General information: situation on trafficking in human beings
Trafficking in human beings, also referred to as modern slavery, is a serious crime and violation of human rights and dignity. It affects women and men, irrespective of their age, to the same extent. The most vulnerable ones, the children, are in a particularly difficult position. Trafficking in human beings has a strong international connotation, while organised criminal groups derive substantial financial benefits from it. Poland is considered to be a country of origin for victims – trafficked mostly to other EU countries, as well as a transit country and a destination countryin terms of THB.
Poland is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Labour trafficking is increasing in Poland and most of the victims originate from Europe, Asia, and Africa. We can observe the increasing tendency in labour trafficking among the Ukrainian migrants. Children, particularly Roma, are recruited for forced begging. Men and women from Poland are subjected to forced labour in Europe, primarily Western and Northern Europe. Women and children from Poland are also subjected to sex trafficking within the country and also in other European countries. Women and children from Eastern Europe, particularly Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine are subjected to sex trafficking in Poland. A growing number of Vietnamese victims transit through Poland to Western Europe after being subjected to labour trafficking in Russia.
Poland noted an increase in numbers of labour exploitation, although labour exploitation cases are still hard to identify. In recent years, large numbers of Polish citizens were identified as victims of labour exploitation in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. Regarding the exploitation of foreigners in Poland, based on research, it is believed that the exploitation is most common in agriculture, construction sectors and food industries. Victims are mostly exposed for forced labour, prostitution, begging, domestic slavery and criminal exploitation. In terms of sexual exploitation the majority of victims are Polish women and women from Ukraine and Belarus. At the same time there is a noticeable decline in the number of Polish nationals forced to provide sexual services abroad.
Institutional, legal and policy framework to address trafficking in human beings
Poland prohibits all forms of trafficking in human beings. The offence is considered a felony and is now prosecuted on the basis of article 189a of the Polish Penal Code. The article, along with a definition of trafficking in human beings in article 115 section 22, was introduced into the Penal Code in 2010. On the basis of article 189a section 1 the minimum penalty for the offence is three years of deprivation of liberty (imprisonment). The highest possible sentence is 15 years of deprivation of liberty. Additionally article 189a section 2 penalises preparations made to commit the crime and sets the penalty to 3 months to 5 years of deprivation of liberty. However, due to the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and tied to this influx of Ukrainian refugees and high risk of human trafficking, in March 2022, Polish authorities have toughened penalties for trafficking in human beings. According to the Law on assistance to Ukrainian citizens in connection with the armed conflict on the territory of the country the perpetrator who, during the armed conflict on the territory of Ukraine, committed the crime referred to in Article 189a of the Criminal Code shall be sentenced to imprisonment for 10 to 15 or 25 years.
Act on Foreigners
Act on Foreigners (AF) came into force in May 2014. It regulates the issues of residence of foreigners in Poland, including the foreigners who were identified as victims of trafficking in human beings. Under the AF, victims are entitled to a reflection period (3-month time permission of legal stay) as well as for a temporary residence permit (which lasts up to 6 months with the possibility of extension for another 6 months).
The Act on Social Assistance
The Act on Social Assistance (ASA) regulates the system of providing social assistance to social beneficiaries, among others also to victims of trafficking. Based on the provisions of ASA victims of trafficking are entitled to short-term assistance and have a right to receive social services such as:
- necessary clothing
- financial support for specific purposes
- psychological assistance
- social or legal aid
Committee for Counteracting Trafficking in Human Beings
An inter-ministerial Committee for Combating and Preventing Trafficking in Human Beings was established by the Council of Ministers in March 2004. The Committee was chaired by the Secretary of State of the Ministry of the Interior and Administration. The Committee consisted of representatives from public administration and non-governmental organisations and acted as an Advisory Board to the Prime Minister. The Committee was replaced in February 2019 by the Committee for Counteracting Trafficking in Human Beings under the Minister for Interior and Administration. The composition, tasks and objectives of the Committee remains the same.
The tasks of the Committee include:
- evaluation of the implementation of programmes to combat and prevent trafficking in human beings;
- initiating actions to combat and prevent trafficking in human beings;
- preparing draft National Action Plans Against Trafficking in Human Beings, monitoring the feasibility of planned tasks and drawing up annual reports implementation of the National Action Plan.
As the Committee only meets twice a year, the on-going work of monitoring and information exchange has led to the establishment of a special Working Group, made up of experts representing the institutions in the Committee’s work. Moreover, to better address chosen issues, expert groups were established, dealing with trafficking in children and preventive actions.
