ROMANIA: Tier 2 Watch List
The Government of Romania does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included identifying significantly more trafficking victims, participating in twice as many international investigations, and conducting more awareness campaigns. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. Authorities investigated, prosecuted, and convicted fewer traffickers. Alleged complicity in trafficking crimes persisted without punishment, particularly with officials exploiting minors while in the care of government-run homes or placement centers. Authorities did not adequately screen for trafficking indicators or identify victims among vulnerable populations, such as asylum-seekers, individuals in commercial sex, or children in government-run institutions. Services for child trafficking victims remained inadequate. Moreover, a lack of sufficient government funding for assistance and protection services endured, leaving most victims without services, susceptible to re-traumatization, and at risk of re-trafficking. Therefore Romania remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.
Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking cases under the trafficking statute and punish convicted traffickers, including complicit officials, with significant prison sentences. • Proactively identify potential victims, especially among vulnerable populations, such as migrants and asylum-seekers, individuals in commercial sex, and children in government-run institutions, through enhanced training for police officers and labor inspectors on recognizing indicators of exploitation. • Significantly increase resources for, and the quality of, specialized victim services for children, including by training local child protection officers who work with victims and ensuring they have the necessary resources, such as funding. • Amend legislation to allow for financial support to NGOs for victim services and develop and institute a formal mechanism for administering the funds. • Expand efforts to train officials involved in judicial proceedings, particularly judges, on working with trafficking cases and victims, sensitivity to trafficking issues, and understanding all forms of trafficking. • Increase the number of police officers investigating trafficking crimes and financial investigators specializing in trafficking cases. • Significantly increase anti-trafficking training for law enforcement officials on working with victims, evidence collection, and understanding psychological coercion. • Amend legislation to allow authorities to sanction recruiting agencies for crimes contributing to trafficking. • Increase the quality of psychological counseling and improve access to medical assistance for victims. • Amend regulations to exempt all trafficking victims who testify in trials from the online disclosure of their names to protect participating witnesses from retaliation and stigma and incentivize greater victim participation in prosecutions. • Provide knowledgeable legal counsel and courtroom protections for victims assisting prosecutions. • Revise the restitution mechanism to include minimizing court fees and increasing efforts to ensure victims receive reparation. • Allocate adequate financial resources for the implementation of the 2018-2022 national strategy and national action plan.
The government decreased law enforcement efforts. Articles 210 and 211 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of three to 10 years’ imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. As in previous years, government data did not differentiate between cases exclusively related to trafficking or cases related to other crimes, such as pandering. The Organized Crime and Terrorism Investigation Directorate (DIICOT) and the Department for Combating Organized Crime (DCCO) were responsible for investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases. Authorities opened 532 new trafficking cases in 2019, a decrease from 695 in 2018 and 675 in 2017. Prosecutors indicted 347 alleged traffickers, compared with 399 in 2018 and 362 in 2017. Courts convicted 120 traffickers in 2019, continuing a multi-year decline from 130 in 2018 and 222 in 2017. Although 37 convicted traffickers received suspended sentences, and three postponed prison sentences, the remaining 80 traffickers received sentences from one to more than 10 years’ imprisonment. During the reporting period, a court acquitted 25 alleged traffickers in the notorious “Tandarei” child trafficking case, in which the court tried the alleged traffickers under a law that provided lesser penalties and a shorter statute of limitations. The case resulted from a 2009-2010 joint investigation with the United Kingdom (UK) into a Romanian trafficking network, which Europol considered one of the biggest in Europe; the traffickers recruited hundreds of children from poor Roma communities in the southern part of the country and exploited them in the UK in forced begging or forced theft. In 2019, DIICOT and DCCO participated in 80 joint investigative teams with European counterparts, a significant increase from 36 in 2018 and 44 in 2017. In July 2019, Romanian and German authorities partnered in an investigation that resulted in the arrest of four Romanian men for exploiting minors, including their own children, in commercial sex. Romanian authorities also participated in a pan-European case led by Europol involving child trafficking, which resulted in 34 arrests.
