The government maintained protection measures, but did not improve screening of unaccompanied children, obtaining victim cooperation with prosecutions, and assisting victims’ efforts to seek compensation. Authorities trained police, border guards, 189 consular officers, 99 labor inspectors, 79 employees of crisis intervention centers, and 11 officials who interview asylum-seekers on trafficking victim identification. Also, the border guard organized training for 2,065 officers on standard operating procedures for assisting child victims of trafficking. With the help of an international organization, the border guard developed and implemented a new e-learning platform for border officials on methods to identify trafficking victims and the national referral mechanism. In September 2016, the national police commander issued an updated regulation on combating human trafficking that included a new identification tool for police officers. Police and prosecutors, however, acknowledged authorities lacked the expertise to identify forced labor victims. Observers considered victim identification, especially in the cases of children and labor exploitation, to be a challenge for the government.
In 2016, the government allocated 1.1 million zloty ($262,843) to two NGOs that run the National Intervention-Consultation Center for Victims of Trafficking (KCIK), which covered the majority of operating expenses; this is same amount allocated in 2015. The government identified 144 potential trafficking victims during the reporting period. KCIK provided assistance to 200 potential victims in 2016, compared with 229 in 2015 and 207 in 2014. KCIK offered victims medical and psychological care, legal counseling, shelter referrals, and welfare support. KCIK included two shelters for adult female victims. KCIK was responsible for finding safe accommodations for male trafficking victims and used crisis centers, hotels, and hostels for this purpose. The national system of victim assistance did not always address the needs of unaccompanied children, as there was no standardized system of screening unaccompanied children as potential trafficking victims. The government could place child victims in orphanages, with foster families, or in child assistance centers based on their needs. In 2016, the Children Empowerment Foundation launched a campaign to build the first children’s assistance center for child victims of sexual exploitation, physical violence, and other serious crimes. Observers reported some unaccompanied children, who may have been trafficking victims, ran away from orphanages and were not recovered. Local governments also funded and operated crisis intervention centers; 18 were designated specifically for trafficking victims in 2015.
The government’s witness protection program provided foreign victims with a temporary residence permit, medical and psychological care, legal assistance, and shelter for those who cooperated with a prosecution; this program also provided for a victim’s repatriation. The government enrolled 39 trafficking victims into this program in 2016, compared with 38 in 2015; in 2012 to 2014, the government enrolled at least 56 victims each year. Foreign victims were entitled to a three-month reflection period, during which they could stay legally in Poland to decide whether to assist in the criminal process; 23 victims used this reflection period in 2016 (33 in 2015). Foreign victims were eligible for a residency permit valid for up to three years and were entitled to work; victims could also apply for permanent residency and were protected against deportation. Foreign victims were eligible for repatriation and may receive assistance upon return to their country of origin; the assistance did not depend on cooperation with law enforcement. In 2016, the government, in cooperation with an international organization assisted seven trafficking victims to return to their home countries. In 2016, 23 foreign victims who joined the witness protection program agreed to participate in the prosecution of their traffickers (27 in 2015). Polish law permits victims to provide testimony via video or written statements; however, judges in these cases often request additional testimony which results in a longer and more complicated legal process.
Although victims could file civil suits against traffickers and judges could order compensation for victims in criminal cases, observers reported very few trafficking victims have ever received compensation from their traffickers. In 2016, no victims received court ordered restitution in criminal cases. In October 2016, Poland ratified the 2014 Protocol to the 1930 ILO Forced Labor Convention, which obligates the government to create effective measures to combat forced labor, provide protection and support for labor trafficking victims, allow victims to receive compensation, and allow sanctions against traffickers.