Back Poland must take further steps to tackle human trafficking, say Council of Europe experts

Council of Europe Strasbourg 9 June 2023
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Poland must take further steps to tackle human trafficking, say Council of Europe experts

The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) has urged the Polish authorities to take further action against human trafficking, notably by effectively preventing and combating trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation and improving the criminal justice response.

According to GRETA’s third report on Poland, progress has been made in some areas, including legislative changes and increased funding for victim assistance. However, a number of challenges remain.

Given the complexity of proceedings in trafficking cases, effective legal assistance and free legal aid are fundamental to enabling victims to obtain justice and assert their rights, the report notes. GRETA urges the Polish authorities to ensure that trafficking victims are appointed a lawyer to represent them in judicial and administrative proceedings, including to claim compensation.

The report notes that victims of human trafficking are often treated as witnesses of crime, not as injured parties entitled to compensation, and the number of compensation awards is very low. GRETA therefore calls on the authorities to ensure that victims of trafficking can effectively receive compensation from the offenders, as well as have access to state compensation.

Further, while guidance for law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges on human trafficking cases has been developed, the number of human trafficking convictions, especially related to labour exploitation, is low. According to GRETA, this calls for urgent measures to ensure that human trafficking offences are proactively and promptly investigated, and lead to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.

The report also examines progress made on the implementation of previous GRETA recommendations on selected topics. The report, which assesses for the third time Poland’s implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings on human trafficking, has been published together with the response of the Polish authorities.

GRETA and Poland