The government decreased protection efforts. The government identified 13 victims (22 in 2016). Of these, eight were subjected to sex trafficking and five to forced labor (three sex trafficking and 19 forced labor in 2016); two were children in both 2016 and 2017; 10 were females and three were males (five females and 17 males in 2016). Experts reported an absence of proactive identification and the government relied on victims to self-identify. First responders did not use uniform indicators to screen vulnerable populations. The government provided temporary shelter, emergency medical aid, and psychological aid to potential trafficking victims during the “pre-identification stage,” a stage where the government collected information on the potential victim within a maximum of 10 days. The Victim Identification Commission (VIC), comprised of national and local government bodies, NGOs, and international organizations, officially recognized victims based on information collected during the “pre-identification stage”. NGOs reported positive cooperation with the government and that the referral procedures functioned well.
The government allocated 19,068,600 drams ($39,320) for victim protection efforts, including operational costs for an NGO-run shelter, compared to 18,846,000 drams ($38,860) in 2016. The government and local NGOs jointly provided victims legal, medical, and psychological assistance; housing; one-time monetary compensation of 250,000 drams ($515); and access to social, educational, and employment projects. The government also offered free health care but relied on NGOs to provide legal assistance, including the cost for attorneys. Two victims received health care (one in 2016) and nine victims received legal assistance. The government maintained a cooperation agreement and partially funded one specialized NGO-run shelter to provide services to victims; the NGO-run shelter assisted 19 newly-identified victims (19 in 2016), and 36 victims in total. The NGO-run shelter required adult victims to notify staff when they left shelters unescorted, but victims were free to leave if they no longer wanted assistance. Services were available to female and male victims, but male victims did not have access to a shelter. The NGO-run shelter and childcare institutions accommodated child victims. However, GRETA and OSCE reported cases of child labor and child abuse in state childcare institutions; staff at state childcare institutions considered child labor to be normal. The law designated the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to coordinate repatriation of Armenian victims from abroad, but observers reported difficulties in repatriations due to a lack of established procedures and funds to cover logistical costs; the government repatriated three victims (11 in 2016).
Authorities did not make victim assistance contingent on victim cooperation with law enforcement and afforded foreign victims the same rights and services as Armenian citizens. The government did not penalize trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. Observers reported law enforcement officers in remote areas lacked information and training to inform victims of their rights to protection or assistance. Victims hesitated to assist in prosecutions due to a lack of confidentiality in public testimonies, creating a fear of retaliation from traffickers and stigmatization from their family and community. Authorities did not protect victims’ rights during court proceedings, including children; investigators repeatedly interrogated victims and victims always appeared in front of their traffickers in court, risking re-traumatization. The government continued to lack a formal victim-witness protection program. The government adopted a decree in 2016 that provided witness protection specifically to trafficking victims. Victims were legally entitled to obtain restitution during criminal proceedings or through a separate civil suit. Victims did not file any civil suits; however, in previous years, judges had not issued damages in civil suits, asserting that victims did not substantiate the financial damages they had suffered. The law allowed investigators to place defendants’ property in custody to fund potential civil claims, but this rarely occurred in practice.