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Cablegate: Bulgaria: 2010 Anti-Trafficking in Persons (Tip) Report

DE RUEHSF #0123/01 0531526
P 221526Z FEB 10




E.O. 12958: N/A


SOFIA 00000123 001.2 OF 007

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Bulgaria is primarily a point of origin and
transit, and to a lesser degree destination for human trafficking.
The government continued its energetic anti-trafficking prevention
campaign and stepped up efforts in the area of victim protection.
It also passed legislation to increase punishments for traffickers
and introduced penalties for the clients of minor prostitutes and
trafficking victims. The new government has actively pursued
high-profile cases against corrupt officials, including former
ministers and agency heads. It fired several police officers
accused of aiding traffickers and arrested a high-level Interior
Ministry official in charge of migration policy for helping
trafficking groups obtain fake documents. The court sentenced two
elected local government officials charged with leading a
trafficking criminal network.

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2. (SBU) Primary point of contact on trafficking is Political
Officer XXXXXXXXXXXX. Approximately 100 hours of staff time were
required for the completion of this report. END SUMMARY.



-- A. Several agencies, including the Prosecution Service, the
Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of
Labor and Social Policy maintain information about trafficking
trends, criminal proceedings, traffickers and victims. The National
Commission for combating trafficking in human beings (the
Commission) collects and summarizes all government-generated data,
which is generally inclusive and reliable. The International
Organization for Migration (IOM) and NGOs also compile data on the
destination, source points, and recruitment methods compiled from
trafficking victims that they have assisted.

-- B. Bulgaria continues to be primarily an origin point for
trafficking of women and children, mostly for purposes of commercial
sexual exploitation. To a lesser extent it is a transit and
destination point for sexual exploitation of foreign victims of
trafficking. Bulgarians are also subjected to trafficking
conditions within the country. Internal trafficking, particularly
to resort areas, is primarily for sexual exploitation, and victims
are often later trafficked to Western Europe. The ratio between
external and internal trafficking for sexual exploitation is almost
equal. Bulgarian victims of sexual exploitation are traditionally
recruited from several regions of the country: victims from Sliven,
in southeast Bulgaria, are primarily trafficked to Belgium and the
Netherlands; victims from Plovdiv and Pazardzhik, in central
Bulgaria, are mostly trafficked to France, Austria, and Italy;
victims from northeast Bulgaria are mostly trafficked to Germany,
Czech Republic, and the Scandinavian countries; victims from
Blagoevgrad, in southwest Bulgaria, are usually trafficked to
Greece, Italy, and Spain. Bulgarian victims are also trafficked to
Poland, Switzerland, Finland, Turkey, Cyprus and Macedonia. NGOs
report few recent cases of Bulgarian victims trafficked outside
Europe, primarily to the U.S. and South Africa. Law enforcement
officials report that more than 80 percent of the trafficking
investigations involve sexual exploitation. However, Greece, Italy,
Spain and Great Britain are known also as destinations for labor
trafficking of Bulgarian victims.

-- C. Victims are subject to forced prostitution, physical and
psychological abuse. They are frequently limited in their movement
and face punishments for failing to comply with the traffickers'
rules. Victims are also deprived of their identity documents and
are controlled through threats against their relatives. Some
victims are forced to pay large debts or are sold to other
traffickers. Occasionally, in order to keep them dependent, victims
are given drugs, mostly heroin.

-- D. The most vulnerable populations for human trafficking are
young women between the ages of 18 and 24, low income or unemployed
persons, and those with less education and problematic family
relations. According to NGO estimates, Roma account for
approximately 15 percent of victims. Roma children are more
vulnerable to being trafficked for begging and delinquency and Roma
women are vulnerable to being trafficked for sexual exploitation.
NGOs report that female students, particularly from high-schools or
universities specializing in dance, have recently become more
vulnerable to trafficking.

