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GRETA publishes report on Bulgaria

Strasbourg, 14 December 2011 - The Council of Europeís Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) has published today its first evaluation report on Bulgaria.

In its report, GRETA welcomes the important steps taken by the Bulgarian authorities to prevent and combat trafficking in human beings. These measures have included the adoption of a specific law to address human trafficking, increased penalties for trafficking offenses, and criminalisation of the use of services of victims of trafficking. Co-ordination of the efforts of relevant actors is ensured through the National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, seven local commissions, and a national mechanism for referral and support of trafficked persons.

GRETA acknowledges the considerable work done on the awareness-raising side and in the area of training. However, GRETA stresses the need to strengthen the aspect of prevention through social and economic empowerment measures for groups vulnerable to human trafficking.

As regards assistance to victims of trafficking, GRETA urges the Bulgarian authorities to ensure that all the measures provided for in law are guaranteed in practice, including access to secure accommodation and medical assistance. In this connection, GRETA stresses the need to facilitate the reintegration of victims into society by providing them with vocational training and access to the labour market. Despite the existence of legal possibilities for compensation of victims of trafficking, this aspect remains largely unexplored.

Regarding the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases, GRETA welcomes the positive results in the area of international co-operation and in securing convictions. Nevertheless, GRETA considers that the Bulgarian authorities should step up proactive investigations of potential cases of trafficking and ensure that victims are adequately protected and assisted during pre-trial and court proceedings.

Prior to drawing up its evaluation report, GRETA held consultations with the relevant authorities and non-governmental and international organisations active in the field of combating trafficking in human beings in Bulgaria. A confidential first draft of the report was sent to the Bulgarian authorities and their comments were taken into account in the final evaluation report adopted by GRETA. This report is published together with the final comments of the Bulgarian authorities, as provided for by the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

On the basis of GRETAís report, the Committee of the Parties to the Convention will consider adopting recommendations addressed to the Government of Bulgaria.