Together Against Trafficking in Human Beings

Bulgaria

Bulgaria

1. GENERAL INFORMATION - SITUATION ON TRAFFICKING IN HUMAN BEINGS

Bulgaria is mainly a country of origin of human trafficking (THB) and to a lesser degree a transit country. The main countries of destination for Bulgarian victims of trafficking are Western European Member States of the European Union, Greece, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Norway. Domestic trafficking is happening from poorer regions of the country to big cities and resorts. The most prevalent form of trafficking has been that for the purpose of sexual exploitation, followed by trafficking for labour exploitation – mostly to countries in Western Europe. The majority of victims are female. Other forms of trafficking include those for forced begging, for the sale of newly born children and for sham marriages. Some conspicuous trends include the steady rise in registered victims of trafficking for labour exploitation, also among women, the targeting of mentally disadvantaged people by traffickers, the relative decrease in the use of violence by the criminals in exchange for more sophisticated methods such as deception and emotional dependency and the increasing use of internet and social networks by traffickers for recruitment.

In a European Union context, Bulgaria continues to be a major country of origin of victims of trafficking. According to the Europol Situation Report on trafficking in Human Beings in the EU of February 2016, human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation continues to be the most reported form of THB in the EU, where most reported victims are female nationals from Central and Eastern Europe, including Bulgaria. Most reported victims of human trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation are male EU nationals originating from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.

In terms of numbers, the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassation in Bulgaria provides the following statistics (it is the official source on formally identified victims of trafficking):

Victims

 

2014

2015

2016

2017

Total number of victims

 

495

409

447

508

Female, of whom

 

464

381

409

444

minor (14-18 years of age)

 

23

27

20

36

minor (below 14 years of age)

 

8

1

1

1

Male, of whom

 

31

28

38

64

minor (14-18 years of age)

 

0

0

1

0

minor (below 14 years of age)

 

14

5

3

5

Distribution of the victims according to the purpose of trafficking

Sexual exploitation

 

409

314

329

323

Female, of whom

 

398

311

318

316

minor (14-18 years of age)

 

22

24

19

32

minor (below 14 years of age)

 

6

2

1

0

Male, of whom

 

11

3

11

7

minor (14-18 years of age)

 

0

0

1

0

minor (below 14 years of age)

 

10

1

0

0

Labour exploitation

 

16

26

31

67

Female

 

3

4

8

16

Male

 

13

22

23

51

Organ removal

 

2

1

1

1

Female

 

1

0

0

0

Male

 

1

1

1

1

Servitude

 

11

6

5

71

Female

 

4

6

3

14

Male

 

7

0

2

3

Pregnant women for selling their newborn babies

 

57

59

80

97

Source: Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassation

The National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings (NCCTHB), the main THB policy implementation body in Bulgaria, also receives signals for potential victims of trafficking as the institution responsible for the coordination of the National Referral Mechanism. In 2017, the NCCTHB Secretariat received a total of 107 signals about potential cases of trafficking, concerning 142 people (it was established subsequently 14 of the signals were not about THB). In 2016, the total number of signals was 105, concerning 136 potential victims.

High-risk groups in Bulgaria vis-à-vis potential involvement in trafficking are women involved in the sex industry, residents of rural and less developed regions, unemployed people, those illiterate or with lower levels of education, the Roma minority, and disadvantaged people (physically and mentally). Since the beginning of the refugee and migrant crisis in the early 2010s, a high-risk group have also been unaccompanied minors and asylum seekers and migrants among third-country nationals passing through the territory of Bulgaria. Some noticeable trends regarding vulnerable groups include a rising risk for young and educated people in big cities due to the increased use of internet and social networks by traffickers, for pregnant women in certain regions, for women potential victims of trafficking for sham marriages with non-EU nationals and for men and boys to be trafficked for sexual exploitation.

High-risk sectors for THB for labour exploitation abroad are agriculture, construction, the hospitality industry, au pair services and care for the elderly. Often potential victims of sexual exploitation are recruited to work for nominal modelling agencies. For domestic trafficking, a high risk area is the hospitality business in seaside resorts. There is an increased number of foreign nationals employed at Black Sea resort hotels in the summer, suggesting a potential risk for Bulgaria to become a destination country in this particular sphere.

