The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) issued a report on Thursday commending the Croatian authorities for continuing to develop their legal framework for combating human trafficking and protecting victims, but also identifying human trafficking victims including missing children as challenges for Croatia.
The GRETA report -- part of the second round of evaluation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings -- comes several days after Europol warned that at least 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children had gone missing after arriving in Europe.
"Croatia’s awareness raising activities in schools are welcomed as well, as is its Strategy for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, which can help prevent human trafficking by tackling root causes," the report said, pointing out, however, a number of areas needing further action.
"GRETA is concerned that victims of trafficking are not being identified proactively. The Council of Europe experts call on the Croatian authorities to step up outreach work to detect victims of sexual exploitation – particularly in tourist areas – and to reinforce the role of the labour inspectorate in high-risk sectors such as agriculture and construction," the report said.
The report also stresses that identification of child victims needs strengthening.
"Among other issues raised in the report, there is a need for better detection of possible victims amongst the increasing number of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors.," the report said.
The report notes with concern that unaccompanied children frequently disappear from reception centres for asylum seekers, and GRETA calls on Croatia to make efforts to prevent such incidences.
“With recent reports of high numbers of unaccompanied child refugees gone missing, the identification of child victims has become a priority across Europe,” said Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland.
Further, the report underlines that access to assistance measures and compensation should be made effective for all victims of trafficking, regardless of gender, nationality or residence status. To date, only one victim of trafficking has reportedly received compensation. The effectiveness of investigations and prosecutions in trafficking cases also needs to be improved to secure more convictions.
The "Save the Children" association estimates that 26,000 unaccompanied minors arrived in Europe last year. Europol believes that 27% of the one million people that entered Europe last year were minors.