The government increased efforts in some areas of protection. An interagency working group submitted draft legislation that is intended to help ensure the safety of persons with disabilities from exploitation, improve procedures for establishing victim status, expand the network of victim service providers, and improve protections for foreign victims and stateless persons. The government continued to rely on international organizations and NGOs, with international donor funding, to identify victims and provide the vast majority of victim protection and assistance. The government increased identification through the national referral mechanism and identified 103 victims in 2016 (83 in 2015). In 2016, an international organization in Ukraine assisted 1,105 victims, compared with 699 in 2015. International organizations reported that the majority of the victims who received assistance were victims of labor trafficking. As was the case in the two prior years, law enforcement and other officials identified less than 10 percent of the victims referred to an international organization in 2016. Authorities approved 110 out of 124 applications requesting official victim status in 2016, compared to 83 out of 91 in 2015 and 27 out of 48 in 2014. The government’s current procedure to identify victims primarily relies on the victims—often exiting traumatic situations—to self-report and provide evidence of their victimization; unless police and other government officials are sensitive to the hurdles victims face and adopt a victim-centered approach, many victims will refuse to go through the process. Although the law directs law enforcement officials to proactively identify trafficking victims, observers reported police did not display a willingness to screen individuals in prostitution for signs of trafficking. Experts report law enforcement officials often do not understand the international definition of labor trafficking and therefore do not adequately identify labor trafficking victims.
The government significantly increased its funding for victim assistance and anti-trafficking efforts during the reporting period. The government disbursed 98,800 hryvnia ($3,659) to the national budget and 219,220 hryvnia ($8,119) to local budgets for anti-trafficking measures in 2016, compared to 46,300 hryvnia ($1,715) to the national budget and 215,900 hryvnia ($7,996) to local budgets in 2015. The government provided officially recognized victims with financial assistance. In November 2016, the government tripled the amount of its financial assistance payment to trafficking victims, raising it to 4,630 hryvnia ($171), three times the official subsistence level.
Ukraine’s trafficking law outlines protection requirements for victims and entitles victims to receive free temporary housing at a government shelter, psychological assistance, medical services, employment counseling, and vocational training, regardless of whether a criminal case proceeds or the victim cooperates with law enforcement. Trafficking victims whom the government has granted official status are assigned a case management team, which provides referrals to care facilities, NGOs, or other services according to an individual plan. Some victims requiring shelter stayed at a rehabilitation center run by an international organization with funding from international donors, housed in a state-run hospital; the government has considered taking on responsibility for the center, but has not yet committed to doing so. Adult victims could also stay at government-run centers for socio-psychological assistance for up to 90 days and receive psychological and medical support, lodging, food, and legal assistance. The government increased the number of centers for socio-psychological assistance from 18 to 20 and opened 36 additional social services centers, bringing the total to 692. Observers reported the provision of assistance was problematic due to funding shortfalls and shortage of trained staff. Child victims could be accommodated in centers for socio-psychological rehabilitation of children for up to 12 months and receive social, medical, psychological, education, legal, and other types of assistance. The government, often in cooperation with international organizations, provided significantly more training for government officials on victim identification and assistance during the reporting period. The Ministry for Social Policy (MSP), in cooperation with an international organization, has developed an interactive e-learning module on the identification and referral of trafficking victims. The government reported it assisted in the repatriation of 15 citizens in 2016 to Ukraine who had been subjected to trafficking abroad: eight from Kuwait; two each from Lebanon, Cyprus, and Jordan; and one each from Malaysia and Poland.
Victims have the legal right to file civil suits for restitution, and courts ordered restitution payments for 79 trafficking victims in 2016. Various protective measures were legally available inside courtrooms for victims who testified at trial, but in practice, authorities rarely applied these measures and often did not treat trafficking victims serving as witnesses in a victim-sensitive manner. NGOs reported the government often did not provide legal assistance, other support, or protection to victims during criminal cases.
Officials asserted that illegal migrants are screened for indicators of trafficking, and migrants determined to be trafficking victims are offered official status and referrals to services. There were no reports the government punished or deported victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; however, due to uneven screening, authorities may have detained, deported, or punished trafficking victims. There is no legal way for foreign victims to extend their stay, change legal residency, secure employment rights, or seek protection from being returned to countries where they face hardship or retribution. The government’s interagency working group presented draft amendments to the legislature that would allow foreign victims to remain in Ukraine for extended periods and work legally in the country.