In 2017, Bulgaria almost douled the capacity of specialised state-owned services for victims of human trafficking. At present, there is a total of eight specialised services: five residential services (three shelters for temporary accommodation; one shelter for long-term reintegration; and one crisis centre for children) in Sofia, Varna and Burgas, as well as three counselling services in each of these cities. Currently the state finances and manages through the institutions, municipalities and through strategic partnership with NGOs the largest number of services for victims of trafficking. The total capacity of the specialised services launched with funding NCCTHB and under its methodological guidance is 34 persons. Also in 2017, a tenth local structure – a Local Commission for Combating THB in Pleven, Northern Bulgaria, opened. Thus the unique network of local, decentralised anti-trafficking bodies in the country increased by one.

One challenge since the beginning of the refugee and migrant crisis has been the identification of victims among third-country nationals. Since Bulgaria is mainly a transit country for this group, potential THB victims among them are unwilling to seek help and cooperate with Bulgarian authorities. There is also scarcity of information available about them from their countries of origin.

2. INSTITUTIONAL, LEGAL AND POLICY FRAMEWORK TO ADDRESS TRAFFICKING IN HUMAN BEINGS

o RELEVANT LEGISLATION

Bulgaria is party to all major international agreements in the sphere of human trafficking. It was one of the first countries to ratify the United Nations’ Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children (the Palermo Protocol) and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. As part of its EU accession process in the 2000s, Bulgaria reformed and upgraded thoroughly its legislation in order to fulfil the EU political criteria in the sphere of human trafficking and is now regularly reporting on progress along the transposed Directive 2011/36/EU. Bulgaria is party to all major human rights- and crime-related international and EU documents linked to human trafficking.

The national anti-trafficking and victim protection policy is regulated in the Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings Act, adopted in 2003 and last amended and supplemented in 2015. Another key strategic document is the National Anti-Trafficking Strategy 2017 – 2021, adopted in 2017, which is implemented through annual National Anti-Trafficking and Victim Protection Programmes.

Trafficking in human beings is further regulated in the Criminal Code: Articles 16a, 159a, 159b, 159c and 227.

On the basis of Article 4 of the Anti-Trafficking Act, the National Commission for Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings (NCCTHB; National Anti-Trafficking Commission) was established in 2004, and gradually Local Commissions for Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings (LCCTHB) were set up with ten municipalities in the country. Under the methodological guidance of the National Anti-Trafficking Commission, LCCTHB operate in the cities of Blagoevgrad, Burgas, Montana, Pazardzhik, Pleven, Plovdiv, Ruse, Varna, Sliven and Veliko Tarnovo. The National Anti-Trafficking Commission acts under the Council of Ministers as national coordinator ensuring the interaction of the individual authorities, institutions and organisations, including NGOs, for the implementation of the Anti-Trafficking Act.

The responsibilities of the NCCTHB include organising and conducting information and education campaigns for risk groups as regards trafficking in human beings; managing and supervising the work of the local anti-trafficking commissions, shelters and support and protection centres for victims of trafficking; and taking part in international cooperation for preventing and counteracting trafficking in human beings. The NCCTHB elaborates every year a National Anti-Trafficking and Victim Protection Programme that it submits for approval to the Council of Ministers, together with an annual report with statistics and analyses. The NCCTHB organises, in the framework of the above-mentioned campaigns or as individual events, international events such as conferences, forums and round tables on topical issues related to human trafficking. In 2015 and 2016 the forums focused on THB in the context of migration processes, and in 2017 a conference was held on new technologies, the internet and THB.

On national level, in its capacity as a national rapporteur or equivalent mechanism, the NCCTHB initiates regular studies on topics related to the different aspects of human trafficking and periodically submitted information to the competent authorities and relevant stakeholders. In addition, the NCCTHB collects information about the offence of human trafficking submitted by public authorities such as the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassation, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, State Agency for Child Protection, Social Assistance Agency etc., as well as information provided by NGOs, foreign missions to Bulgaria, international organisations and natural persons (victims of trafficking or their relatives). On the basis of these data, reports similar to the European ones are compiled and presented to the international and European anti-trafficking institutions and organisations as well as to the Bulgarian institutions, organisations and stakeholders. The reports and available information are accessible to the general public through the NCCTHB website (http://antitraffic.government.bg/en/).