-- E. Law enforcement and NGOs identify four types of traffickers:
freelancers, independent pimps (who usually control 2 to 5 victims),
partner associations (typically comprised of 2 to 9 traffickers who
control up to 7 victims each), and organized crime networks.
Freelancers and independent pimps have limited access to territories
outside Bulgaria, while partner associations and OC groups largely
control the international trafficking. Bulgarian victims are lured
by promises of profitable work, often through close friends,
acquaintances, or boyfriends. In some cases victims are recruited
through false job offers for receptionists, waitresses, models or au
pairs. Some victims directly approach the traffickers and
voluntarily accept to work as companions but are later exploited.
Occasionally victims are kidnapped, forced to pay back unreasonable
debts, or are sold by their relatives. Both Bulgarian and foreign
trafficking victims generally use genuine rather than forged
documents and cross borders legally. Victims are also moved
frequently from one place to another, avoiding detection by
authorities for undocumented stays. Children trafficked abroad
generally travel with the full consent of their parents as required
by Bulgarian border control.


-- A. The government acknowledges that human trafficking is a
problem in the country.

-- B. The Commission, which by law is comprised of deputy
ministerial level representatives of different agencies, serves as
the focal point for coordinating the government's anti-trafficking
efforts. The Commission is supported in its efforts by six local
commissions, which are located in regions identified as major source
or destination points for trafficking. In 2009, the Commission
continued its energetic prevention campaign and stepped up efforts
in the area of victim protection. On the prosecution front, the
Ministry of Interior and the Prosecution Service maintained high
rates of investigations against sex and labor traffickers.

-- C. The government's challenges to combat trafficking include an
overly formalistic judicial process, inadequate compensation for
government officials, and lingering public corruption. Different
agencies within the Ministry of Interior have the authority to
investigate trafficking cases. Some of the agencies' local branches
lack sufficient expertise or administrative capacity to handle
complex investigations. Additionally, the lack of a centralized
approach in investigating organized crime groups sometimes allows
the groups' leaders to conceal their criminal activities by
sacrificing low to mid-level accomplices.

-- D. The Commission regularly collects data from all relevant
agencies to refine its prevention campaigns and training programs.
The National Commission publishes an annual report of the
government's anti-trafficking efforts and hosts a quarterly meeting
with international donors and local NGOs. These quarterly meetings
provide a forum for sharing accomplishments and coordinating

-- E. The government has a reliable system for birth registration.
Regardless of ethnicity or social status, Bulgarian women have
traditionally chosen to give birth at hospitals providing
specialized medical care. According to latest studies 99.4 percent
of all births take place at hospitals and are registered immediately
thereafter. In 2009, the government continued to implement measures
in order to meet EU Schengen requirements. As part of this effort,
starting March 2010 the government will begin to re-register
citizens, which is necessary for the issuance of new identity
documents containing biometric data on all Bulgarian nationals.

-- F. The government generally has the capabilities to gather data
for law enforcement assessment. However, the lack of a systematic
approach and modern equipment as well as the poor administrative
capacity, especially at local level, are challenges acknowledged by
the government. In part to overcome these challenges, the
government establishment permanently functioning task forces in
2009, comprised of vetted law enforcement officers and prosecutors.
These task forces are already running at full speed and target
organized crime in a more systematic manner.


-- A. Section IX of Bulgaria's Criminal Code, which was adopted in
2002, specifically prohibits trafficking for both sexual and labor
exploitation. The law covers internal and transnational forms of
trafficking. The victims' consent is not defense to trafficking
charges under Bulgarian law, even when the victim is an adult.
Amendments adopted in April 2009 increased punishments for
traffickers. More specifically the government significantly
increased fines for traffickers and increased the minimum time of
imprisonment for internal trafficking. The law also increased the
maximum prison sentence for international traffickers, repeat
offenders, and organized crime group members. Changes to the law
introduced specific penalties for the clients of minor prostitutes
and for those who use trafficking victims for sexual abuse, forced
labor, organ removal or servitude. The Criminal Code also punishes
rape, slavery, forced prostitution and activities related to
prostitution. Trafficking is among the offenses covered by the 2005
Asset Forfeiture Law, which allows for confiscation of illegally
acquired property. Victims of trafficking can also sue for civil
damages. The exact text of section IX, article 159 is included

Art. 159a.

