[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

KOSOVO (Tier 2)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Kosovo is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked across national borders for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Kosovo women and children are also trafficked within Kosovo for the same purpose. NGOs reported that child trafficking, particularly from Roma communities, for the purpose of forced begging, was an increasing problem. Most foreign victims are young women from Eastern Europe subjected to forced prostitution. Kosovo victims are also trafficked to countries throughout Europe including Macedonia, Italy, and Albania. Kosovo residents, including three children, made up the majority of identified trafficking victims in 2008. Police report that internal trafficking involving Kosovo Serbs may also occur in north Kosovo, a Serb-majority region that presents particular security challenges.

The Government of Kosovo does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government helped fund two NGO anti-trafficking shelters in 2008 and began implementing a new National Action Plan. The government did not adequately investigate and prosecute trafficking offenders, address trafficking-related corruption, and identify trafficking victims.

Recommendations for Kosovo: Aggressively investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence sex and labor trafficking offenders, including public officials complicit in trafficking; increase trafficking-specific training for prosecutors and judges; improve victim protection services to ensure adequate rehabilitation and reintegration for repatriated victims; ensure sustained funding and staffing in shelters; improve victim identification so that victims are not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; increase detection of victims of forced begging in Kosovo; and continue trafficking prevention activities, including efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.

Kosovo law criminalizes sex and labor trafficking and provides penalties for human trafficking of two to 12 years’ imprisonment – penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. In 2008, the government reportedly prosecuted 24 trafficking cases, resulting in the conviction of 15 sex trafficking offenders. However, due to limited data collection efforts, some of these cases may be conflated with smuggling or other trafficking-related statistics. Sentences for 14 offenders exceeded five years and one conviction resulted in a suspended sentence. The government continued to provide anti-trafficking training for police officers and recruits. While there were no specific reports of trafficking-related complicity among government officials, foreign trafficking victims often arrive in Kosovo with valid documents and employment contracts stamped by municipal authorities; police reports indicate that these local Kosovo officials may be aware that the document holders are trafficking victims.

The Government of Kosovo made important progress in protecting victims of trafficking in 2008. To help remedy a funding shortfall for the two NGO-run shelters, the government, in cooperation with international donors, provided critical funding totaling $158,593. The government also provided $64,786 for the operation of its official shelter for high-risk trafficking victims in 2008. The government reportedly used standard operating procedures when encountering suspected trafficking victims; however, a 2008 OSCE Report indicated that Kosovo officials often do not recognize victims of trafficking and that female victims are sometimes arrested for prostitution offenses, penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of their being trafficked. The government reported it assisted 24 victims in 2008, a decline from 33 assisted in 2007. The government did not provide any repatriation or reintegration assistance to victims after they left a shelter. The government has procedures in place that allow victims to provide anonymous testimony, though NGOs reported that witness intimidation remained a serious problem in Kosovo. Only two victims assisted in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers during the reporting period. Victims of trafficking have legal alternatives to removal to countries where they would face hardship or retribution, including the granting of refugee status or approval of residency permits.

The Government of Kosovo improved its prevention efforts during the reporting period. In April 2008, the government appointed a new anti-trafficking national coordinator and in July 2008 it adopted and began implementation of an anti-trafficking National Strategy and Action Plan. The Government of Kosovo supported numerous educational programs from the primary to university levels to prevent trafficking in 2008. IOM and the Ministry of Justice continued to jointly sponsor anti-trafficking hotlines. Most anti-trafficking campaigns continue to be run by international organizations and NGOs, including a campaign geared to raise awareness about child trafficking, particularly for the purpose of forced begging.