The government decreased victim protection efforts. The government identified one potential trafficking victim, compared to 16 potential victims in 2015. The potential victim was a child forced to beg. The government did not identify any sex trafficking victims (16 sex trafficking victims in 2015). The government also identified two female Romani children forced into marriage and vulnerable to domestic servitude (four children forced into marriage in 2015). The government-funded NGO-run shelter accommodated the only child victim, compared to four victims in 2015. OFTIP allocated €27,000 ($28,451) to the NGO-run shelter, compared to €26,000 ($27,397) in 2015. Police identified 75 child beggars in 2016, compared to 122 in 2015 and 156 in 2014, but did not identify any of them as trafficking victims. The government accommodated most of the children identified as beggars at local social welfare centers until being released to their parents or guardians.
A multi-disciplinary national referral mechanism provided SOPs for identifying and referring victims to services. First responders carried out the preliminary identification of potential victims and then contacted police who formally recognized the individuals as potential trafficking victims. The government identified potential victims as an official trafficking victim only in cases with a final conviction; however, the government provided the same services to potential victims and officially recognized victims. The government, in cooperation with international organizations, continued to disseminate a victim identification checklist containing trafficking indicators to all law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, health and social workers, and school directors; however, police still conducted the majority of proactive identification efforts. For example, police officers proactively screened foreign nationals and seasonal workers during the summer tourist season for indicators of trafficking. Observers reported the low number of identified victims illustrates victim identification procedures remained an area for improvement.
The government-funded NGO-run shelter makes available specialized services for trafficking victims, including medical, psychological, and social assistance; legal assistance; and vocational training and reintegration assistance. Male victims can be accommodated in separate living quarters in the shelter, as were children from adults. Victims can leave the shelter after assessment by police, or by the social welfare centers in the case of children. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MLSW) operated local and social welfare centers and two regional institutions, which provide general services for victims of abuse, including trafficking victims. Although MLSW did not provide specialized services for trafficking victims, MLSW can provide separate facilities for males and females. MLSW trained 112 staff on trafficking indicators and interview techniques.
The law provides witness protection, free legal aid, and a psychologist to encourage victims to participate in prosecutions; however, observers reported the government assigned lawyers with little or no experience in trafficking. The law also provides for the possibility for victim restitution and entitles foreign trafficking victims to receive a temporary residence permit, lasting from three months to one year, and work authorization. No victims applied for temporary residence permits in 2016 or 2015. Additionally, no victims participated in the prosecution of their traffickers or requested restitution in 2016 and 2015. The Law on Compensation of Victims is intended to provide financial assistance to victims of intentional violent crimes leading to severe physical injuries or emotional distress; however, this law will not go into effect until Montenegro becomes a member of the European Union. Montenegrin law prohibits the detention or arrest of persons believed to be human trafficking victims for crimes related to the trafficking. However, in October 2014, the high court confirmed the guilty verdict of a Moldovan trafficking victim and sentenced her in absentia to one year in prison for perjury for her testimony in a high profile 2002 trafficking case in which she accused high-level officials of being involved in human trafficking. NGO representatives strongly condemned the verdict for its weak legal reasoning and its chilling effect on possible future cases.