(1) A person who gathers, transports, hides or receives individuals
or groups of people in order to be used for vicious practice,
involuntary servitude, seizure of body organs or to be kept under
compulsory submission regardless of their consent, shall be punished
by imprisonment of two to eight years and a fine from three thousand
to twelve thousand levs.
(2) When the act under para 1 is committed:
1. regarding a person under eighteen years of age;
2. by compulsion or by deceiving the person;
3. by kidnapping or illegal deprivation of freedom;
4. by using a state of dependence;
5. by malfeasance;
6. by promising, providing or obtaining benefit,
the punishment shall be imprisonment of three to ten years and a
fine from ten thousand to twenty thousand levs.
(3) In case the act under para 1 has been committed with regards to
a pregnant woman with the purpose of selling the child, the
punishment shall be imprisonment of three to fifteen years and a
fine of twenty thousand to fifty thousand levs.

Art. 159b

A person who gathers, transports, hides or receives individuals or
groups of people and transfers them through the border of the
country with the purpose under art. 159a, para 1 shall be punished
by imprisonment of three to twelve years and a fine from ten
thousand to twenty thousand levs.
(2) If the act under para 1 is committed under the conditions of
art. 159a, para 2 and 3 the punishment shall be imprisonment of five
to twelve years and a fine from twenty thousand to fifty thousand

Art. 159c.

Whoever uses a person, victim of traffic of people, for acts of
debauchery, for forced labor, for deprivation of corporal organs or
to be kept in forced obedience regardless of his consent shall be
punished by imprisonment from three to ten years and fine from ten
thousand to twenty thousand levs.

Art. 159d.

When the act under art. 159a - 159c represents a dangerous
recidivism or it has been committed by an errand or in fulfillment
of a decision of an organized criminal group the punishment shall be
imprisonment of five to fifteen years and a fine from twenty to one
hundred thousand levs, as the court can also rule confiscation of a
part or of the entire property of the offender.

-- B-C. All forms of human trafficking are equally penalized,
regardless of the form of exploitation. The punishment for
trafficking in persons is two to eight years in prison and fines up
to approximately USD 8,800 (BGN 12,000). If aggravated
circumstances exist -- e.g., a minor or kidnapping was involved --
penalties increase to three to ten years in prison and fines of up
to approximately USD 14,700 (BGN 20,000). Penalties for trafficking
persons across borders increased to three to 12 years imprisonment
and fines of up to approximately USD 14,700 (BGN 20,000). The same
increased punishment is provided for trafficking of pregnant women
for the purpose of baby selling. If the act of trafficking is
carried out in connection with an organized crime group or
constituted a serious repeat offense, penalties increase to five to
15 years imprisonment with fines of up to approximately USD 74,000
(BGN 100,000) and the possibility of forfeiture of assets. Labor
recruiters and employers who falsely entice workers or forcibly hold
them in the destination countries can be punished with up to ten
years imprisonment.

-- D. Sentences for rape range between two and eight years
imprisonment; sentences increase to between three and ten years if
the perpetrator is a repeat offender, or if the victim is underage
or a close relative. In cases where rape results in serious bodily
injury or suicide of the victim, sentences range between ten and 20

-- E. In 2009, the prosecution service investigated a total of 226
trafficking cases, 21 of which involved forced labor. Of the 226
cases, 95 were from previous years and 131 were launched in 2009.
Of the 131 newly launched investigations, 122 of them concerned
trafficking for sexual exploitation and nine dealt with labor
exploitation. In 2009, prosecutors filed indictments against two
labor traffickers, including one foreigner, and 79 sex traffickers,
including 2 foreigners. A total of 97 persons were convicted on
trafficking charges. Of the 97, 94 were sentenced for trafficking
for sexual exploitation and three for labor exploitation. Fourteen
people were convicted based on a new provision which criminalized
the use of trafficking victims for sexual abuse. Fifty-one of the
traffickers received effective sentences, 45 received suspended
sentences and one was sentenced to probation. Thirty-seven
traffickers received fines in addition to their sentences.
Offenders convicted of trafficking generally served the full
sentences mandated by the court. In some of the cases, the
prosecutors pressed multiple charges against the perpetrators, and
where there was not sufficient evidence to prove the trafficking
charges, the perpetrators were prosecuted for enticement into
prostitution. In January 2010, the police arrested six people for
sexually abusing 12 boys ages 12 to 16 years who were recruited
through the Internet. The investigation is ongoing.

