The government maintained protection efforts despite notable gaps. The government identified 171 victims (78 sex trafficking, 39 labor trafficking, 54 unspecified), a decrease from 188 in 2020. Of these victims, 24 were children (21 in 2020), and eight were foreign nationals (four in 2020). Government Decree no. 354/2012 on the trafficking victim identification mechanism, which established the NRM, regulated the identification of victims and their referral to assistance. Experts expressed concern that the decree did not apply to foreign victims without legal residency. The decree listed the authorities responsible for identifying victims, such as police, border guards, and health professionals; the questionnaire to be completed with suspected victims; and procedural protocols. In 2021, the government amended the decree to include an updated list of trafficking indicators and a flowchart to assist with the identification of trafficking victims and management of trafficking cases. The government also amended the Victim Support Act, which required the provision of services to all victims of a crime, increasing the number of victims who benefited from victim support services. However, under those amendments, which entered into force in 2021, victims automatically received access to support services unless they explicitly asked the authorities responsible for identification not to record their personal data into the government’s digital victim support system (EKAT), which provided victims with information on support services, such as placement in shelters. At the beginning of 2021, only three institutions responsible for identification could access EKAT. As a result, by the end of 2021, authorities only identified seven cases.
NGOs said identification, referral, and assistance for the majority of victims took place on an ad hoc basis, and NGOs and social service providers mainly based the process on their personal networks and connections, while the Ministry of Interior (MOI) reported most referrals were made by the police. NGOs expressed the need for the government to allocate more effectively its resources, particularly in the identification and referral of victims. They also continued to criticize the law that required the State Audit Office to report on organizations that were “capable of influencing public life” and had a certain budget as it negatively impacted state funding for victim assistance. Overall, victim assistance remained scarce and uncoordinated—especially for foreigners and children—and exposed survivors to the risk of re-victimization. In 2021, government-funded NGOs reported assisting 91 trafficking victims, an increase from 80 in 2020, of which three were children, a notable decrease from 13 in 2020. The vast majority of the victims were Hungarian citizens; five were foreign nationals.
While the NRM did not apply to foreign victims without legal residency, the government granted ad hoc approval to a government-funded NGO to provide services, such as financial support, shelter, and health care, in cases when the NGO requested it. Foreign victims could receive a 30-day reflection period to decide whether to assist law enforcement, during which they were eligible for a certificate of temporary stay for up to six months. Those who cooperated with authorities were entitled to a residence permit for the duration of their cooperation. In 2021, one Mozambican woman and her child held a humanitarian residence permit. The law required the government to provide 22,800 Hungarian forint (HUF) ($70) per month for one year to third-country nationals who were trafficking victims. The law also required the government to provide trafficking victims who were identified during the asylum process with immediate psychological or psychiatric assistance through its reception facility and, if necessary, accommodation through victim support services. However, the government did not screen or adequately identify victims among vulnerable populations, such as asylum-seekers and unaccompanied children.
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) oversaw the victim support system, which included victim support services, centers, and a hotline, and it allocated 934 million HUF ($2.86 million) toward the system. These expenditures were for victims of domestic violence and other crimes, including trafficking. All Hungarian and EU victims were eligible for support services, including government-provided financial support, psychological services, legal assistance, witness care, and shelter. Amendments in 2021 to the government decree revised the criteria for the provision of victim financial assistance by extending the deadline to apply for immediate assistance from three to eight days from the date of the crime and lifted the maximum time limit that victims could stay in shelters, allowing social workers to determine victims’ length of stay on a case-by-case basis. In 2021, a government-funded NGO operated three shelters that provided accommodation, transportation, reintegration assistance, family care, financial management advice, and aftercare. The Ministry of Human Capacities funded a separate NGO and church to establish a new shelter for trafficking victims and their families; the shelter provided victims with accommodation and support services for up to three years. In December 2021, to help families reintegrate after moving out of temporary shelters, the Ministry of Human Capacities created accommodations at an existing facility for six parents who were victims of crimes, including trafficking, and their children.
