Varuh ДЌlovekovih pravic

Meeting with the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA)

A delegation of the Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) is currently on a visit to Slovenia. On Monday, 6 June 2022, they met with representatives of the Ombudsman.

GRETA was established in accordance with the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings. It is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Convention in the Member States and for compiling reports on the evaluation of the measures taken by a particular Member State in relation to the issue. So far, two evaluation rounds have been carried out for Slovenia: the first evaluation in 2013 and the second in 2017. This time GRETA is conducting the third round of evaluation.

Recognising that this is an (increasingly) topical aspect of the protection of human rights, in 2018 the Ombudsman introduced trafficking in human beings as a special sub-field of its work. The institution is aware that this would require proactive action in order for the victims to get to know the institution of the Ombudsman and be able to turn to it for help. However, it is also aware that dealing with matters from the perspective of fulfilling the positive duties of the state would predominate. The Ombudsman also reports specifically on this field of work in its annual reports (Annual report of the Ombudsman for 2020, page 243).

Representatives of the Ombudsman presented to the guests their efforts in the field of trafficking in human beings, in particular the challenges they detected in the activities of the authorities in this regard. They noted the shortage of labour inspectors due to the increased workload related to legislation on Covid-19, the police allocating a lot of time and human resources to the issue of illegal crossings of the border at the expense of dealing with trafficking in human beings, the lack of consistency of the relevant criminal and judicial practice and complications related to the collection of data broken down by personal circumstances such as nationality or ethnic origin. They also drew attention to the disputable provision of the Crime Victim Compensation Act, which provides for the right to compensation only for citizens of European Union Member States. The warnings by representatives of the Ombudsman also referred to the current legislation in accordance with which foreign nationals who are victims of trafficking in human beings are entitled only to emergency medical services (which simply cannot suffice, as due to their poor health and associated problems, trauma, various bodily injuries and defects resulting from exploitation, the victims require long-term and comprehensive medical care).

Representatives of GRETA were particularly interested in whether the Ombudsman, as an independent institution, would take on the task of monitoring the implementation of the Convention in the role of national rapporteur. The Ombudsman is ready to perform these tasks, but it is awaiting a decision from the executive and legislative branches of power, as this requires legislative changes and an increase in the Ombudsman's capacity.

Based on the information gathered during the visit to Slovenia and other sources, the delegation will compile a report with recommendations to Slovenia on how to better implement the Convention.