The Committee is also responsible for monitoring and ongoing assessment of the National Referral Mechanism. It also steers the work of the expert group for supporting and protecting victims of trafficking. Moreover, the Committee is monitoring the implementation of the National Action Planagainst THB.
Ministry of the Interior and Administration
In the Ministry of the Interior and Administration acts above-mentioned Committee for Combating and Preventing Trafficking in Human Beings that was established by the Council of Ministers in March 2004. Moreover, in the Ministry operates Team for the Coordination of Counteracting Trafficking in Human beings, a separate organisational unit reporting directly to the Deputy Director of the Department for International Affairs and Migration. The main tasks of the above-mentioned unit are: coordination and monitoring of anti-trafficking work undertaken by institutions and organisations involved in the fight against trafficking in human beings in Poland; coordination of the international cooperation in the field of counteracting of trafficking in human beings.
National Rapporteur or equivalent mechanisms
In December 2022 Deputy Director in the Department of International Affairs and Migration has been appointed as a Polish National Rapporteur in the EU Network of National Rapporteurs and Equivalent Mechanism.
National Referral Mechanism
There are mechanisms in force compatible with the concept of National Referral Mechanism, which took the form of algorithms dedicated to national law enforcement authorities and services. However, work on the creation of the document that will constitute a National Referral Mechanism has been completed in late 2022. The legislative process is underway and it’s expected to be completed in 2023.
National Consulting and Intervention Centre for Victims of Trafficking (KCIK)
The system of supporting and protection for victims of trafficking in human beings in Poland came into force at the beginning of 2006. Since then the system has been improved and developed. The main objective of the system is to identify victims and to refer them to the proper institutions for assistance and support. Nowadays the National Consulting and Intervention Centre for Victims of Trafficking (KCIK), which was established in 2009, serves as the main center for intervention and support. The Center is fully financed by the budget of the Ministry of Interior and Administration.
In particular KCIK provides:
- 24/7/365 helpline
- intervention assistance such as accommodation, food, psychological support, medical assistance
- two safe locations (shelters) for female victims of THB and one for men
- interpreting services and the presence of an interpreter if needed
- legal consultations
- consultations and support for the institutions and organizations dealing with the victims of THB
The Programme of voluntary returns of victims of THB
The Programme of voluntary returns of victims of THB is carried out by the International Organisation for Migration on the basis of Agreement between the PL MoI and the IOM in the field of voluntary returns of foreigners leaving the territory of Poland. Based on the amendment to the agreement (which came into force in 2011) all foreigners (including the EU-citizens) who are officially identified as victims of trafficking are entitled for voluntary return organized by the IOM.
National Action Plan
The National Action Plan (NAP) is the core policy document setting out the goals and methods of implementing actions aimed at combating and limiting the phenomenon of THB. The NAP is adopted by the Council of Ministers for a period of 3 years (currently 2022-2024). The first NAP was adopted in 2003.
The main goals of the NAP are:
- raise public awareness of the phenomenon of THB
- improve the standards of support for victims of THB
- providing trainings for institutions responsible for prosecuting crimes against THB
- strengthening and development of international cooperation in the area of THB
Cross-border cooperation to address trafficking in human beings
Poland has signed a number of bilateral agreements on law enforcement cooperation. These agreements allow the exchange of operational information with EU countries, as well as with third countries. Operational information is also exchanged with EUROPOL (via SIENA channel) and with INTERPOL through the Bureau for International Police Cooperation of the National Police Headquarters.
Relevant reports and relevant links to national authorities and institutions websites, and other relevant contacts
Ministry of the Interior and Administration
Department for International Affairs and Migration
Telephone: (+48 22) 601 41 20
Trafficking in human beings stakeholders
National Consulting and Intervention Centre (KCIK)
Telephone: (+48 22) 628 01 20
National Police Headquarters
Unit for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings of the Criminal Service Bureau
Telephone: (+48 22) 601 48 33
Border Guard Headquarters
Operational and Investigation Board
Telephone: (+48 22) 500 40 41
Department for Organized Crime and Corruption
Telephone: (+48 22) 12 51 790
The Office for Foreigners
Telephone: (+48 22) 60 174 07
National Office of the International Organization for Migration
Telephone: (+ 48 22) 628 24 13
La Strada - Foundation against Trafficking and Slavery
Telephone: (+48 22) 628 99 99 (help and advice number)
PoMOC - Mary Immaculate Association for Women and Children
Telephone: (+48 32) 255 38 69
Empowering Children Foundation
Telephone: (+48 22) 616 02 68
Telephone: (+48 22) 620 16 10