-- F. The government and NGOs trained law enforcement officers on
investigating trafficking and differentiating between trafficking
victims and offenders. As part of its regular curriculum, the
National Institute of Justice, the government's magistrates'
training institution, trained 34 judges and 19 prosecutors on
organized crime issues, including human trafficking and trans-border
crimes. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) trained
60 Bulgarian labor inspectors on issues such as trafficking victim
identification, sectors most vulnerable to trafficking exploitation,
protection mechanisms, and penalization of violators. IOM also
trained 60 law enforcement officers on trafficking victim
identification and referral and migration management.

-- G. The Bulgarian government cooperated with other governments in
the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases. The MOI
Border Police unit cooperated with counterparts in Poland, Great
Britain, Belgium and Greece. The MOI anti-organized crime unit held
17 joint investigations targeting human traffickers with law
enforcement from Austria, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands,
Italy and Great Britain.

-- H. Bulgarian law allows extradition of both foreign nationals and
Bulgarian citizens. In 2009, the government initiated 33
extradition cases on trafficking charges. Of them, four were
against foreigners and 33 against Bulgarian nationals.

-- I. Corruption is by far Bulgaria's biggest challenge with
numerous allegations of government officials providing "no look"
protection to organized crime figures, including traffickers. The
new government, which won the July 2009 elections on an
anti-corruption platform, has made strides against corrupt
practices, including launching investigations against four former
ministers and several other high-level officials. The new
government also replaced 26 of the 28 regional police chiefs and
established permanently functioning joint police-prosecutors
investigative teams targeting major organized crime figures.

-- J. In 2008 police arrested 24 members of an organized crime group
involved in human trafficking and money laundering in the coastal
city of Varna. Three of the group's members were elected government
officials and served on the city council at the time of their
arrest. In June 2009 two of the municipal councilors, a father and
a son, plea bargained and received a three-year and one-year
effective sentences, which they are currently serving. A total of
19 members of the group plea bargained and received reduced
sentences. The trial is ongoing against one municipal councilor and
four members of the group, who refused to plea-bargain.
Additionally, nine out of eleven officers of the local
anti-organized crime unit in Vratsa were dismissed from office on
suspicion of aiding a trafficking group. In February, the
government arrested the Head of the Migration unit within the
Interior Ministry for reportedly aiding a criminal group in securing
Bulgarian identity documents for foreigners smuggled in Bulgaria.

-- K. Reporting not applicable to Bulgaria

-- L. Bulgaria does not have an identified child sex tourism
problem. However, resort areas along the Black sea coast and border
towns, especially with Greece, are destination points for internal
sexual exploitation. Trafficking victims in these areas are often
young girls between 14 and 18, who are considered children under
Bulgarian law. The Prosecution service identified 18 children
victims of sexual exploitation in 2009. In October 2009 the court
sentenced an Australian pedophile to five years and six months
imprisonment. The Australian was arrested in November 2008 for
performing acts of debauchery with three Bulgarian minors in the
coastal city of Varna and videotaping them. A Bulgarian national
was also sentenced to nine months imprisonment for aiding the
Australian to get in contact with the victims. In March 2009,
prosecutors filed in court an indictment against an Italian national
accused of pedophilia. The trial against him is ongoing. In
September 2009, police arrested a German pensioner who was
videotaping naked Bulgarian minors of Roma origin who were between
four and eight years old for an Internet pedophile forum. The
investigation against the German is ongoing as is the investigation
against national of Great Britain who was arrested on charges of
pedophilia in December 2009. Bulgarian Criminal Code has
extraterritorial coverage and Bulgarian nationals are punishable for
child abuse abroad.