Widespread complicity and the failure to incriminate officials hampered effective law enforcement. While the government did not collect data on complicit officials, NGOs, journalists, and human rights activists reported alleged complicity in trafficking crimes by government officials, particularly with officials exploiting minors and acting as accomplices to traffickers. In May 2019, DIICOT indicted the former police chief of a southeastern Romanian town for allegedly protecting a trafficking network while leading the local police inspectorate. The media reported a transnational trafficking network used bribes and pressure to induce the police into hiring an officer to serve in the General Police Inspectorate. The media also mentioned traffickers negotiated other jobs and transfers within the police force and offered the police information about rival criminal groups in order to eliminate their competitors. Additionally, several NGOs expressed suspicion that staff working in placement centers for minors and residential centers for persons with disabilities facilitated trafficking in persons. Nonetheless, the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses.
A new administration came into office in November 2019 and committed to reforming judicial structures; however, existing law enforcement deficiencies and knowledge gaps impeded progress. Authorities often charged suspected traffickers for crimes other than trafficking, such as pandering and pimping. DCCO continued to operate with limited staff due to provisions adopted by the previous government on the early retirement of police officers, which required 30 percent of the workforce to retire in 2018. As a result, overextended officers handled multiple cases simultaneously and struggled to build strong cases for prosecutors. Moreover, anti-trafficking efforts varied across the country, with some counties maintaining fewer staff and resources than other counties. Furthermore, authorities reported a lack of investigative tools and software that would allow them to perform faster and more effective online investigations. Additionally, observers reported that a split reporting structure hindered police efficiency and coordination with investigations and prosecutions. Likewise, NGOs noted that limited dedicated financial investigators—eight covering the entire country—restricted financial investigations and asset seizures, inhibiting evidence collection in trafficking cases to corroborate witness testimony. NGOs reported, while the legal sphere developed some sensitivity to trafficking victims’ situations, some police officers and judges continued to lack specialized training and sensitivity toward sex trafficking cases and trafficking issues, including a basic understanding of trafficking. Additionally, observers frequently criticized police and members of the gendarmerie, particularly in rural areas and small towns, for being unaware of the exploitation potential in commercial sex, leading to a failure to check for indicators of force, fraud, or coercion when encountering individuals in commercial sex. The government continued to use donor funding to train police and prosecutors to organize a series of anti-trafficking training programs during the reporting period. The National Institute for Magistrates conducted a workshop on international judicial cooperation and techniques for investigating trafficking, identification, referral, and assistance; 14 prosecutors and judges participated. The National Anti-Trafficking Agency (ANITP) organized 160 trainings for government, judiciary, and front-line officials on a victim-centered approach in criminal cases and victim identification and assistance. The Border Police General Inspectorate organized three trainings for 15 border police officers that focused on working with vulnerable persons and combating trafficking.
The government maintained insufficient protection efforts. Public officials and NGOs identified 698 victims in 2019 (518 sex trafficking; 138 labor trafficking, including forced begging and forced theft; and 42 victims of attempted trafficking), an increase from 497 in 2018 and 662 in 2017. These statistics included victims from ongoing investigations and prosecutions initiated in previous years. Of these victims, 327 were minors. As in past years, fewer than half of identified victims received assistance. In 2019, 49 percent (339) of identified victims received assistance from public institutions, public-private partnerships, and NGOs, compared with 48 percent in 2018 and 46 percent in 2017. Authorities used the existing national victim identification and referral mechanism to identify and refer victims. While ANITP drafted a new mechanism in 2018 with the support of NGOs, the government did not implement it during the reporting period. Observers reported authorities did not proactively identify victims, particularly among vulnerable populations, such as individuals in commercial sex. They also noted authorities did not identify victims in key places such as placement centers, and identification typically occurred after a criminal investigation started. Consequently, NGOs claimed the actual number of victims was higher than the reported number. Observers also reported authorities fined persons in commercial sex, even if they were minors, without looking for trafficking indicators.
Based on information gathered duri