The National Anti-Trafficking Commission has taken specific action for the amendment of the Anti-Trafficking Act. The amendments aim to harmonise the Bulgarian legislation with the international regulation of the reflection and recovery period for victims and potential victims of trafficking by introducing a definition of the reflection and recovery period and regulating its functions and duration, in line with Bulgaria’s international commitments.

o PROTECTION OF THE VICTIMS AND ACCESS TO RIGHTS

The Council of Ministers adopted, by a decision of 20 June 2016, the National Referral Mechanism for Support of Trafficked Persons (NRM), a document regulating the steps and procedures to be followed with a view to rendering immediate and adequate assistance and support to victims of human trafficking. The document is binding and is an updated version of the NMR developed as guidelines in 2010. In addition, the National Referral Mechanism outlines an algorithm of timely and comprehensive interagency communication and coordination. The National Anti-Trafficking Commission is the coordinating body under the NRM.

To enhance the implementation of the NRM, a multi-agency and multi-disciplinary team coordinated by the NCCTHB has been set up in the framework of the Bulgarian-Swiss Cooperation Programme to respond to complex cases of human trafficking.

At the end of 2017, after two new services were launched with the NCCTHB in July, there is a total of eight specialised services for victims of human trafficking: five residential services (three shelters for temporary accommodation; one shelter for subsequent reintegration; and one crisis centre for children) in Sofia, Varna and Burgas, as well as three counselling services in Varna, Burgas and Sofia. Currently the State finances and manages through the institutions, municipalities and through strategic partnership with civil society organisations (CSOs) the largest number of services for victims of trafficking. The total capacity of the specialized services launched with funding of the NCCTHB and under its methodological guidance is 34 persons. In the period 2014 – 2016 a total of 58 persons were accommodated and provided assistance and support. In the first nine months of 2017 the number of people accommodated and assisted was 22. The crisis centre for child victims of trafficking in Sofia is the first profiled service in Bulgaria addressing the needs of this particular target group. The shelter for subsequent re-integration of victims of trafficking is also the first one in the country that serves as an economic measure to support victims of trafficking in providing the possibility for long-term integration through empowerment.

In addition, as of 31 October 2017, 18 crisis centres for child victims of violence (incl. human trafficking) with a total capacity of 196 persons and eight crisis centres for adult victims of violence with a capacity of 66 operate as state-delegated activity, sometimes managed by NGOs. Where necessary children accommodated in a crisis centre may benefit from accompanying social services for community support according to their individual needs. The Centres for Community Support are the most developed counselling social service in the country. They perform a set of activities, including prevention, and specialists work to support children accommodated in crisis centres. The trend persists of most users of the social services for victims of trafficking being female. Male victims who are willing to be accommodated, are referred to appropriate services that take account of their needs, including services provided by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (MLSP) and/or hospices, since most of those who seek accommodation are in complicate health condition, including dependencies.

Year

No. services with the NCCTHB

No. of signals to the NCCTHB

No. of persons assisted in the shelters

No. of prevention information campaigns organized by the administration of the NCCTHB

No. of local anti-trafficking commissions

2014

2

90 signals concerning 125 persons

15 persons

1

9

2015

5

67 signals concerning 200 persons

22 persons, 11 of whom children at risk of trafficking 

3

9

2016

5

105 signals concerning 136 persons

21 persons

3

9

2017

8

107 signals concerning 142 persons

22 persons

3

10

Source: NCCTHB

Data provided by the State Agency for Child Protection on child victims of THB shows:

Year

Total number

Sex

Type of exploitation

Countries of destination

Number of repatriated children

No. of measures under Article 76 of the BIDA

2014

36 children

21 girls

15 boys

Sexual exploitation 12 girls

Thefts 9 girls

Begging14 boys

Sale of children1

UK -2;

Greece – 3;

Germany – 4;

the Netherlands – 1;

Spain – 1;

Bulgaria – 7;

Sweden – 6;

Austria – 5;

France – 2;

Italy – 2;

Slovenia – 3.

11 children

Countries of destination:

UK – 1;

Austria – 5;

Sweden – 1;

Slovenia – 1;

The Netherlands – 2;

Greece – 1.

36 children

2015

34 children

27 girls

7 boys

Sexual exploitation –12 girls

Begging – 19

12 boys and 7 girls

Thefts – 4 girls

Sweden, Austria, UK, Germany, Slovakia, the Czech republic, and Serbia.

25 children

UK - 5

Sweden - 10

Austria - 5 Germany - 2 Spain - 2

Cyprus – 1.

34 children

2016

26 children

18 girls

8 boys

Sexual exploitation (8 girls)

Begging –7 cases (4 boys and 3 girls)

Thefts

Germany -2

Italy – 3

Sweden – 3

Switzerland – 1

England – 1

The Netherlands – 1

Poland – 1

Greece – 2

Austria – 2

Denmark – 1

Spain – 3

France – 1

Slovakia – 1

Hungary – 1

BiH – 1

Bulgaria – 3.

