The government slightly increased victim protection efforts. The government identified six victims, compared to four in 2015; all six were female sex trafficking victims, compared to four female victims of sex and labor trafficking in 2015. Three victims were children and one was a foreign citizen. The government-run shelter for trafficking victims accommodated the three child victims and the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy (MLSP) provided psycho-social services to the other two domestic victims. The government repatriated the foreign victim voluntarily to Serbia. The government allocated a total of 4,822,000 denars ($82,966) to combat trafficking, compared to 1,606,036 denars ($27,633) in 2015. The government allocated 1,000,000 denars ($17,206) to the government-run shelter, compared to 1,061,036 denars ($18,256) in 2015. The government allocated 4,822,000 denars ($82,966) for services for potential trafficking victims housed at the transit/reception center for foreigners, compared to 545,000 denars ($9,377) in 2015. Unlike in previous years, the government did not award NGOs any grants for the 2016 fiscal year; NGOs reported their reliance on these grants to assist victims and thus reduced their services. NGOs reported the government relied heavily on funding from the international community and on NGOs to provide assistance, including rehabilitation and re-socialization services to potential and officially recognized victims.
The government, in cooperation with international organizations, developed indicators for potential trafficking victims in mixed migration flows and standardized victim identification procedures. The government trained first responders, including police officers, labor inspectors, immigration officials, NGO workers, and social workers, on initial screening procedures for migrants, refugees, and unaccompanied children. MLSP provided advanced training to social workers on victim identification and dispatched 99 social workers to conduct proactive victim identification efforts at border crossings and migrant and refugee camps. The government and NGOs together identified 120 migrants as potential trafficking victims (78 adults and 42 children). The government did not revive its partnership with NGOs to operate six joint mobile identification units due to a lack of resources and political commitment. Macedonia experienced a significant decrease in migrants transiting through the country, and NGOs reported officials screened regularly for indicators of trafficking at border crossings; however, experts reported border agents were still unable to properly identify trafficking victims. MLSP social workers and police identified potential forced labor victims among predominately Romani children engaged in street begging and street vending. The government placed them in daycare centers and warned, fined, or jailed their parents; in cases where courts deemed parents unfit to care for their children, the state placed the children in orphanages.
First responders identified a total of 125 potential trafficking victims, compared to 94 in 2015. First responders referred potential victims to CTHBMSU and MLSP, who made the official identification. The government recognized six official victims in 2016. The government and NGOs provided potential victims and officially recognized victims protection and assistance, including psycho-social support, rehabilitation, and reintegration services; however, potential trafficking victims did not have access to the government-run shelter and its support services until officially identified by the government. The government ran a shelter for trafficking victims and a transit center for irregular migrants that offered separate facilities for foreign trafficking victims; both facilities could house male, female, and child victims. The government-run shelter opened only when authorities identified an official trafficking victim. The government-run shelter allowed victims freedom of movement, but the migrant facility did not permit foreign victims to leave without a temporary residence permit. In 2015, the government discontinued its partnership with NGOs that provided support services at the government-run shelter. Domestic victims could receive reintegration support, including education and job placement. Specialized assistance was not available for male victims, and the government did not provide services accessible for victims with disabilities.
The law permits foreign victims a two-month reflection period to decide whether to testify against their traffickers, followed by a six-month temporary residence permit, regardless of whether they testify; no foreign victims requested residence permits in 2016. MLSP reported 12 of the 125 potential victims assisted in initial investigations and two of the six officially identified victims gave statements against their alleged traffickers. The government reported no victims required witness protection services in 2016. While victims can claim restitution through civil proceedings, no victims have ever successfully completed a claim due to the complexity of the process. The government continued efforts to develop a victim compensation fund that allowed authorities to allocate compensation to victims from seized criminal assets. NGOs submitted a draft law allowing victims to receive compensation without having to file civil proceedings. Although there were no reports of trafficking victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, in previous years police did not contact the anti-trafficking unit to screen for potential victims of trafficking among dancers and other individuals found when conducting operations in nightclubs where sex trafficking was prevalent.