The government maintained protection efforts. The government identified 22 victims, compared to nine in 2015. Nineteen were subjected to forced labor and three to sex trafficking. Authorities notified all victims of their right to services and 19 victims accepted NGO-run shelter assistance, compared to five in 2015. The government allocated 18.8 million drams ($39,260) for victim protection efforts, including operational costs for an NGO-run shelter, compared to 18.3 million drams ($38,100) in 2015. The government established and allocated 1.8 million drams ($3,650) to a compensation fund through which a one-time monetary compensation of 250,000 drams ($520) is provided to trafficking victims. The Law on Identification and Assistance to Victims of Human Trafficking and Exploitation establishes a national referral mechanism and outlines actions for the Victim Identification Commission consisting of national and local government bodies, NGOs, international organizations, and civil society to identify and support trafficking victims. The law also ensures victim assistance is not linked to their cooperation with law enforcement and affords foreign trafficking victims the same rights and services as Armenian citizens.
The government and local NGOs jointly provided victims legal, medical, and psychological assistance; housing; and access to social, educational, and employment projects. The government offered free health care; one victim received this service in the reporting period. The government maintained cooperation agreements with two specialized NGO-run shelters to provide services to victims; however, one NGO-run shelter closed at the end of February 2017 due to the completion of their donor-funded project. NGO-run shelters required adult victims to notify staff when they left shelters unescorted, but victims were free to leave if they no longer wanted assistance. Services were available to female and male victims. Shelters did not provide specialized services for child victims, who could be housed in an adult trafficking shelter or referred to a child care institution. NGOs reported law enforcement officers in remote areas lacked information and training to inform victims of their rights to protection or assistance. As a result of a legal change suspending most Labor Inspectorate functions in July 2015, inspectors were unable to conduct regular inspections and identify indications of forced labor.
The law designates the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to coordinate repatriation of Armenian trafficking victims from abroad; however, observers reported difficulties in such repatriations due to a lack of established procedures and funds to cover logistical costs. The government, in cooperation with NGOs, repatriated 11 labor trafficking victims from Russia through ad hoc procedures and funds from different sources including government, NGOs, and churches. During the last several years, victims reported greater trust in law enforcement when assisting investigations and prosecutions; however, observers reported that for various reasons, including fear of retaliation from their traffickers, victims were reluctant to assist in prosecutions. Observers reported local investigators lacked the skills to interview victims properly, especially children. The government continued to lack a formal victim-witness protection program. In 2014, a draft law establishing victim-witness protection was submitted to parliament; the law remained pending at the close of the reporting period. There were no reports in 2016 that authorities inappropriately detained identified trafficking victims; the law exempts victims from criminal prosecution for crimes they were forced to commit as a result of being subjected to trafficking. The law entitles victims to obtain restitution during criminal proceedings or through a separate civil suit. Victims did not file any civil suits; however, in previous years, judges had not issued damages in civil suits, asserting that victims did not substantiate the financial damages they had suffered. The law allows investigators to place defendants’ property in custody to ensure civil claims can be paid.