The government maintained minimal efforts in victim protection, although identification efforts remained sufficient. Public officials and NGOs identified 757 victims in 2016, compared with 880 in 2015 and 757 in 2014; these statistics included victims from ongoing investigations and prosecutions initiated in previous years. Of these victims, 47 percent were children, 78 percent were female, and 68 percent were subject to sex trafficking. Police used the government’s national victim identification and referral mechanism, although observers noted inconsistencies in its use across the country. The government relied on NGOs to assist victims, but did not provide any financial support due to a legal preclusion of direct funding for NGOs. In 2016, an effort to change the law to permit funding to NGOs stalled; however, the government continued to pursue the change at the end of the reporting period. Additionally, the government pursued a program to channel a Swiss-funded grant (approximately $2 million) with the Romanian government co-financing 15 percent to NGOs for victim assistance efforts. Nearly 42 percent (314) of registered victims, including 47 repatriated victims, benefited from rehabilitative assistance provided by public institutions and NGOs. Officials referred victims to government-run domestic violence or homeless shelters when NGO-run trafficking shelters were full. Local governments financed and operated emergency assistance and transit centers that could assist repatriated victims. Child trafficking victims were placed in general child facilities or in facilities for children with disabilities run by the governmental child protection service, which generally did not offer specialized assistance and frequently re-traumatized children. The law entitled all victims to medical and psychological care, legal aid, and reintegration support; however, observers noted the law did not necessarily provide for more than one mental health counseling session. In addition, access to medical care was impeded by the process for obtaining identity documents, which required Romanian victims to return to their home districts, despite the logistical and financial hurdles this presented for many trafficking victims. For Romanian victims abroad, Romanian embassies issued free travel documents and the government, NGOs, or an international organization paid for transport costs; 47 victims benefited from these services in 2016.
The law permitted foreign victims who cooperate with authorities to receive a renewable, six-month temporary residence permit. The law also permitted foreign victims to request asylum and granted asylum-seekers the right to work after three months. In 2016, authorities identified one foreign victim from Italy, and an NGO identified one foreign victim from Armenia. An independent expert reported there were many unidentified foreign victims in Romania. Labor inspectors were neither trained in detecting trafficking indicators nor allowed to conduct unannounced worksite inspections. In 2016, 923 victims—identified during the reporting period and in prior years—participating in criminal prosecutions accessed services available to victims assisting law enforcement; these services included a police escort to the court or prosecutor’s office, information on trial procedures, and facilitation of remote testimony. Some victims reportedly chose not to testify because the justice ministry published the names of all trial witnesses, including children, on its public website, putting victim-witnesses at risk of retaliation and societal or familial ostracization. Observers reported courtrooms were sometimes hostile environments in which traffickers and their supporters in the audience took photos of those pressing charges and verbalized death threats. The law permitted victims to provide testimony from a separate room, although this was rarely done in practice due to judges’ general preference for live testimony, state-provided lawyers’ lack of experience with traumatized victims, and a general bias against victims exploited in prostitution. The law entitled victims to restitution from their traffickers; however, victims generally could not afford the fees necessary to initiate civil trials or, in cases in which judges ordered restitution, pay court officers to collect the money owed from traffickers. Additionally, NGOs reported victims rarely received restitution money because when ordered by courts to pay restitution, traffickers did not do so, noting one NGO had not received any of the €40,000 ($42,150) it won from cases finalized in 2016. Prosecutors typically dropped charges and fines against victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subject to human trafficking, but they still charged with theft some victims forced to steal for traffickers.