-- A. The government provides victims with shelter, counseling,
medical, and legal assistance, consistent with its laws.

-- B-C. Bulgaria has six state-run children's shelters and one
adults' shelter which are accessible to victims of trafficking.
Additionally several NGO's, including Animus (Sofia), Samaritans
(Stara Zagora), SOS Families at Risk (Varna), Diva (Plovdiv), Open
Door (Pleven), and Demetra (Burgas) have care facilities and offer
legal, medical and psychological service to victims of trafficking.
The Government rents facilities to NGOs, at below market rates and
provides police protection for NGO-operated safe houses. Several
local governments, including in Varna and Pazardzhik, outsource
provision of social services to NGOs by allocating them premises and
funding. Each of the six children's shelters offers psychological
and medical assistance to victims and has the capacity to shelter
ten kids between ages six and 18 years for a period of up to six
months. The government provides an annual state allowance of 7,750
($5,000) BGN/year per child. NGOs and government agencies do not
distinguish between foreign and Bulgarian citizens in providing
assistance to trafficking victims. The Commission is finalizing
standards for minimum care that all facilities should offer to
trafficking victims.

-- D. The 2003 Anti-Trafficking Act created a special immigration
status for foreign trafficking victims who cooperate in trafficking
investigations. The status provides for full residency and
employment rights until the end of criminal proceedings. For
foreign citizen victims who choose not to cooperate in trafficking
investigations, the GOB provides ten days plus one month for
recovery before they are returned to their country of origin. The
recovery period for foreign citizen child victims is ten days plus
two months.

-- E. The government shelters children victims of trafficking for a
period of up to six months. The shelter's social workers seek to
ensure the safe return of the children to their biological families
after this period expires and, whenever necessary, to find them
accommodation in a specialized institution or a foster family.

-- F. The government has an institutionalized referral process for
children victims of trafficking and law enforcement routinely
referred children victims to the six state-run shelters. Law
enforcement referred adult victims to NGOs. In 2009, the Commission
continued to work with NGOs in a multinational project funded by the
Dutch government to develop a transnational referral mechanism. The
Commission is currently finalizing a set of standard operative
procedures under this mechanism.

-- G. In 2009, the government identified 289 victims of trafficking,
of which 44 were minors. Of the children victims, 40 were sexually
exploited and four were labor exploited. All children victims
received government-funded assistance. Of the adult victims, 213
were women and 32 were male. Of the 32 men, 28 were victims of
labor exploitation and five men were sexually exploited. 202 women
were victims of sexual exploitation and 11 were labor exploited. In
2009, IOM assisted 47 victims of trafficking, two of whom were
foreign nationals. Forty of the assisted were victims of sexual
exploitation and seven were victims of labor exploitation. Animus
NGO assisted 45 adult victims referred by law enforcement or their
sister organizations throughout Europe.

-- H. Bulgarian law enforcement, particularly border police, have
been trained on victim identification and have a system for
screening potential victims. Prostitution is not specifically
legalized in Bulgaria.

-- I. NGOs reported that victims' rights were respected, according
to international norms. Victims were generally not detained, fined,
or prosecuted for minor offenses with one notable exception
involving two Moldovan women who received a six month suspended
sentence for illegal border crossing. The two were meanwhile
referred to IOM for assistance but the charges against them were not

-- J. The government encourages victims to assist in the
investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases and provides
special status for foreign citizen victims who cooperate. Victims
can also file civil suits for material and moral damages suffered
and generally victims have unimpeded access to such redress. Victim
witnesses are permitted to obtain other employment or leave the
country pending trial proceedings. Trafficking victims who have not
been compensated through judicial process can seek redress for
material damages from a special government fund. The fund is
operated by a National Council under the Ministry of Justice which
allocates compensations from BGN 250 (approximately USD 170) to BGN
5,000 (approximately USD 3,520) to victims of a specified list of
crimes, including trafficking.

