The government increased already strong protection efforts. NGOs reported good cooperation with government agencies and reported police identification was generally effective. The government increased efforts to identify victims among migrants and asylum-seekers and in shelters for unaccompanied minors, providing training to border officials, NGOs, and directly to migrants. Police conducted raids and screenings in brothels, red light districts, and massage parlors to find victims proactively. Police and other government institutions, in cooperation with NGOs, identified and assisted 288 female and 60 male foreign victims in 2016, an increase from 271 female victims and 30 male victims in 2015. According to the government’s national implementation plan, between July 2015 and December 2016, officials and NGOs identified 15 trafficking victims among migrants transiting through or remaining in Austria.
The government disbursed approximately €892,220 ($940,169) to specialized anti-trafficking NGOs to assist and house victims, an increase from €831,760 ($876,459) disbursed in 2015. The government also disbursed €400,000 ($421,496) to two NGO-run counseling centers for male trafficking victims and undocumented migrants, on par with funding in 2015. Government funding comprised the bulk of these organizations’ budgets. The center for male victims assisted 60 victims, of which 20 were provided accommodation, and all 60 were provided counseling; this is twice the number of cases compared to 2015. A government-run center for unaccompanied minors was available for child trafficking victims and offered legal, medical, psychological, social, and language assistance. There were cases of suspected trafficking among minors assisted by the center. Government-funded NGOs provided adult trafficking victims with emergency shelter, medical care, psychological care, language assistance, and legal assistance; some NGOs offered specialized services for victims with physical or mental disabilities. Foreign victims were entitled to the same care available to domestic victims. NGO staff helped victims prepare for court proceedings and assisted foreign victims with repatriation.
The government amended its criminal procedural code in 2016 to establish minimum standards on the rights, support, and protection of victims of crime (including those exploited in trafficking), expanding and strengthening victims’ rights, specifically in criminal and court proceedings. The new law provides that victims in particular need of protection may, in order to minimize re-traumatization, be accompanied by a trusted person or be afforded special interview methods during the investigation phase. The national trafficking taskforce finalized a comprehensive national referral mechanism and guidelines for the identification of child victims. Government officials from multiple agencies and NGOs used guidelines and checklists to identify trafficking victims proactively. The government trained law enforcement, the labor inspectorate, military, diplomatic services, detention centers, asylum centers, revenue authority, and social services to proactively identify victims.
Under the asylum law, the government-provided right of temporary residence status for trafficking victims and benefits was not linked to victims’ participation or testimony in criminal trials. According to one observer, however, the government failed to grant legal residence to victims if they do not assist police and testify in legal proceedings. The government granted 16 foreign victims temporary residence permits in 2016, compared to 14 in 2015; these permits allowed them unconditional access to the labor market. Identified victims were granted a 30-day reflection period to receive assistance and decide whether to cooperate in investigations. Austria led an international working group that discussed strategies for improving the non-punishment of victims in Balkan countries. The justice ministry developed guidelines for prosecutors on non-punishment of victims. Victims can testify via video conference, provide anonymous depositions, and enroll in witness protection programs. The justice ministry reported 120 victims assisted with prosecutions during 2016. Victims, including those without legal residence, are able to file civil suits for damages and compensation against traffickers, even in the absence of a criminal prosecution. According to the justice ministry, victims obtained restitution in nine criminal cases and six victims of trafficking received government compensation as crime victims. Victims were entitled to legal aid in the form of financial assistance and legal representation if they cannot afford their legal costs. The government did not report any cases of trafficking victims being detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.