The Prime Minister’s Office funded two NGOs to operate protected shelters that provided secure accommodations and a range of services, including medical assistance and transportation, to victims. The MOJ continued to build a nationwide network of victim support centers by opening three more in 2021 with the goal to open three centers per year until 2025, and it trained workers on identifying and registering trafficking victims. In areas where the centers were unavailable, the MOJ opened victim support “hot-spots” (two in 2021) to facilitate implementation of victim support. The centers and “hot-spots” assisted victims of domestic abuse and other crimes, including trafficking. Observers reported most staff working in the centers had a legal background but lacked social care skills and experience with victim support. Observers also reported staff allegedly misrepresented individuals with intellectual disabilities and those who were homeless as trafficking victims in order to justify the centers’ existence and reach target numbers. In 2021, the government and an NGO continued to implement a two-year pilot project aimed at providing 50 potential trafficking victims with reintegration support. The government partially funded the project, contributing 25 million HUF ($76,610). Under the auspices of the project, each victim was eligible for up to 500,000 HUF ($1,530) in financial support; during the reporting period, 14 victims received payments. Additionally, in 2021, the government and an international organization implemented a one-year return and reintegration project co-financed by the Internal Security Fund of the European Union and the Hungarian MOI. The project aimed at improving and consolidating the provision of assistance to victims for their voluntary returns and sustainable reintegration and preventing re-victimization. Further amendments to the Victim Support Act allowed victims of violent crimes, such as trafficking, to receive compensation regardless of the victim’s income level and extended the deadline for claiming compensation from three months to one year. In 2021, the MOJ reported victims received 11.5 million HUF ($35,240) in state compensation; however, the statistics included victims of all types of crimes, including trafficking.
Provisions to the Act of Criminal Procedures and related sectoral legislation entered into force in 2021, modifying the conduct of proceedings involving children—including child trafficking victims—by strengthening cooperation between child protective services and the judiciary. The government based this new approach on the Barnahus method—a multidisciplinary and interagency model offering child victims a coordinated and effective response to prevent re-traumatization during investigations and court proceedings. The government maintained two interdisciplinary centers based on the Barnahus method for child victims and witnesses. To implement the general protection measure authorizing police to place child trafficking victims in designated shelters for up to 60 days, the government maintained an intersectoral working group among stakeholders, such as police and designated children’s homes. There were five such shelters (one exclusively for boys) for the reception of child trafficking victims; the working group referred 10 child victims. Perennial issues persisted with protecting and providing assistance to child victims. Experts criticized the chronic lack of assistance and specialized services for child trafficking victims. The government lacked a framework for identifying, referring, or assisting child victims other than the general child protection system and state-run homes, which had insufficient staff and resources to provide appropriate care or security, leaving victims at risk for re-trafficking. Experts continued to express concern that children in state-run homes and orphanages, especially children with disabilities, such as girls with special needs or dual needs, were particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking—approximately 23,000 children lived in state-run institutions, including 300 younger than three years of age. EU and national requirements required child protection institutions and state-run homes to report all suspected cases of children exploited in sex trafficking; however, according to observers, some law enforcement did not treat them as victims. Unlike previous years when authorities penalized child trafficking victims for unlawful acts their traffickers compelled them to commit, in 2021, authorities implemented the non-punishment provision for child victims; however, in one instance, authorities reported issuing a warning to a girl for a commercial sex crime. Experts questioned the accuracy of government data on the penalization of children, noting children were most likely detained by authorities for short periods of time. Through the Ministry of Human Capacities, child protection professionals received a 30-hour vocational training on child trafficking and recent legislative changes. Additionally, the Ministry of Human Capacities provided 16.6 million HUF ($50,870) to an NGO to provide programs in orphanages for the prevention and treatment of child sex trafficking. The government operated a 24-hour child protection hotline, which received three alerts in connection with a potential child sex trafficking victim in state care.
In response to the inflow of Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s full- scale invasion of Ukraine, the MOI printed and distributed 90,000 flyers in Ukrainian and Hungarian at border crossings, shelters, major train stations, and municipal governments, as well as online, raising awareness about potential schemes by traffickers and risks of trafficking. Additionally, the government launched a new hotline with information in Hungarian, English, and Ukrainian on the application process for temporary protected status. In the three counties along the border, the government set up temporary shelters capable of accommodating 28,000, with backup capacity for up to 120,000. To provide healthcare, the government designated nine hospitals with capacity to care for 11,300 patients, including pandemic isolation. The Budapest Municipality set up accommodations for refugees who decided to remain in Budapest, converting two homeless shelters and a retirement home into refugee reception centers with a total capacity of 440 beds. However, observers reported the lack of Ukrainian-speaking social workers hindered the municipality’s ability to properly assist with the psychosocial needs of the many children staying at the shelters. Furthermore, several NGOs raised concerns about registration and assistance, particularly for unaccompanied children and other vulnerable populations, and noted a lack of translated outreach materials, limited access to forms and instructions, and difficult to impossible requirements, such as needing a registered address in Hungary to access assistance or educational services. Ukraine’s ambassador to Hungary asserted in an April 2022 interview that the Hungarian government was not providing regular updates about Ukrainian refugees arriving to the country and had no information on the whereabouts of 53 Ukrainian unaccompanied children who had crossed the Hungarian border. As of April 2022, authorities issued approximately 100,000 30-day temporary residence permits to Ukrainian citizens. As of March 2022, the MOI reported that it had identified no trafficking victims among refugees.