In its third report on Austria, the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) analyses trafficking victims’ access to justice and effective remedies and examines progress in the implementation of previous GRETA recommendations.
The report acknowledges that Austria has further developed the legislative and policy framework for combating human trafficking. Guidelines specifying the role of the federal states in the fight against human trafficking were developed, a working group on human trafficking was set up in the City of Vienna, and regional co-ordinators were appointed in Tyrol and Vorarlberg. In 2016, practical guidelines on identifying potential child victims of trafficking were adopted. In February 2017, the Federal Ministry of Justice issued an internal decree aimed at raising awareness of the non-punishment provision, which provides for the possibility of not imposing penalties on victims for their involvement in unlawful activities, to the extent that they have been compelled to do so. Further, in 2018, the Federal Ministry of the Interior issued an internal decree with instructions on how to proceed in cases of trafficking.
Despite efforts made to support victims of trafficking to claim compensation, effective access to compensation remains rare. Out of a sample of 178 cases, victims of trafficking were awarded compensation in only 27 cases. Furthermore, effective enforcement of compensation awards is a recurring problem. GRETA urges the Austrian authorities to make additional efforts to guarantee access to compensation for victims of trafficking, including by ensuring that the collection of evidence about the harm the victim has suffered and the financial gain from the exploitation of the victim is part of the criminal investigations.
While it is a positive feature that victims of trafficking holding residence permits in Austria are entitled to work, they face barriers in obtaining effective access to the labour market. The Austrian authorities should strengthen victims’ economic and social inclusion through vocational training, language courses and the promotion of micro-businesses, social enterprises and public-private partnerships.
The Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) is an independent body, which monitors the way countries, implement the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. So far, forty-six of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe are bound by the Convention, as well as Belarus, a non-member state.