General information: situation on trafficking in human beings
Austria continues to be a destination and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in human beings. More than 60% of identified victims come from other EU countries, the majority of those from Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary. The majority of the other identified victims come from Asia (mostly China) and Africa (especially Nigeria).
These victims are almost exclusively female asylum seekers who are sexually exploited. Sexual exploitation remained the prevalent form of human trafficking accounting for most victims identified as well as perpetrators convicted. Labour exploitation occurs in agriculture, construction and the catering sector, as well as in domestic and care work. Cases of trafficking for begging and for committing property crimes, often involving minors, are also reported.
Trafficking of women
The victim support organisation LEFO-IBF (Intervention Centre for Trafficked Women) assisted 314 identified and presumed victims in 2020, of which 25% originated from EU countries. A majority of the victims with EU citizenship was of Romanian, Hungarian and Bulgarian origin. The percentage of victims exploited in sex work amounted to 65.5% whereas 13.1% were exploited as domestic workers.
In 2020, the institute Drehscheibe registered 6 possible cases of trafficking of children. One was a female minor in the context of asylum, 4 female minors from EU neighbouring countries (Serbia ad Czech Republic) who were forced to shoplift and pickpocket, as well as 3 male minors from Bulgaria who were forced into presumably prostitution and shoplifting.
Trafficking of men
The victim support organisation MEN VIA assisted 62 identified and presumed male victims in 2020, of which 61% originated from EU countries and 16% from other European countries. 34% of these men were exploited in construction work, 16% in harvest work and 15% in other forms of labour exploitation. 19% were exploited in forced criminal activities, 11% in begging and 5% in sex work.
Most important challenges that Austria faces on a national level
- Identification of victims of human trafficking, including the improvement of data collection.
- Child trafficking: the elaboration of a comprehensive care/support and cooperation concept at the federal and province levels.
- Labour exploitation: to adopt a proactive approach regarding the identification of victims of trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation.
- Compensation and legal remedies: further strengthening of measures to facilitate and guarantee access to compensation for all victims of trafficking in human beings.
Although the number of convictions has increased, it is still rather low. The creation of a special division at the Vienna Criminal Regional Court as well as continuous training of judicial staff has improved the situation.
Institutional, legal and policy framework to address trafficking in human beings
Co-ordination of anti-trafficking actions on a national level
The Task Force on Combating trafficking in human beings, coordinated by the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs (MFA), carries out the evaluation of anti-trafficking actions. The Task Force’s members include representatives of all relevant ministries, the regions, the NGOs, LEFO-IBF, ECPAT Austria, and MEN VIA, as well as the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Fundamental and Human Rights.
To involve also civil society organisations that are not members of the Task Force on Combating trafficking in human beings, a round table discussion is held every year. At the round table, additional information can be provided and is subsequently included in reports and assessments. The Task Force is responsible for coordinating the European and international reporting obligations. In addition to the reports concerning the Anti-Trafficking Directive and the EU strategy, The Task Force handles reports to the Council of Europe GRETA Monitoring Mechanism and to UN Treaty Bodies. The Task Force also cooperates with UNODC for the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, as well as with the US Government for the annual US TiP Report. Most of these reports are available online on the websites of the respective organisations.
Special working groups of the Task Force deal with the issues of:
- child trafficking (chaired by the Federal Chancellery, Division for Families and Youth)
- prostitution (chaired by the Federal Chancellery, Division for Women and Equality)
- trafficking in human beings for the purpose of labour exploitation (chaired by the Federal Ministry of Labour).
The Austrian National Coordinator on Combating Human Trafficking was first appointed in March 2009 and serves as the Chair of the Task Force. A senior official at the MFA holds the function.
Section 104a of the Criminal Code reads as follows:
“Trafficking in human beings
1. A person who recruits, harbours, otherwise receives, transports or offers or transfers to another person an adult using dishonest means (paragraph 2) against this person with the deliberate intention of the person's exploitation (paragraph 3), is to be punished with a prison sentence of a minimum of six months up to five years.
2. Dishonest means are the use of force or severe threats, the deception about facts, abuse of authority, a position of vulnerability, insanity or of defencelessness, intimidation and the receiving or giving of benefits for handing over control over the person.
3. Exploitation includes sexual exploitation, exploitation through organ transplantation, labour exploitation, exploitation of begging and the exploitation to commit criminal activities.
4. A person who commits the criminal act in the context of a criminal association, under the use of severe violence or in such a way that the life of the person is severely endangered deliberately or by gross negligence or in such a way that particularly serious harm is caused to the person, is to be punished with a prison sentence of a minimum of one year up to ten years.