16 children

Sweden -3

Austria – 2

Italy – 3

Denmark – 1

Spain – 2

England – 1

BiH – 1

Switzerland – 1

Germany – 2.

17 children

Source: State Agency for Child Protection

o PROSECUTION OF TRAFFICKERS AND PERPETRATORS

The Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Bulgaria in its capacity of a leading authority in charge of the formal identification of victims of trafficking and the driving force in pre-trial proceedings, is the major source of statistical data concerning human trafficking on state level.

Number of persons brought to court, convicted persons, imposed punishments and acquittals over the period 2014-2017

 

2014

2015

2016

2017

Persons brought to court

94

99

80

88

Convicted and sanctioned persons with a final judicial act

59

49

36

62

Punished (Fine is imposed together with imprisonment):

- Imprisonment – effective

19

16

12

20

- Imprisonment – conditionally suspended

37

32

23

41

- Fine

31

23

8

29

Finally acquitted persons

5

4

2

0

Source: Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassation

o PREVENTION

The Secretariat of the NCCTHB conducts annually nation-wide prevention and information campaigns including a series of events addressing countering trafficking in human beings and enhancing the general public and vulnerable groups’ awareness of the crime. The NCCTHB is further involved as a partner in joint information and prevention campaigns together with other public institutions and/or representatives of the non-governmental sector. In order to expand the outreach and get to the representatives of the vulnerable groups, the prevention and information campaigns on local level are organised and conducted jointly in cooperation with the Local Anti-Trafficking Commissions. The NCCTHB Secretariat conducts on average three national campaigns annually. The ten Local Anti-Trafficking Commissions carry out every year their own campaigns on local level. In 2015 there were more than 30 prevention and information campaigns on local level targeted at various age and target groups; more than 70 prevention and information events in 2016 on local level that comprised more than 10,000 people from school to pension age; and in another 26 initiatives in 2017 involving more than 5,200 people.

The NCCTHB also conducts yearly Volunteer Academies, uniting the efforts of the National and Local Anti-Trafficking Commissions. The Academies attract pupils from all over the country for three days of training. The total number of children involved in the Academies since their inception is more than 200.

The administration of the NCCTHB, together with experts, is also engaged, since 2016, in mapping of regions with particularly vulnerable groups to trafficking (such as the Roma minority), thus improving the exchange of information and establishing the major risk factors and risk groups in the country. The purpose of this research is to serve as a basis for developing more targeted and efficient prevention campaigns, tailored for the specific groups.

3. NATIONAL ACTION PLAN

Further information:

PROGRAMMES/INITIATIVES ADDRESSING TRAFFICKING IN HUMAN BEINGS

The National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings adopts annually a National Programme for Countering Human Trafficking and Protection of the Victims. The Programme corresponds with the acting National Strategy for Combating THB (the current one encompasses the period 2017-21) and comprises activities planned by the NCCTHB Secretariat, its member institutions and partnering intergovernmental and civil society organisations. The document is then endorsed at a regular session of the Council of Ministers.

Every yearly National Programme consists of seven sections: 1) Institutional and organisational measures; 2) Prevention; 3) Training and staff qualification; 4) Protection, recovery and re-integration of the victims of human trafficking; 5) Research, analysis and statistical reporting on data on human trafficking; 6) International cooperation; and 7) Legislative amendments. Every activity listed in the Programme has a clear description, objective, timeframe, expected results, responsible party and financial dimension.

o PROTECTION OF THE VICTIMS AND ACCESS TO RIGHTS

In the National Programme for 2018, the following activities are planned: protection, support and reintegration of the victims accommodated at the shelters and crisis centres in Sofia, Burgas and Varna; training courses for victims; enhancement of cooperation under the NRM and the TRM; return of victims from abroad; development of strategy for cross-border assistance of victims, etc.

o PROSECUTION OF TRAFFICKERS AND PERPETRATORS

In the National Programme for 2018, the following activities are planned: trainings for magistrates (prosecutors and judges) on victim identification. Concrete actions within the competence of the Prosecutor’s Office.

o PREVENTION

In the National Programme for 2018, the following activities are planned: three national campaigns – against trafficking for labour exploitation, for sexual exploitation and on new trends in the crime and its prevention; a number of local campaigns by the Local Anti-Trafficking Commissions among pupils and students; a campaign among third-country nationals for risks to migrants and refugees; targeted information sessions among vulnerable groups.

