The government maintained protection efforts. Authorities reported identifying 73 victims of sex trafficking and 12 victims of labor trafficking in the first six months of 2016, compared with 65 sex trafficking victims and 104 labor trafficking victims identified in the first six months of 2015. Authorities also identified 274 victims of sexual exploitation and 207 victims of labor exploitation, who may also be trafficking victims. Since 2013, the government has used a victim identification protocol developed with NGO input. NGOs reported good cooperation with law enforcement in the identification and referral of victims for assistance, including NGO participation in inspections of brothels and at locations where victims may have been present.
The government maintained funding levels equal to those of the prior year, allocating €4.9 million ($5.2 million) for the protection and support of trafficking victims, including €2 million ($2.1 million) for NGOs providing services and shelter to victims. The government provided free health care, legal assistance, social welfare benefits, and funds for repatriation to trafficking victims, and also referred some victims to an NGO network running facilities, which received funding from national and local governments and private sources. There were specialized centers for child victims of crime and seven trafficking shelters—all NGO-run—to assist child victims. Two multipurpose NGO-run shelters were available for adult male victims. NGOs provided victims temporary shelter and access to legal, medical, and psychological services. The Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality, collaborating with NGOs, continued to update and use a victim resource guide, available in 12 languages, also for use by victims. The guide listed by region 50 NGOs providing services, 164 shelters for victims and their children, and covered social, psychological, medical, legal, training, housing, and job search tools.
In 2015, the government enacted laws providing additional protections to sex trafficking victims, including more time to appeal the dismissal of cases against alleged traffickers; the ability to appeal decisions made by court officials regarding terms of incarceration, parole, and release; as well as requiring that victims receive updates on the status of cases. The government had not yet reported on implementation of these provisions. Police in Catalonia often asked NGOs to join investigations to better assist victims and provide information to victims on resources available to them. Assets seized from convicted defendants supported a fund used to fight or prevent trafficking or to assist victims, although NGOs reported that seized assets were rarely used for victim compensation. NGOs called for legal reform to better protect witnesses, including permitting video testimony in all cases and increased resources to the Office of Witness Protection to provide adequate assistance to victims, as fewer victims were willing to testify against criminal networks in cases where the court allowed release of witness names. NGOs noted while police training improved with increased use of NGO trainers and materials in victim identification trainings, law enforcement personnel in some provinces did not have sufficient knowledge on the sensitivities and techniques required for interviewing and advising victims.
Foreign victims could request a renewable residence permit for up to five years based on their cooperation with law enforcement or, in some cases, on the basis of their personal situation without regard to whether they assisted law enforcement. Victims could also receive assistance to return to their country of origin if they were not participating in a criminal prosecution. The government allowed for reflection periods of a minimum of 90 days—time during which victims from outside the European Union could recover while deciding whether to assist law enforcement—however, the government did not report how many victims received this benefit in 2016. Citizens of EU member states, however, are not limited to the 90-day reflection period and face no deadline for claiming social services or cooperating with authorities. Under the 2012 penal code reform, approved in March 2015, victims are protected from prosecution for any unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.