5. With a prison sentence of a minimum of one year up to ten years is also to be punished who recruits, harbours, or otherwise receives, transports or offers or transfers to another person a person under age with the deliberate intention of the person's exploitation.”
According to section 64 (4a) of the Austrian Criminal Code (CC) slavery (section 104 of the CC), trafficking in human beings (section 104a of the CC), illegal procurement of adoptions (section 194 of the CC) and trans-border prostitution trade (section 217 of the CC) constitute criminal offences subject to prosecution irrespective of the criminal law in force in the country where the crime has been committed, if:
- either the perpetrator or the victim is an Austrian national or has his or her habitual residence in Austria
- the offence impairs other Austrian interests or
- the perpetrator was an alien at the time the offence was committed, is staying in Austria and cannot be extradited
Protection of victims and access to rights
From the point of view of experts, the empowerment of victims is key to (self-)identification. Claiming rights such as unpaid wages or compensation is more conducive to seeking support to most individuals than the idea of “being a victim” due to its connection to the notions of “helplessness” and “dependency”. Therefore, a number of measures aim at providing potential victims with official and reliable information about their rights.
The Intervention Centre for Trafficked Women (LEFO-IBF) and the Victim Support Centre for Men Affected by Human Trafficking (MEN VIA) are mandated by the Ministry of Justice on the basis of section 66 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to legally advise and offer psychosocial support to victims during investigations and court proceedings (“Prozessbegleitung”) free of charge.
Access to compensation is also part of the offer to legally advise and support a victim by a professional of LEFO-IBF or MEN VIA (“Prozessbegleitung”). They advocate for early confiscation measures and asset freezes and welcome progress in this regard. Furthermore, they work on gaining knowledge about and experience with the processes of transnational claims to compensation.
Victims of crime have the option to receive compensation from the state according to the Victims of Crime Act (Verbrechensopfergesetz). An amendment to the Victims of Crime Act (2013) provides for the possibility of including victims of trafficking in human beings whose stay in Austria has been illegal at the time of the crime.
Illegally employed foreigners can sue their business operators for their outstanding claims. Furthermore, perpetrators can be fined or, under certain circumstances, even imprisoned, for example for not paying. The Chamber of Labour provides legal support for claiming unpaid wages and supports victims of trafficking in human beings side by side with LEFO-IBF and MEN VIA successfully through employment tribunal proceedings.
Assistance and support provided to victims
Victims are provided with a range of support services, including safe accommodation, psycho-social support, medical aid and other services. During judicial proceedings, they receive legal counselling as well as psycho-social assistance. In 2017, the Task Force on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings has published a comprehensive brochure on the rights of victims of THB in Austria for all experts working in the field.
LEFO-IBF operates on a national level on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Chancellery – Directorate for Women’s Affairs and Equality, to assist trafficked women in their physical, psychological and social recovery. LEFO-IBF provides a full range of services, including appropriate and secure accommodation with 24/7 assistance, counselling in the victim’s native language as well as a non-permanent shelter for women who have recovered enough to be able to live more independently. All trafficked women who get in contact with LEFO-IBF can receive psychological help as well as gain access to emergency medical treatment. LEFO-IBF also provides victims of trafficking in human beings with psychosocial and legal assistance during criminal and civil proceedings, with the financial support of the Ministry of Justice.
The city of Vienna operates the institute Drehscheibe, which provides support and assistance to victims of child trafficking. In the case of a reasonable-grounds indication for believing that a minor might be a victim of child trafficking, they are taken to Drehscheibe, a socio-pedagogic institution established in 2001. Drehscheibe provides children with accommodation, shelter, food and protection, tries to determine their identity and learn more about each child’s individual story. If possible, victims are returned to their country of origin, the focus being on safeguarding the best interests of the child. Drehscheibe has developed a special repatriation model for children and young persons with the EU-members Romania and Bulgaria as well as with a few more non-EU countries in the region. Special monitoring of every single case enables verification and provision of further support and assistance to the children concerned after their return.
