State Department: Macedonia does not meet minimum standards for elimination of human trafficking

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Macedonia does not fully meet minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so. The government showed an overall increased effort compared to the previous reporting period and therefore remained at level 2, according to the human trafficking report released today by the US State Department, reported MIA.

– These efforts included increasing overall law enforcement efforts, including investigating, prosecuting, and convicting more traffickers. The government continued to increase resources for the shelter for victims of human trafficking. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) and the State Labor Inspectorate signed a memorandum of cooperation to improve the coordination of human trafficking investigations, including through joint inspections and training. However, the government fell short of minimum standards in several key areas, the report said.

The Organized Crime and Corruption Prosecutor's Office (OCCPO) did not have sufficient resources to handle all cases under its jurisdiction, and some local police and district attorneys did not report potential trafficking cases to the Anti-Trafficking Task Force (Task Force ) or OCCPO and used less severe crimes to prosecute traffickers. And while the government has increased funding for shelters, it still only covers a small percentage of operating costs.

Similarly, the government has not allocated funds to the mobile teams that identify the most potential victims each year, despite past commitments to do so. Local police and some border agents consistently failed to check for indicators of trafficking and, as a result, authorities likely deported some unidentified victims of trafficking without referral to appropriate services or safeguards to prevent re-trafficking. points out in the report.

As reported in the last five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in North Macedonia, while human traffickers exploit North Macedonian victims abroad. Women and girls in North Macedonia are exploited through sex trafficking and forced labor in the country in restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Sex traffickers recruit foreign victims usually from Eastern Europe and the Balkans, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine. Citizens of North Macedonia and foreign victims transiting the country are exploited for sex trafficking and forced labor in the construction and agricultural sectors in Southern, Central and Western Europe. Traffickers, who are often relatives or close friends, exploit Roma children through forced begging and sex trafficking in forced marriages. Traffickers are increasingly recruiting victims with fake online profiles on social networks and various online applications. In 2021, human traffickers from Taiwan recruited workers from Taiwan with false promises of work in North Macedonia for the purpose of forced labor. Traffickers confiscated passports, withheld wages, restricted movement and set up a call center where they coerced Taiwanese victims into making bogus calls, the US State Department notes.

Migrants and refugees traveling or being smuggled through North Macedonia, especially women and unaccompanied children, are vulnerable to trafficking by their smugglers or other migrants. NGOs report that children with mental and physical disabilities are increasingly vulnerable to human trafficking.

Officials and observers continue to report that low-ranking police officers may be complicit in human trafficking, including concealing evidence, accepting bribes, altering patrol routes to benefit perpetrators, reporting perpetrators prior to law enforcement action, or direct involvement in organized crime, according to a report on human trafficking published by the US State Department.

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