The government of Bulgaria does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so, the US State Department said in its 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, released on June 20.
The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Bulgaria remained on Tier 2.
Tier 2 countries whose governments do not fully comply with the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
These efforts included convicting two complicit officials and extraditing another, allocating more funding for victim services, and participating in more international investigations, the report said.
“However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas.”
Authorities investigated and prosecuted fewer trafficking cases. Courts continued to issue suspended sentences for most convicted traffickers. Officials’ lack of knowledge of trafficking indicators hindered effective victim identification. Corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary continued to hinder progress, and investigations into complicit officials rarely led to prison sentences, the State Department report said.
As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Bulgaria, and traffickers exploit victims from Bulgaria abroad, the report said.
“Bulgaria remains one of the primary source countries of human trafficking in the EU.”
Bulgarian women and children are subjected to sex trafficking throughout Western Europe and in Bulgaria, particularly in the capital, resort areas, and border towns.
The report said that Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity and Romani women and girls, some as young as 13 years old, account for most of the sex trafficking victims identified in Bulgaria.
NGOs report domestic servitude as an increasing form of exploitation, affecting Roma and ethnic Bulgarian victims.
Traffickers subject Bulgarian men and boys to forced labour across Europe, predominantly in agriculture, construction, and the service sector, the report said.
Traffickers force Bulgarian adults and children with disabilities into street begging and petty theft within Bulgaria and abroad.
Traffickers subject Romani children to forced labour, particularly begging and pickpocketing. The government reports an increase in the number of exploited children and in the number of victims, primarily men, forced to beg in France and Sweden.
Bulgaria has been a destination country for a limited number of foreign trafficking victims, including from Southeast Asia.
“Government corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary continues to enable some trafficking crimes, and officials have been investigated for suspected involvement in trafficking,” the report said.