The government maintained efforts to protect victims. The government reports its protection data through the independent anti-trafficking rapporteur, who monitors government efforts and released five reports during the year. In the first six months of 2016—the most recent reports available—the government-funded national victim registration center and assistance coordinator registered 486 possible trafficking victims, a decrease from 648 in the first six months of 2015. Of the 486 identified, 304 were victims of sex trafficking, 124 of labor trafficking and forced crime, and 69 of uncategorized trafficking; many individuals were identified as victims of multiple forms of trafficking. One-hundred and fifteen of the victims were children. The top countries of origin during the first six months were the Netherlands (30 percent of victims), Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, and Nigeria. Eighty-three of the identified potential trafficking victims elected to stay in shelters in 2016, compared with 146 in 2015; during the first six months of 2016 police identified 45 percent of human trafficking victims; military police, nine percent; labor inspectors, four percent; and other organizations, 42 percent. During 2016, reportedly six potential victims were identified in detention and referred to shelters. The government continued to fund an extensive network of facilities providing specialized services for child, adult female, and adult male victims. However, the government reduced funding for civil society organizations in 2016. NGOs that coordinate victim assistance have reported increased challenges due to decreased government funding.
For victims to be officially designated as trafficking victims, their trafficker must be sentenced in court; without this status, foreign victims could not obtain permanent residency, with some exceptions. Potential victims had access to three government-funded shelters dedicated to human trafficking victims, one of which was dedicated to male victims, as well as various other shelters funded by local governments that catered to domestic violence victims, which also had dedicated beds for trafficking victims. Potential victims were allowed to stay for a three month reflection period to decide whether to assist law enforcement in prosecuting their traffickers. However, this three-month period could be reduced if a potential victim decided not to assist the police, or if the police determined not to file a case. The government did not release information on the number of potential trafficking victims who made use of this reflection period during 2015; this information will be released by the national rapporteur in October, along with the numbers for 2016. In 2014, the most recent year data was available, 174 victims made use of the reflection period. During a reflection period, non-EU victims were not allowed to work. After the reflection period, victims who agreed to assist police could stay in available shelters. All shelters provided medical and psychological care, schooling, language and skills training, and legal assistance; some also provided self-defense classes and most had facilities accessible to disabled individuals. Adult victims were permitted to leave shelters at will and unchaperoned, and child victims were placed in special shelters for children or in specialized foster homes. Seven shelters were specially designated for “lover-boy” trafficking victims, one of which was opened during the reporting period. The government worked with and funded NGOs to provide information on available services over the internet and to operate an interpreter fund to enable shelters to hire interpreters to assist with foreign victims. The government did not disclose the amount of funding for the shelters.
Victims willing to testify against their alleged trafficker were eligible to receive a B-8 permit, a temporary residence permit for trafficking victims, if authorities decided to prosecute a suspected trafficker. The government did not release information on the number of potential trafficking victims who applied for B-8 status during 2015; this information will be released by the national rapporteur in October along with the numbers for 2016. In 2014, the most recent year data was available, 251 victims applied for B-8 status, compared with 268 in 2013. Victims were granted permanent residency if the trafficker in their case was convicted or when they maintained B-8 status for three or more years. Authorities worked with civil society to repatriate foreign victims unable to acquire residency permits. If a trafficker was not prosecuted or was acquitted in a victim’s case, or if a potential victim did not want to assist the police investigation, the victim could apply for asylum. While NGOs reported this was a regular occurrence, the government did not collect statistics on the number of potential victims who applied for asylum. A procedure also existed to circumvent B-8 eligibility requirements for residency in cases where victims were seriously threatened or had serious medical or psychological conditions. In January 2017, the government implemented measures from a 2012 pilot program to reduce potential B-8 fraud by shortening authorities’ decision time to launch a criminal investigation to within 10 days of a report. Some experts contended this program forced victims in a vulnerable state to decide whether to press charges too quickly, possibly before they had met with an attorney. While the anti-trafficking law contains a non-punishment clause, defense attorneys reported instances in which the clause was not always properly understood or implemented.