-- K. The government provides training for government officials on
identifying and assisting trafficking victims. In 2009, experts of
the Commission made presentations to Border police, school teachers,
and social workers at the children shelters. The Police Academy
under the Ministry of Interior has included human trafficking course
in its standard curriculum for police officers. The Ministry of
Foreign Affairs Diplomatic Institute includes a module on
trafficking in its courses for junior diplomats and consular
officers as well as officers from the Ministry of Defense, the
General Staff, and the Military Academy. The officers posted to
Bulgarian embassies and consulates are taught how to recognize
trafficking victims and how to refer victims to NGOs for legal,
medical and psychological assistance. In 2009, the IOM helped
repatriate and provided social assistance to three adults and three
children who were victims of labor exploitation in Spain. All of
the victims were referred to IOM by the Bulgarian embassy in Madrid.

-- L. The Government provides medical aid, shelter, psychological,
and reintegration assistance, as well as education to children
victims of trafficking. It refers repatriated adult trafficking
victims to NGOs for legal, medical and psychological aid. The
Anti-Trafficking Act provides for repatriated Bulgarian trafficking
victims to receive the same assistance and care as trafficking
victims identified within the country.

-- M. The IOM and NGOs, including Animus, Nadia Center Foundation,
Samaritans, Diva, and SOS Families at Risk provided medical, legal,
psychological and reintegration assistance to trafficking victims.
IOM and NGOs report strong cooperation with Government officials, on
a national and local level. The government supported and protected
organization conducting awareness/prevention campaigns.


-- A. In 2009, the government organized and/or supported numerous
public awareness programs on national and local level. In October
2009, the Commission launched an Open Door campaign by opening its
office to students every Friday. In 2009, the Commission hosted 350
students who received information brochures and participated in
video screenings and discussions. The Commission also organized a
student contest for trafficking awareness presenting 50 awards for
anti-trafficking illustrations and 30 awards for best essays. The
local commission in Varna, in partnership with an employment agency
and local universities, organized a prevention campaign against
labor exploitation titled "Where are you travelling?". Experts at
the local commission in Burgas held discussions with students. The
local commission in Sliven held a charity concert under the slogan
"There is always a choice" and organized in partnership with the
local theater a prevention campaign for the visitors of the autumn
theater festival. The government also opened three information
centers under the local commissions in Varna, Burgas and

-- B. The National Border Police actively monitors airports and land
border crossings for evidence of trafficking in persons. However,
effective monitoring of immigration and emigration patterns is
hampered by visa-free travel between Bulgaria and its neighbors.

-- C. The Commission is a multi-agency body specifically tasked with
coordinating Bulgaria's anti-trafficking efforts. The Commission's
secretariat ensures effective communication between the various
agencies represented on the Commission and serves as the main point
of contact for international and local partners on trafficking
issues. Under the leadership of the Commission's secretariat, an
expert advisory group, with representatives from all member
agencies, meets regularly to address operational issues. The
Commission's secretariat also hosts quarterly meetings of a
coordination group, comprised of international donors and NGO
representatives, to advance anti-trafficking efforts.

-- D. The government adopts annually a plan of action for combating
human trafficking. The 2009 plan was approved by the Council of
Ministers in April 2009. It was developed in consultation with all
relevant government agencies, as well as NGOs and the IOM.

-- E-F. In April 2009, the government introduced penalties for the
clients of children prostitutes and also criminalized the use of
trafficking victims for sexual abuse. The government sentenced six
persons under these new provisions. As described above, Bulgarian
Criminal Code has extraterritorial coverage and applies to Bulgarian
clients of minor prostitutes abroad.


-- A. In 2009, the Bulgarian government cooperated with the
Norwegian government under a joint police cooperation project aimed
at increasing police capacity to handle trafficking cases. The
government also implemented a bilateral police project with the
Dutch government.

-- B. Bulgaria is one of four source countries, along with Albania,
Macedonia and Romania, which implements a project aimed at
developing a transnational referral mechanism for trafficking
victims. The project also promotes sharing of best practices among
the eight cooperating countries.


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