Luxembourg issuing 'lenient' sentences for human trafficking
Luxembourg courts issue lenient sentences to convicted human traffickers, a report published on Monday by the US Department of State has found, which also outlined how foreign victims are exploited in the Grand Duchy through crimes such as sex trafficking and forced labour.
The Trafficking in Persons report examined the issue of human trafficking worldwide during the pandemic, concluding that as governments focused on the health crisis, anti-trafficking efforts often fell behind as a result.
Last year, the Luxembourg government initiated four prosecutions and convicted one person for sex trafficking. Luxembourg partially suspended the trafficker’s 18-month sentence, in a case in which four victims had been exploited, the report said. In 2019, the courts fully suspended two convicted traffickers’ sentences.
“Courts issued weak sentences for trafficking convictions, a perennial problem that undercut efforts to hold traffickers accountable and protect victims,” the US report stated.
For the fifth year in a row, Luxembourg was placed in the report’s category of top countries, meaning the government has made efforts to meet the minimum standards.
However, the number of convictions declined last year and “courts continued to issue lenient sentences to convicted traffickers, creating potential safety problems for trafficking victims, weakening deterrence, and undercutting nationwide efforts to fight trafficking”, the US report stated.
Forced labour crimes
The report recommended that Luxembourg sentence traffickers to significant prison terms and ensure convicted traffickers serve those sentences in full. The country should also increase training for judges on the severity of trafficking crimes and revise its legislation to make clear that force, fraud, or coercion are core elements of trafficking rather than aggravating factors.
The report also underlined the plight of foreign victims trafficked to Luxembourg.
“Traffickers exploit victims from Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America in sex trafficking operations in cabarets, private apartments, and on the street,” it said.
The number of forced labour crimes in the Grand Duchy is on the rise, the report added, particularly in the restaurant and construction sectors.
“Traffickers transport Romani children from neighbouring countries for forced begging in Luxembourg,” the report said.
Commercial sex activities
Commercial sex activities had “moved increasingly to private homes and online platforms during the pandemic”, the report found, adding that the law hindered investigators’ ability to search private homes suspected of being used for commercial sex and illicit activities.
Luxembourg had co-operated with investigators in neighbouring countries, the report noted.
Police and investigators from the Grand Duchy took part in a joint labour trafficking investigation with Belgium involving five suspects in five companies, while officers assisted in a sex trafficking investigation in Germany involving six suspects.
Labour inspectors and police from Luxembourg coordinated with their French counterparts to inspect a construction site, where they found four victims from Portugal who were living in France but being forced to work in the Grand Duchy.
Luxembourg's government has "increased efforts to protect victims", the report found. It provided €461,500 last year to two NGOs responsible for co-ordinating trafficking victim care – an increase from €359,420 in 2019. The two government-funded NGOs provided shelter to 16 trafficking victims during the reporting period.
Luxembourg also gave €8.4 million to assistance centres that provided shelter and help to victims of crime, including trafficking victims, an increase from €7.5 million in 2019.
The government cancelled anti-trafficking training for prosecutors, judges, law enforcement and immigration officials due to the pandemic but all new police recruits received the training, the report said.
In April 2020, Luxembourg launched its first hotline for victims of crime but it did not receive any calls leading to the detection of trafficking victims, the report found.