Attachments: The National Strategy and the National Programmes for 2017 and 2018 (in Bulgarian)

4. CROSS-BORDER COOPERATION TO ADDRESS TRAFFICKING IN HUMAN BEINGS

o EU MEMBER STATES

The National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings acts as a National Rapporteur or Equivalent Mechanism for Bulgaria within the network of NREMs under the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator. Meetings are held regularly every six months in Brussels. In June 2018, the NCCTHB presides the meeting of NREMs, as Bulgaria holds the rotational Presidency of the Council.

The NCCTHB has participated in a number of joint projects and initiatives in the sphere of combating and preventing human trafficking with partners from the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, France and the United Kingdom. The Bulgarian Ministry of the Interior, a member institution of the NCCTHB, and its operatives are one of the most active in Joint Investigation Teams on EU level. Many additional initiatives are carried out under the aegis of Europol and Eurojust (such as Action Weeks for example).

o NON-EU COUNTRIES

The National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings is the Bulgarian representative in the Network of Anti-Trafficking Coordinators of South-Eastern Europe, which was launched as part of the Brdo Process for the Balkans in Slovenia in 2010. Meetings of the network are held semi-annually in one of the region’s capitals, and the 2018 meeting is hosted by Bulgaria as holding the current Presidency of the EU Council.

The NCCTHB acts as a contact point for Bulgaria of the Transnational Referral Mechanism, developed by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) in Vienna.

The Commission is also implementing a long-term project for protection and re-integration of victims of trafficking under the Bulgarian-Swiss Cooperation Programme, focusing on support services, exchange of know-how and training.

5. RELEVANT REPORTS

Attachment: NCCTHB Annual Report 2017, draft (in Bulgarian)

Link: NCCTHB Annual Report 2016 (in English): http://bit.ly/2GttNMr

Link: NCCTHB Annual Report 2015 (in Bulgarian): http://bit.ly/2pdztTj

Link: NCCTHB Annual Report 2014 (in Bulgarian):http://bit.ly/2Gtu9Th

6. RELEVANT LINKS TO NATIONAL AUTHORITIES/INSTITUTIONS WEBSITES AND OTHER RELEVANT CONTACTS

These can include the following or further actors:

o HELPLINE

National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings (http://antitraffic.government.bg/) Telephone: +359 2 807 80 50

National hotline for combating trafficking in human beings: https://080020100.bg/ Hotline: 0800 20 100

o NATIONAL RAPPORTEUR OR EQUIVALENT MECHANISM

National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings (http://antitraffic.government.bg/)

o GOVERNMENT

Council of Ministers: http://www.gov.bg/en

Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2018: https://eu2018bg.bg/en/home

o LAW ENFORCEMENT

Ministry of the Interior: https://mvr.bg/en/home

· Chief Directorate “Combating Organised Crime”: http://gdbop.bg/bg/

· Chief Directorate ”National Police”: https://www.mvr.bg/gdnp/en/home

Ministry of Justice: https://newweb.mjs.bg/en/

Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Bulgaria: https://prb.bg/en

National Investigation Service: http://www.nsls.justice.bg/

Supreme Court of Cassation: http://www.vks.bg/

o RELEVANT MINISTRIES AND GOVERNMENT AGENCIES

Ministry of Labour and Social Policy: https://www.mlsp.government.bg/index.php?section=HOMEN2&lang=_eng

· National Employment Agency: https://www.az.government.bg/

· Executive Agency “Chief Labour Inspectorate”: http://www.gli.government.bg/en/

· Agency for Social Assistance: http://www.asp.government.bg/

Ministry of Health: https://www.mh.government.bg/bg/

Ministry of Education and Science: https://www.mon.bg/en/100000

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: https://www.mfa.bg/setlang/en/

State Agency for Refugees: https://www.aref.government.bg/index.php/en/

State Agency for Child Protection: https://sacp.government.bg/bg/

o INTERGOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS

International Organisation for Migration: http://www.iom.bg/

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: http://www.unhcr.org/bg/

o CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS

Bulgarian Red Cross: http://en.redcross.bg/

“Animus Association” Foundation (member of the international La Strada network): http://animusassociation.org/en/

Campaign A21: http://www.a21.org/bg

Caritas Bulgaria: https://caritas.bg/en/

Bulgarian Family Planning Association: http://www.safesex.bg/en

Safer Internet Centre: https://www.safenet.bg/bg/novini

Centre for the Study of Democracy: http://www.csd.bg/index.php?id=2

RiskMonitor: http://www.riskmonitor.bg/en