The government increased victim protection efforts. The government identified 36 trafficking victims, compared to 28 in 2015. Of these 36 victims, 26 were subjected to sex trafficking, nine to forced labor, and one victim to “slavery and servitude” (17 to sex trafficking and 11 to forced labor in 2015); 18 were children (11 in 2015); 34 were female and two were male (28 and two, respectively, in 2015); and 32 were from Kosovo and four from Albania. Eighteen victims accepted support services in 2016 and 2015. The government allocated €171,010 ($180,200) for victim protection, compared to €181,925 ($191,700) in 2015. NGO-run shelters received €91,010 ($95,900) and the state-run Interim Security Facility (ISF) received €80,000 ($84,300), compared to €101,930 ($107,410) for NGO-run shelters and €80,000 ($84,300) for ISF in 2015. NGO-run shelters reported government funding was inadequate and operations could not continue without funding assistance from foreign embassies. NGOs reported the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MLSW) required funding applications every six months, causing a gap in funding while applications were processed and approved. One NGO-run shelter temporarily closed due to the MLSW delaying calls for funding applications.
First responders followed standard operating procedures (SOPs) for identifying and referring victims to services. SOPs required a team consisting of an investigator from the THBD, a social worker, and a victim’s advocate from the Victims Assistance and Advocacy Office to convene and assess the victim as low, medium, or high risk and coordinate victim care and placement. The team assessed the victim based on their level of danger and if the suspected trafficker was not known or at large, the level of risk for the victim was “high.” Observers reported the national referral mechanism functioned well and highlighted good cooperation amongst actors; however, observers reported a lack of guidance and proactive identification efforts for victims of forced begging, especially children.
In 2015, the government licensed two NGO-run shelters to exclusively provide services to trafficking victims, along with the ISF. These shelters provided legal assistance, medical and psychological services, counseling, education, recreational services, and other rehabilitative support. Victims also had access to nine MLSW care facilities. The government did not have a care facility in the country’s four northern municipalities. ISF temporarily accommodated victims of trafficking assessed as high risk. Due to the high-risk assessment from police, authorities required victims to have a police escort outside of the shelter while court proceedings were ongoing for the victim’s protection. Victims required an approval from a prosecutor and the KP to permanently leave the ISF while assessed as high risk. The facility had the capacity to shelter 40 individuals with separate rooms for females, males, and families. Victims stayed at the ISF for an average of 90 days before transferring to a NGO-run shelter. The two NGO-run shelters provided support services to victims assessed as low- to medium-risk. One of these NGO-run shelters was solely for children. Authorities did not detain, fine, or otherwise penalize trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. The government encouraged victims to participate in investigative and judicial processes by providing protection at ISF, accommodation and care at other facilities, and participation in the witness protection program, if necessary. All 36 victims participated in investigations and court proceedings. The law entitles foreign victims to a 30- to 90-day reflection period after identification in which victims can recover before deciding whether to cooperate with law enforcement. The government ensured suspected traffickers were not present when victims provided statements and foreign victims could return to their countries of origin after testifying without waiting for the conclusion of the trial. The law entitles foreign victims to a temporary residence permit for at least six months; two victims received a permit during the reporting period. The government allocated €100,000 ($105,370) to the crime victim compensation fund and established a compensation committee to review claims.