MEN VIA was established in 2013, as a focal point for male victims of human trafficking. It has become a well-known institution for male victims of THB. A wide range of organizations, not only the police, refers potential victims to MEN VIA. It is financially supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, by the Ministry of Interior as well as the Ministry of Justice. Male victims supported by MEN VIA are provided with:
- safe accommodation
- psycho-social support
- assistance during legal proceedings
- assistance in gaining compensation
- access to medical aid and other services
Since 2014, victims of trafficking for labour exploitation receive support at UNDOK, a drop-in counselling centre for undocumented workers, run by an association of Trade Unions, the Chamber of Labour, the Austrian National Student Union (OH) and NGOs. Persons working in Austria without a residence permit and/or a work permit, who were deprived of their agreed wage or exploited by their employer in another way, receive information and advice about issues of labour law, right of residence and social security.
Platform against Exploitation and Human Trafficking
The Platform against Exploitation and Human Trafficking has built a network for sharing information, the development of proposals for the prevention of human trafficking and the support of victims of human trafficking. For these purposes, the platform cooperates with governmental and non-governmental organisations, but also committed individuals, to raise awareness and promote political initiatives.
Austrian Criminal Intelligence Service
The Austrian Criminal Intelligence Service has set up a telephone hotline: 0043 1 24836 985383 to receive reports of potential human trafficking cases.
All reports can be made anonymously, 24 hours, seven days a week. Specialised human trafficking investigators who can identify suspicious activities and take immediate action will handle the calls. It is also possible to send an e-mail to:
Prosecution of traffickers and perpetrators
The criminal legislation concerning human trafficking is continuously evaluated on an international level. In the 2015 GRETA Report, concerning the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, the amendment to the law governing sexual offences was positively noted.
Between 2017 and 2020, 285 people were brought into formal contact with the police as possible offenders. 51 suspects were later on convicted of trafficking in human beings (section 104a of the Austrian Criminal Code) or Cross border Trafficking for Prostitution (section 217 of the Austrian Criminal Code).
Prevention and awareness raising
Numerous public events, campaigns and efforts to raise awareness of THB take place on a regular basis.
EU Anti-Trafficking Day
Annual public event on the occasion of the EU Anti-Trafficking Day: The Task Force on Combating Human Trafficking organises a two-day public event on the occasion of the “EU Anti-Trafficking Day” every year. The average attendance has risen to about 500 participants including diplomatic staff from foreign representations in Vienna, employees of international organisations, NGOs, experts and academia as well as interested members of the civil society. The event attracts a high level of media attention every year.
Event for private domestic staff in diplomatic households
As host to a large diplomatic community, Austria has put particular emphasis on preventing trafficking in human beings among private domestic staff in diplomatic households. An event for private domestic staff (PDS) in diplomatic households is organised every year, providing information about basic rights in Austria (concerning wages, working hours, living conditions etc.). There is also an information brochure available in English and Tagalog, as most PDS (80%) are Filipino nationals. The Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs monitors the employment of PDS from the visa application through personal interviews at the MFA after their entry and at least once a year until their de-registration and departure.
Exhibition “Trafficking in Human Beings – Slavery of the 21st century”
In 2011, the Task Force on Combating Human Trafficking created an exhibition, developed by experts, which provides basic information on the definition and the different forms of human trafficking, on how the traffickers proceed and what measures are taken to combat trafficking in human beings as well as to support the victims.
The exhibition is regularly shown in various contexts (in schools, the Austrian Parliament, on the occasion of the EU-Anti Trafficking day, at the annual open door event of the MFA, human rights events in the federal provinces etc.) and information material (a handbook with working materials to be used in schools) is available online. In 2016, a corresponding web exhibition was finalised which is available in German as well as English.
National action plan
Every year, the Task Force prepares reports on the implementation of Austria’s measures against trafficking in human beings to the government and the parliament. In addition to these yearly reports, overall implementation reports are submitted every three years.
Latest initiatives and activities related to anti-trafficking policy
The Task Force’s working group on human trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation has elaborated a list of indicators, which shall support control authorities in identifying victims of human trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation. The competent ministries will have the task to spread this information to the authorities concerned. In this context, the Federal Ministry of Labour has issued an update to the existing internal decree for labour inspectors on human trafficking.
In 2017, the Federal Ministry of Justice issued a decree pursuant to Article 26 of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and Article 8 of the Anti-Trafficking Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims. The decree, which was addressed to prosecutors as well as district and regional courts (Bezirks- und Landesgerichte) explains how the principle of non-punishment for victims of trafficking in human beings is implemented in Austrian criminal law (Section 10 CC) and offers practical examples to clarify its implementation.
The current National Action Plan on Combating Human Trafficking presents a set of measures against human trafficking based on past experience and new research. It includes goals for coordination and cooperation, prevention, protection of victims, prosecution, as well as research and monitoring. The National Action Plan has a built in reviewing mechanism of measures and their implementation and, for the first time, the plan calls for a creation of a working group to tackle questions such as the harmonising of data or the development of evidence-based indicators.
