The government maintained protection efforts. The government identified three victims, compared to nine in 2015. All three victims were female sex trafficking victims, compared to six female sex trafficking victims and two male and one female forced labor victims in 2015. The government allocated 269,215 lari ($101,209) to the anti-trafficking shelters in Tbilisi and Batumi and other victim assistance programs, compared to 271,000 lari ($101,880) in 2015.
Law enforcement and the Permanent Group officially identified victims: law enforcement granted “statutory victim” status for victims who participated in investigations and the Permanent Group assessed and officially recognized victims who declined to participate in investigations. The Permanent Group comprises a five member board of NGO and international organization representatives and is required by statute to convene and assess a potential victim within 48 hours. A multi-disciplinary national referral mechanism (NRM) provided standard operating procedures for identifying and referring victims to services. The government implemented a new child referral mechanism, which expanded the list of actors responsible for victim identification efforts of children, including schools, medical providers, art academies, and sports institutions. ATIMU mobile units screened 375 individuals working at organizations involved in prostitution for indicators of trafficking. Authorities also screened for trafficking indicators amongst 2,213 foreign nationals deported from Georgia and 442 Georgians deported from Turkey. These screening efforts resulted in eight trafficking investigations, one prosecution, and the identification of a victim. The government provided all police cadets victim identification training and trained border police on victim identification at border crossings and airports. The government trained 16 VWCs on the NRM and standard operating procedures. Observers reported the NRM worked effectively and demonstrated strong cooperation between law enforcement and victim assistance agencies; however, victim identification of children in exploitative situations on the street and Georgian and foreign workers in vulnerable labor sectors remained inadequate.
The government operated two specialized shelters and provided medical aid, psychological counseling, legal assistance, child care services, and a one-time financial payment of 1,000 lari ($376) to victims. The government-run shelters accommodated all three of the statutory victims identified in 2016. The government-run shelters staffed a nurse, social worker, lawyer, and psychologist and offered separate sections for males, females, and children. The government chaperoned victims when leaving the shelter but victims could request to leave the shelter unchaperoned. The government provided equal services for domestic and foreign victims. The government reported foreign trafficking victims were eligible for temporary, one-year residence permits; one statutory victim received a residency permit in 2016. The law prohibits detaining, arresting, incarcerating, fining, or otherwise penalizing trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking; and no such acts were reported in 2016. The government reported it encouraged victims to assist law enforcement with investigations and prosecutions, although their assistance was not required to receive government protection or shelter services; three statutory victims assisted law enforcement. Victims can pursue financial restitution through civil suits; however, no trafficking victims have ever received restitution from their trafficker. Observers highlighted the failure to freeze and seize criminal assets as an obstacle to pursuing restitution from traffickers.