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The Hungarian government sustained its efforts to protect trafficking victims in 2012. It improved its capacity to identify and protect victims by adopting a December 2012 decree on victim identification for all front-line responders, as well as enacting the September 2012 amendment to the Victim Support Act, which requires the government to provide shelter for identified trafficking victims exploited either in Hungary or abroad. Victims are eligible to receive support under this act regardless of their intention to assist law enforcement. In 2012, the government identified a total of 122 trafficking victims through its national referral mechanism (NRM), 12 of whom were identified abroad by Hungarian Consular Services. In 2012, IOM assisted in the repatriation of 20 Hungarian victims exploited abroad. Out of the 122 victims identified in 2012, the government’s victim support service only reported assisting one foreign trafficking victim; a decline from 14 foreign victims in 2011. Thirty victims referred through the NRM were provided only with information services. Eighteen Hungarian trafficking victims were referred to an NGO-run shelter in 2012 for care, a decline from the 34 Hungarian victims referred in 2011. The government provided the approximate equivalent of $27,000 for the operation of this shelter in 2012, the same amount it provided to it in 2011. However, this funding level was insufficient and the NGO continued to rely on local and international donors to adequately address the specialized needs required by trafficking victims under its care. This shelter had limited capacity of space for a maximum of six victims for a renewable, six-week period; some victims were turned away from the shelter during the year due to lack of space; significantly increasing their risk of re-trafficking. In 2012, the government provided another NGO with the approximate equivalent of $105,000 to purchase and operate a second shelter exclusively for trafficking victims. Effective February 1, 2013, the new shelter can accommodate six female trafficking victims for up to a year. Victims are only permitted to leave the shelter if accompanied by a chaperone.
The government continued to criminalize and punish victims for crimes committed as a direct result of their trafficking. Experts continued to report a deep misunderstanding among Hungarian authorities of child trafficking issues, and NGOs reported authorities did not proactively identify potential trafficking victims among local children and other domestic trafficking victims in the country, instead charging them for violating prostitution laws and other offenses. Furthermore, trafficking victims in Hungary are only considered to be official victims of the crime of trafficking if they testify in court against their traffickers. If they refuse to testify, victims may be prosecuted by police for illegal prostitution, a petty offence. NGOs reported victims in Hungary faced considerable risks of retribution by their traffickers. Experts reported that Hungarian traffickers often remained in contact with victims after they left the country and continued to exert pressure on them from Hungary. The government did not provide adequate incentives for victims to voluntarily participate in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers in 2012. Although the government had a witness protection law that could be used to protect trafficking victims, it had yet to use it to protect any trafficking victims required to testify against their traffickers. The law provided foreign victims with a 30-day reflection period and temporary residency permit, if they decided to assist law enforcement; however, no foreign victims applied for or received this temporary immigration relief in 2012. Hungarian victims could voluntarily decide whether to assist law enforcement authorities during the criminal investigation but were obliged to testify if summoned by the court.
The Government of Hungary demonstrated some limited improvements in its efforts to prevent human trafficking. In August 2012, the government organized a week-long awareness-raising campaign as part of an annual youth music festival to educate young Hungarians about trafficking and screened a Dutch documentary to educate potential clients of prostitution about sex trafficking. In December, the government launched a pilot project to reach secondary school students, and conducted targeted outreach with Hungarians seeking jobs abroad to educate them about their rights to challenge poor working conditions in destination countries. NGOs reported the government did not undertake any anti-trafficking awareness campaigns targeted to internal trafficking in Hungary. Experts report that authorities in Hungary did not acknowledge the problem of human trafficking as it relates to child prostitution within the country. The government undertook only limited measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period. The government did not demonstrate transparency in systematically assessing its anti-trafficking efforts and providing reliable trafficking-related statistics in 2012, but maintained a website listing information on its anti-trafficking efforts, indicators of trafficking, and checklists for Hungarians planning on working abroad. The government provided anti-trafficking training to Hungarian troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.
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