The government maintained victim protection efforts. Police identified 38 victims during the reporting period, one man and 37 women (92 victims in 2015 and 67 in 2014). Authorities referred all victims to services. Of the victims identified in this reporting period, 14 chose to cooperate with law enforcement and entered the Ministry of Interior’s (MOI) program for victim services (four victims entered the program in 2015 and 43 in 2014). In 2016, government-funded NGOs provided services to 139 newly identified potential victims, of which 125 victims were identified by NGOs; this compared to 171 newly identified potential victims in 2015, 79 of whom were directly identified by NGOs.
The MOI program for victim services was available to both foreign and Czech adult victims of sex and labor trafficking regardless of their country of origin or legal status. There was a different national referral mechanism for children and youth, in which identified child victims received care outside of the MOI’s program through publicly funded NGOs that provided shelter, food, clothing, and medical and psychological counseling. Those victims who enter the MOI program must cooperate with law enforcement; all victims are encouraged to cooperate with Czech authorities. Authorities provided victims with a 60-day reflection period, in which victims received care and determined whether to cooperate with law enforcement; victims with a medically recognized disability, including trauma, received an additional 30 days. Under the law, a victim cannot be deported during this period. Victims unwilling to cooperate with law enforcement were still eligible to receive services via NGOs, but these were located outside of the MOI’s victim services program. However, to be eligible for these alternative short-term victim services, trafficking victims must reside legally in Czechia; victims not participating in the MOI program were ineligible for long-term assistance. The government provided medical care, psychological and crisis counseling, housing, legal representation, vocational training, and other specialized services to victims. Victims could voluntarily withdraw from victim services at any time.
The MOI funded the costs for the victim assistance program, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MLSA) provided additional funding for actual day-to-day social services provided by NGOs. In 2016, the MOI allocated approximately 1.2 million koruna ($47,914), comparable to the 1.18 million koruna ($47,115) allocated in 2015. An international organization also received additional funding from the MOI for repatriation costs. Some experts noted a lack of funding for victim housing, especially female victims with more than one child, and a lack of expertise among counselors providing services. In 2016, the MOI changed how it provided services to victims. Rather than granting funds to multiple NGOs to provide services, the MOI released a tender inviting NGOs to submit bids; one NGO was selected to serve as the prime agent to manage victim services. NGOs and government stakeholders reported this new funding mechanism worked well.
During legal proceedings, victims were eligible to receive free legal aid. A witness protection law allows the government to conceal the identity of the witness, provides a new identity to the victim, and can assign bodyguards. Foreign victims who cooperated with investigators could receive temporary residence and work visas for the duration of the relevant legal proceedings. Upon conclusion of court proceedings, victims could apply for permanent residency; one victim received permanent residency in 2016, compared with no victims in 2015, and one in 2014. Victims had the legal option of seeking court-ordered compensation from their traffickers in both civil and criminal proceedings, although such restitution was rare as victims often feared retribution from their traffickers during criminal cases and could not afford attorney fees for a civil suit. To seek civil damages, the law requires a finding of criminal misconduct against the defendant. The government did not report any victims received compensation during the reporting period. There were no reports the government penalized identified victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. The MLSA created working groups focused on forced labor. The government funded anti-trafficking training to 70 health practitioners and to 20 members of an international organization.