The government maintained uneven victim protection efforts; while victim identification and funding for assistance decreased, victim assistance increased, and several policy changes improved victims’ access to care. The government identified 45 sex trafficking victims, a decrease compared with 65 in the prior reporting period but more than 31 victims identified in the reporting period prior to that. Of the identified victims, 44 were victims of sex trafficking, and one was a victim of labor trafficking; all victims were adults; 43 were women, and two were men. Most victims were from Dominican Republic, Romania, or Serbia. Experts raised concerns regarding gaps in victim identification as the government again did not identify any child or asylum-seeker trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government referred and provided assistance to 12 victims during the reporting period, including entrance into its crisis housing program for six victims and entrance into its safe accommodation program for another six victims. This compared with two victims assisted in the safe housing program in the prior reporting period. The government decreased its allocation for housing victims in 2021 to €119,208 ($135,160), compared with €145,515 ($164,980) in 2020. Government officials continued to utilize the national Manual for Identification of Victims of Trafficking in Persons. The majority of victims continued to be proactively identified by police, and coordination between police and NGOs was strong; however, observers reported ongoing concerns regarding the under-identification of labor trafficking victims and the tendency for officials to overlook cases of labor trafficking. While both government officials and civil society could “detect” trafficking victims, only the police could formally identify victims, and formal identification was required for long-term care.
Victims could request interviews with NGOs prior to meeting with law enforcement, and NGOs could accompany victims to interactions with law enforcement. Following victim identification, government regulations required police to refer victims to one of two government-funded NGOs that had formal cooperation agreements with the government to ensure adequate provision of care to the victims. However, experts noted that victim referral procedures may not have always been implemented uniformly for some vulnerable groups like undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers. NGOs noted continued strong cooperation with police on the identification of sex trafficking victims, as police continued to invite NGO care providers to police interactions with commercial sex establishments to assist in victim identification; however, authorities did not report taking similar steps regarding NGO requests to cooperate on identification of labor trafficking victims.
The government continued to partially fund two NGOs, supplemented by private donations, which provided trafficking-specific crisis and safe housing for victims. Both NGOs were among a wider range of organizations providing services such as counseling, psycho-social support, legal representation during investigations and court proceedings, and filing of documentation for residency status. In July 2021, the government’s anti-trafficking interdepartmental working group (IWG) issued a policy change to ensure all trafficking victims identified by the police were entitled to supplemental, comprehensive medical care and medication. Non-EU foreign victims had a 90-day reflection period during which they could remain in Slovenia while recovering and considering whether to participate in an investigation. All victims, both citizens and foreign nationals, could receive crisis housing for a maximum of 30 days, after which they could enter safe accommodation for 60 days, regardless of cooperation with law enforcement. Officials prepared individual assistance and protection programs for victims admitted into the safe housing accommodation. However, after 90 days, to continue to receive safe accommodation and long-term care, victims required a temporary residence permit, which required either law enforcement cooperation in criminal proceedings or, as of March 2021, qualification under the “personal circumstances” amendment. A temporary residence permit for “personal circumstances” could be issued for a maximum of one year, with an option for a one-year extension. However, the government did not allow victims to work during this period. Victims cooperating in criminal proceedings could temporarily stay for 180 days or longer, if needed, for the trial of the trafficker but had limited options to extend their stay after the conclusion of criminal proceedings. In March 2021, the government passed an amendment that intended to enable faster decision-making in the registration procedure for temporary stay permits for foreign nationals. However, the government did not report issuing any temporary residence permits during the reporting period.
The IWG made a policy change in 2021 to ensure more sex trafficking victims received the requisite accommodation benefits afforded to trafficking victims. Both Slovenian and foreign victims had access to the same protection services and had free movement in and out of shelters. Although the government did not identify any child trafficking victims during the reporting period, child trafficking victims continued to lack adequate assistance, as there were no designated facilities for unaccompanied child trafficking victims. If identified, child trafficking victims could be sheltered with unaccompanied migrant children and receive care through the Center for Social Work. GRETA highlighted a concern over unaccompanied child victims disappearing from public care, urging the development of more suitable accommodations for children with fully trained staff or foster parents. In response to these concerns, in 2021, the government established a children’s shelter, which included a location for the shelter, the appointment of an acting director, and planned trainings for conducting a forensic interview and psycho-social assistance for children; however, the home was not yet operational by the end of the reporting period.
When participating in pretrial and criminal proceedings, victims had a right to interpretation services and a protective escort, though the government did not report how many victims received these services. All victims that entered the government’s crisis and safe accommodation program could apply for free legal aid. While awaiting case adjudication, asylum-seekers were unable to legally work, though many did so illegally, which NGOs stated could increase their vulnerability to labor trafficking due to their illegal status, lack of knowledge of local labor laws, and language barriers. The 2018 GRETA report urged improving the process of providing comprehensive information to victims in a language they could understand to assess their options, including participation in programs to resist re-victimization. NGOs also noted there were insufficient professional interpreters fully trained in translating the details of rights of potential trafficking victims for asylum intake proceedings. Some victims were reluctant to speak with social workers and counselors about their situations, given the same interpreters assisted in the different contexts of law enforcement investigations and court proceedings on their case.
Only citizens of EU countries were eligible to apply for compensation from the state fund for crime victims; however, the government did not report awarding compensation to any victims. During the reporting period, prosecutors did not request restitution for any victims in criminal proceedings; historically, prosecutors typically did not do this, though there were no legal barriers to prevent it, instead requiring victims demand compensation for themselves in a separate civil court case. Experts urged prosecutors to systematically request restitution for victims at criminal trials. All victims could seek damages by filing a civil suit, though due to legal costs, victim re-traumatization, and the desire to avoid additional court proceedings, most victims did not pursue compensation, and the government did not report awarding compensation during the reporting period. Upon government seizure of a trafficker’s assets, victims could file a claim for restitution or damages; however, if the victim failed to file the claim, the trafficker’s assets were subsumed into the government’s budget. The government had a witness protection program that trafficking victims could utilize, but it did not report using the program to protect any victims during the reporting period. Under the witness protection act, victims could provide testimony via video or written statements, and courts kept victim identities confidential.