at the shelter. The government-funded shelter was a closed shelter. The government takes the position that, for their protection, victims may leave only if accompanied by chaperones. The government cared for three trafficking victims during the reporting period, an increase from the one victim who received care at the shelter the previous year. Two victims who were initially identified by a foreign government received care from Montenegrin authorities, who collaborated with NGOs in their repatriation and provided a medical evaluation, shelter, and psychological assistance. NGOs observed that government officials still lacked skill in proactive victim identification. Despite conducting large-scale police operations to suppress child begging, the government again failed to identify any trafficking victims among child beggars discovered during these operations. In addition, NGOs claimed that, when they brought potential Roma child trafficking victims to the attention of the centers for social work, the government-run centers did not take any action. NGOs alleged that some of the government actors obligated to care for victims, such as the health services, did not provide expedient care. Montenegro’s Law on Foreigners allows victims of trafficking to receive a temporary residence permit in the country lasting between three months and one year, although no victims received such a permit during the reporting period. NGOs reported that trafficking victims were not prosecuted for unlawful acts compelled as a direct result of their trafficking. Under a government program, authorities encouraged victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases by providing free legal aid and enabling NGOs to attend all interviews with the police. All victims gave statements to the police. Nevertheless, in practice few victims of trafficking participated in the prosecution of their traffickers, and victims often changed their statements about alleged trafficking offenders out of fear of reprisal. A high-profile civil case was resolved during the year with the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a former government official against a trafficking victim.
The Government of Montenegro improved its anti-trafficking prevention activities during the year. In May 2011, authorities conducted a survey of children begging in the street to determine their demographics and vulnerability to trafficking. The government also began a campaign to dissuade people from giving money to children engaged in begging entitled “Let’s Teach Them Something New.” The government launched an anti-trafficking campaign in all tourist centers, distributing flyers, posters, and other advertising materials. The government provided an NGO the equivalent of more than $7,000 for a human trafficking prevention project, “Stop Human Trafficking.” In coordination with UNICEF, the government organized anti-trafficking training programs for 60 primary and secondary school teachers in November and December 2011. The government also produced an anti-trafficking text book and leaflets and continued to maintain a hotline and an anti-trafficking website. The government marked European Anti-Trafficking day in October by organizing several events for students in all primary and secondary schools in the country. The government broadcast an anti-trafficking prevention spot to promote the anti-trafficking hotline on television. Authorities investigated nightclubs suspected of providing illicit sexual services but, aside from attempts to address sex trafficking, did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government collaborated with hotels on a code of conduct for protection of children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism to prevent child sex tourism. The government collaborated with NGOs to develop a new anti-trafficking action plan for 2012-18. The Montenegrin government provided anti-trafficking training to its military personnel prior to their deployment abroad for international peacekeeping missions.