The government slightly increased victim protection efforts. Police identified 46 trafficking victims, compared to 57 in 2015; 26 were subjected to sex trafficking, including five children, and 20 to forced labor, including 11 children (34 to sexual exploitation, including four children, and 23 to forced labor in 2015). Eleven victims were Greek and 35 were foreign citizens. The government was unable to determine how much funding was spent exclusively on victim protection, and NGOs expressed concerns regarding government funding shortfalls caused by Greece’s seven-year economic crisis and fiscal measures imposed as part of its international bailout.
First responders followed standard operating procedures for identifying victims. Observers reported NGOs and the ATU conducted the majority of proactive victim identification efforts. The government, separately and in cooperation with international organizations and NGOs trained law enforcement, immigration officers, social service workers, labor inspectors, and health workers on identifying trafficking victims, including potential victims among refugees and migrants; however, observers reported inadequate or hasty screenings procedures and vulnerability assessments at migrant entry points and camps. NGOs reported a lack of proactive identification efforts among vulnerable unaccompanied children. For example, observers reported unaccompanied children, particularly from Afghanistan, engaged in survival sex in Athens and were extremely vulnerable to trafficking. Public prosecutors officially certify victims, which entitles them to a residency and work permit; potential victims without this recognition had access to equal support and assistance. Public prosecutors officially certified four victims.
The government operationalized a national referral mechanism and organized working groups to establish roles and responsibilities among law enforcement, government agencies, and NGOs. The government, in cooperation with NGOs, provided shelter, psychological support, medical care, legal aid, and reintegration support. Despite excellent cooperation with the ATU, NGOs reported law enforcement generally demonstrated reluctance to refer victims to NGO-run support services due to a lack of formalized referral procedures incorporating NGOs. Observers reported a lack of specialized shelters for trafficking victims; only one NGO-run shelter provided shelter specifically for female trafficking victims. The government provided shelter and general support services to trafficking victims through two agencies: (1) the General Secretariat for Gender Equality operated 19 shelters and 40 counseling centers for female victims of violence and (2) the National Social Solidarity Center operated two long-term shelters, one of which had an emergency section, an emergency shelter, and two social support centers for vulnerable populations in need of assistance. Observers reported victims in rural areas had little access to support services and were often accommodated in police stations, hospital wards, or received no assistance. Male victims could be accommodated in an NGO-run shelter for sexually exploited men or short-term government shelters for asylum-seekers or homeless persons. Child victims were sheltered in government-run shelters, NGO shelters, and facilities for unaccompanied minors, but were not housed in specialized facilities for trafficking victims. The government signed a cooperation agreement with three NGOs to house, protect, and assist vulnerable women and children, including trafficking victims, and allocated three buildings to use as shelters. The government trained police on preventing child trafficking and protecting unaccompanied minors. The government did not detain, jail, incarcerate, fine, or otherwise penalize trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
The government provided victims with a reflection period so they could determine if they wanted to cooperate in investigations. The government did not provide funding for travel and other expenses to attend court hearings; however, NGOs provided some victims with legal support and funding for travel expenses. The law also provides for the presence of mental health professionals when victims are testifying and the use of audiovisual technology for remote testimony, but many courts lacked the capabilities to deploy these resources and many judges continued to require victims to appear in court. The law provides for witness protection to victims during trial; however, observers reported no trafficking victims have received full witness protection privileges to date, while authorities stated no victims requested such protection. Observers reported traffickers may have paid bribes to repatriated trafficking victims to preclude them from testifying. Official victim status provided foreign victims one-year, renewable residence and work permits. Victims who did not apply for official recognition could receive a residence and work permit by applying for asylum on humanitarian grounds; the government issued 23 residence permits to female trafficking victims in 2016. Observers reported the process to receive residence permits took time but the government granted victims a temporary document that prevented deportation or detainment. The law entitles victims to file civil suits against traffickers for compensation; however, no victims to date have received compensation or received restitution from their traffickers. The government reported trafficking victims have never applied for compensation.