The National Action Plan also provides for a high level of training activities, both mandatory and optional. Police and immigration officers, military personnel, financial police and labour inspectors, the judiciary as well as consular staff are among the main target groups. Most trainings are carried out in cooperation with NGOs, in particular LEFO-IBF, MEN VIA and ECPAT Austria and aim at sensitizing the trainees to issues of trafficking in human beings, at raising awareness about their own role in this context, at clarifying the indicators for victims of trafficking in human beings and at discussing the specific regulatory processes. Whenever possible, a multi-stakeholder approach is promoted.
Cross-border cooperation to address trafficking in human beings
Cooperation with UN
Austria takes an active role in multilateral form, such as the UN, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe on the issue of trafficking in human beings, with a view to strengthening international cooperation in the area of trafficking in human beings and creating synergies between these bodies. For example, Austria participated at the ministerial level at the High Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly on trafficking in human beings in New York in 2013, which Austria helped prepare as co-facilitator of the modalities resolution, and supports the UN Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking (with former Austrian Foreign Minister and EU Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner on the Board of Trustees).
Cooperation on EU-level
In order to strengthen transnational cooperation, the Joint Operational Office against human smuggling and human trafficking (JOO) of the Austrian Criminal Intelligence Service was set up in May 2016 within the framework of the European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats (EMPACT-Illegal Immigration). It has a permanent staff of 50 employees and receives EU-funding from Europol. The JOO works as an operational focal point for the European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) of Europol and undertakes joint investigations with law enforcement authorities of other EU-Member States and third countries.
Cooperation with other countries
Furthermore, the government of Austria works closely with Austria-based foreign representations of countries of origin. In this context, the inclusion of the topic of human trafficking in consular staffs’ training curriculum and the dissemination of information folders in the respective national language at the Austrian representations abroad contribute to raising awareness of human trafficking before issuing a visa to third country nationals.
Austrian Development Cooperation
A large number of international activities aim to improve the situation for victims in their countries of origin. In this context, South East Europe is one of the priority regions for the Austrian Development Cooperation. The activities of this agency include awareness-raising for the local population; measures to improve the socioeconomic situation of particularly high-risk groups; training of law enforcement officers; and support and assistance for the return of trafficked victims.
Austria was one of the first states to have its anti-trafficking measures evaluated twice by the Council of Europe’s expert group GRETA. In June 2020, GRETA published its third country evaluation report on Austria, welcoming the progress made in combating human trafficking while pointing on certain aspects where further efforts should be undertaken.
- Homepage FMA – Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings
- Executive Summary of the Fifth Austrian report on Combating Human Trafficking 2018-20
- Sixth National Action Plan on Combating Human Trafficking for the period 2021-2023
- Child Trafficking in Austria; Report by the Working Group on Child Trafficking, part of the Task Force on Human Trafficking
- GRETA Report concerning the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by Austria (Third Evaluation Round)
- Web Exhibition "Human Trafficking - Slavery of the 21 century" (German)
Relevant links to national authorities, institutions websites and other relevant contacts
Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs
Address: Minoritenplatz 8, 1014 Vienna
Federal Ministry of the Interior/Criminal Intelligence Service Austria
Central Service Combating Alien Smuggling and Trafficking in Human Beings
Telephone: +43 (0)1 24836 85383
Drehscheibe Wien (Crisis Centre for Victims of Child Trafficking Run by the City of Vienna)
Address: Ruckergasse 40/1, 1120 Vienna
Telephone: +43 (0)1 4000-90980
Trafficking in human beings hotline
Telephone: +43 (0)1 24836 85383 (operational 24/7)
Organisations and institutions
Footprint fur Betroffene des Frauenhandels (for those affected by trafficking in women)
Telephone: +43 (0)1 920 85 86
Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Fundamental and Human Rights (LBI-GMR)
Address: Freyung 6 (Schottenhof), 1. Hof, Stiege II, 1010 Vienna
Telephone: +43 (0)1 4277 27420
Fax: + 43 (0)1 4277 27429
UNDOK – Association for unionized assistance for undocumented workers,
Verband zur gewerkschaftlichen Unterstutzung undokumentiert Arbeitender
Address: OGB (Catamaran) Lift D, 1. Stock, Raum 1913, Johann-Bohm-Platz, 1020 Vienna
Telephone: +43 (0)1 53444