The government increased modest efforts to protect victims. Authorities did not systematically track the total number of victims identified. Police identified 419 victims of sex and labor trafficking connected to the 238 investigations initiated during the Nepali fiscal year compared with 327 victims identified through investigations the previous year. Of the 419 victims, 109 were under age 18 and almost all were female—only two of the identified victims were male. It is unknown how many of the victims were exploited abroad. Officials’ poor understanding of the crime, a lack of formal SOPs for identification, and victims’ reluctance to be identified due to stigma hindered proper and proactive identification, especially among returning male labor migrants who reported exploitation abroad. NGOs reported government efforts to identify domestic sex trafficking victims improved during the reporting period; police increased the number of raids on Kathmandu adult entertainment businesses and more consistently worked to identify sex trafficking victims to avoid penalizing them for prostitution crimes. When properly identified, victims were not detained, fined, or jailed for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to human trafficking.
The government has national minimum standards for victim care and referring identified victims to services. Despite these standards and the government’s continued drafting of victim identification and referral SOPs, referral efforts remained ad hoc and inadequate. It is unclear how many victims were referred to and able to utilize services during the year. The government increased its budget to provide services for female victims of violence, including trafficking, from 12.6 million Nepali rupees (NPR) ($115,915) during the 2015-2016 fiscal year to 25 million NPR ($229,991) for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. With support from MWCSW, NGOs maintained eight rehabilitation homes, 17 emergency shelters, and one long-term shelter for female victims of gender-based violence, including trafficking. MWCSW provided the NGOs funding for three staff members per shelter, some facility expenses, and victim assistance, including legal assistance, psychological support, transportation, medical expenses, and skills training. The government continued to allocate 40,000 NPR ($386) for the protection of adult male trafficking victims but did not fund shelter services. An NGO ran one shelter for men in Kathmandu. In July 2016, MWCSW launched an online directory to catalog service providers for victims of human trafficking and migration-related exploitation. At the close of the reporting period, the directory cataloged services in 16 districts. Victims may seek compensation from a rehabilitation fund if the government is unable to collect fines from traffickers. During the reporting period, the government paid a total of 50,000 NPR ($368) to the victim in one case. The government established nine victim-witness protection rooms in district courts during the reporting period. Overall victim-witness protection mechanisms remained insufficient. They also were impeded by a 2015 amendment to the HTTCA that reinstated a provision allowing victims to be fined if they failed to appear in court or criminally liable for providing testimony contradicting their previous statements. The government did not have established procedures for alternatives to the deportation of foreign victims.
While Nepali embassies in Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and United Arab Emirates provided emergency shelters for vulnerable female workers, some of whom were trafficking victims, the Foreign Employment Promotion Board (FEPB) acknowledged the shelters lacked sufficient space and resources to meet the high demand for assistance. FEPB collected fees from departing registered migrant workers for a welfare fund to provide repatriation and one year of financial support to families of injured or deceased workers, which could include trafficking victims. During the fiscal year, the fund provided financial support to the families of 173 injured and 690 deceased migrant workers, and paid to repatriate 535 workers, an increase from 216 workers in the previous year. FEBP may also repatriate unregistered migrant workers by requesting funds through the finance ministry on an ad hoc basis. It is unknown if unregistered workers were repatriated during the reporting period.