Trafficking in Human Beings
Recently, Hungary has become more visible as a country of origin for victims of trafficking. Reports indicate that Hungary is among the top five origin countries of EU trafficking victims, as Hungarians constituted 18% of the total victims identified in trafficking investigations by EUROPOL between 2009 and 2013. While the actual number of victims remains unknown, experts and professionals agree that the scope of the phenomenon has been on the rise. The growth of human trafficking is related not only to the trafficking of human beings across international borders, but also to trafficking within Hungary. As such, internal trafficking has become an increasing concern. Current trends indicate trafficking victims are being moved from areas of high unemployment in Eastern Hungary to Western Hungary. In 2017, the government identified in total 44 victims of trafficking, and Hungarian NGOs reported assisting approximately 143 trafficking victims - 77 female, 26 male, and 40 minors.
According to the 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, the government of Hungary has taken several steps toward preventing and prosecuting human trafficking. These initiatives include amending the criminal code to allow for the seizure of assets held by traffickers, conducting training of prosecutors and judicial personnel, cooperating with foreign law enforcement on joint trafficking investigations, and increasing funding for public awareness and anti-trafficking efforts. However, despite the growing number of trafficking victims, investigations, prosecutions, and convictions decreased significantly compared to 2016. Services for victims remained scarce, uncoordinated, and inadequate. Specialized services for child victims (including shelter) did not exist and law enforcement arrested and prosecuted children exploited in sex trafficking as misdemeanor offenders, including sentencing 12 children to imprisonment based on their exploitation in sex trafficking. Shortcomings in security and services at state care institutions for children and in the identification of child trafficking victims remained widespread, resulting in high vulnerability of children and their re-victimization under state protection during and after their time in these facilities.
Despite growing numbers, trafficking in human beings is not seen as a problem by society at large, due to the fact that it affects the subjective sense of safety to a lesser extent when compared to other violent criminal acts or offences against property. Additionally, some victims themselves sometimes do not realize that they have become victims of criminal activities and may even view acts, such as prostitution, as a chance for better financial conditions. Others may not realize that they have become victims of criminal activity until much later in the trafficking process as exemplified by many Hungarian women who are lured into sham marriages to third-country nationals within Europe, and reportedly subjected to forced prostitution. Public awareness of the phenomenon is largely insufficient, even though a rising number of Hungarians go to work abroad and may potentially become victims of labour exploitation, especially in sectors such as agriculture, construction, and in factories. Groups most vulnerable to trafficking include those living in extreme poverty, the Roma, unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, and homeless men. The Roma are overrepresented among women and children who are subjected to sex trafficking within the country and Europe, in particular to the Netherlands and Switzerland. A large number of these victims come from state-provided childcare institutions and correctional facilities where many of them are underage and recruited by traffickers. Additionally, Hungarian men and women are victims of forced labour domestically and abroad, primarily in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.