The government maintained modest efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. The government and NGOs identified five potential trafficking victims, compared with two identified the previous reporting period, and provided assistance to 25 suspected trafficking victims repatriated from Guinea and one victim identified the previous reporting period. The taskforce, in coordination with the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection (MOGCSP), was responsible for coordinating victim care. It did not receive a budget for victim protection, so it either referred victims to NGOs or requested emergency funds from MOGCSP to care for specific trafficking victims. MOGCSP provided emergency funding to shelter 25 potential Liberian child trafficking victims after their repatriation from Guinea. The government had one shelter for victims of sexual and gender-based violence run by MOGCSP that could also accommodate trafficking victims. It could not provide trafficking-specific services or accommodate long-term stays, however, so authorities referred most victims to NGO shelters or private facilities for abused women and girls. NGO shelters and MOGCSP facilities could in theory care for male victims, although none reported having a male trafficking victim requiring care. The Ministry of Health provided some medical and psycho-social support to the 2015 victim and the 25 potential trafficking victims. In part due to a lack of communication between the government and NGOs, the government did not report providing services to the five potential trafficking victims identified during the reporting period. An NGO referred four potential trafficking victims to an NGO shelter and one potential victim to a community member for temporary shelter because the NGO and government shelters were full. The government relied on one NGO shelter for sexual and gender-based violence victims to provide all other trafficking victim care, including shelter, legal representation, food, vocational training, and family reunification. The NGO shelter could care for both foreign and domestic trafficking victims, among other victims of crime. Shelters often limited victims’ stays to three months, due to a lack of space. Shelter and services for males and services specifically for victims with disabilities were extremely limited or unavailable in most of the country. Adult victims were sometimes allowed to leave the shelters at will; in some cases, however, shelter workers restricted victims from leaving, citing concerns reportedly for their safety and/or to protect the integrity of the testimony at trial. Shelters often could not protect victims’ identities. The government did not provide any financial assistance to trafficking victims.
The draft national referral mechanism to direct victims towards services, developed by the taskforce in the previous reporting period, did not receive approval by the ministries of labor and justice for the second year. As a result, the government remained without a formal referral process, and agencies responsible for referring victims to services rarely coordinated such efforts, which may have resulted in delayed care for victims. Authorities reported the majority of law enforcement, immigration, and social services personnel lacked training on victim identification and interim referral procedures, which they cited as one of the greatest challenges to successfully investigating and prosecuting cases and ensuring victims received care. Despite this shortcoming, the government did not provide or support training on such measures during the reporting period. The government did not systematically encourage victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of their traffickers, but it sometimes provided victims with shelter, transportation, and food allocations to offset the costs of participating in a trial; 10 trafficking victims received this assistance during the reporting period. The anti-trafficking law provides for restitution and victims could file civil suits against their traffickers, although no victims filed such suits during the reporting period. While the government did not have a formal policy that provides alternatives to removal to countries in which victims would face retribution or hardship, it could offer alternatives, including temporary residency, on a case-by-case basis. There were no reports the government detained, fined, or jailed victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; however, due to a lack of training on victim identification and the absence of measures to screen for trafficking among vulnerable populations, such as people in prostitution, it was possible that victims remained unidentified in the system.