The government increased protection efforts, but insufficient communication between the authorities and service provision NGOs continued to hamper victim identification and referral processes. Police and labor officials had standard operating procedures for identifying victims, and the government had a victim referral process among government officials, civil society organizations, and foreign embassies. The government reported identifying 20 sex trafficking and 13 labor trafficking victims in 2016, compared to seven sex trafficking and seven labor trafficking victims in 2015. The government reported providing services to 22 adult women, including 10 sex trafficking victims and 12 labor trafficking victims. The government did not identify or provide services to any child victims during the year. Several NGOs reported officials failed to recognize key indicators of trafficking when interviewing potential victims, particularly in cases involving sex or labor exploitation through various forms of psychological coercion or debt bondage, and among migrant workers. NGOs reported authorities’ opaque victim identification and referral standards sometimes complicated effective use of the government’s referral mechanism.
The government allocates funds for anti-trafficking activities in its annual budget, and the PHTA authorizes the social welfare department to provide shelter and counseling services to all victims. The government has administrative discretion to provide a range of additional support measures, customized according to victims’ needs, including interpreters, medical services, temporary work permits, and resettlement assistance. However, absent a formal policy mandating the provision of these services to all victims, and due to front-line officers’ incomplete understanding of psychological coercion, some victims likely did not benefit from these services. The 2015 trafficking law mandates some additional protections for child victims, including a requirement that their testimony be held via video conference. NGOs reported supplementing certain government-funded victim services deemed insufficient, such as healthcare.
The government provided partial funding and oversight to 22 shelters serving vulnerable children, four shelters for vulnerable women and their children, and two shelters for male foreign workers. One shelter was designated exclusively for adult female sex trafficking victims and exploited female domestic workers. Authorities permitted freedom of movement outside of the shelter for most residents, but restricted movement for any residents deemed to be under physical threat or in need of psychological care. The government allocated funding for an NGO that provided trauma recovery services for 12 female labor trafficking victims and 10 female sex trafficking victims, 18 of whom were residing in the shelter for female victims. One of the shelters was designated for adult male trafficking victims, although no male trafficking victims were identified during the year. Other NGO-identified victims who did not meet the government’s referral standards received shelter or services from privately funded NGOs. The government granted 12 victims short-term work permits, available for the duration of their legal processes, under a temporary job scheme.
The government issued a statement of its policy not to punish victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. According to NGOs, police did not always screen for trafficking indicators among women apprehended in law enforcement operations despite a government policy requiring it; the government may have prosecuted and punished unidentified sex trafficking victims among them for immigration violations or soliciting. The government offered assistance for victims participating in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenses. NGOs reported that victims of trafficking were offered pro bono legal assistance to pursue civil court claims for restitution, but that all declined the offer; some purportedly did not wish to file official complaints out of skepticism that they would secure said restitution. Others who incurred significant debt burdens as a result of trafficking returned to their home countries instead of seeking redress. As a result, there were no reports of trafficking victims pursuing or receiving restitution through civil claims or criminal court proceedings. NGOs and foreign embassies reported coordination between public and private stakeholders had improved, but the government’s lack of detailed feedback regarding ongoing cases remained a problem for some NGOs and interfered with service providers’ ability to assist victims. During the reporting period, authorities facilitated the repatriation of eight labor trafficking victims per their request. The government did not provide long-term alternatives to removal to countries where victims may face hardship or retribution.