The government increased victim protection efforts. The government identified 29 victims (30 in 2016). Of these, three were victims of forced labor, eight of sex trafficking, seven of forced criminality, and 11 of multiple types of exploitation (13 forced labor victims, 16 sex trafficking victims, and one victim of both in 2016); seven were girls and seven were boys (eight girls and three boys in 2016); six women and nine men (13 women and six men in 2016); and 10 were foreign victims (eight in 2016). In January 2018, police identified 59 victims from Taiwan, six from Croatia, and one from Bosnia and Herzegovina subjected to forced labor and forced criminality in an illegal call center; the government reported the case remained ongoing. A multi-disciplinary national referral mechanism provided standard operating procedures for identifying and referring victims to services. According to the national referral mechanism, first responders carried out the preliminary identification of potential victims and contacted one of four regional mobile teams consisting of social workers and NGO representatives that traveled to assess the potential victims in person and coordinated victim care and placement. MOI officially recognized victims based on collaboration with first responders and the regional mobile team and specialized police officers responsible for child protection were called in to work with potential child victims. NGOs involved in mobile teams reported two years of training were required to join the mobile team and stated they needed more funding to train staff in a shorter amount of time. The government adopted a protocol that further defined roles and responsibilities for victim identification. Observers reported the need to increase proactive identification efforts, including towards asylum-seekers and seasonal workers.
The government and NGOs provided victims protection and assistance, including shelter, medical assistance, legal assistance, psycho-social support, rehabilitation, and reintegration services. The government-funded two NGO-run shelters, one for adults and one providing specialized support for children; these shelters accommodated one child and seven adults (one child and three adults in 2016). The Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy (MDFYSP) accommodated an additional 14 child victims, nine in foster homes and five in group homes. The government reported plans to move toward implementation of foster care and away from using state child care institutions to mitigate traffickers targeting children from state orphanages. MDFYSP allocated approximately 360,000 kunas ($57,785) to support the NGO-run shelters and an additional 63,000 kunas ($10,110) for monthly living allowances for victims, compared to approximately 400,000 kunas ($64,210) in 2016. Additionally, the Office for Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities (OHRRNM) allocated 20,000 kunas ($3,210) for direct assistance to victims.
Foreign victims had access to the same services as domestic victims and were entitled to receive a renewable residence permit for a year; however, no foreign victims requested temporary residence status in 2017 (one in 2016). The government adopted a protocol that outlined procedures for the voluntary repatriation of victims. The Office of the Chief State Prosecutor maintained written instructions on non-penalization of victims and seven Victim and Witness Support Offices at county courts provided assistance during criminal proceedings, including the ability to testify via video link, the ability to enter into the witness protection program, referrals to specialized institutions, logistical assistance, and measures to prevent re-traumatization. No victims entered witness protection in 2017. OHRRNM created a roster of pro bono legal counsel available for victims, but observers reported a shortage of lawyers trained to represent trafficking victims. The government trained police officers on victim-centered investigations; however, experts reported that some judges lacked sensitivity and an understanding of the impact of psychological trauma on victims’ ability to consistently and clearly relate the circumstances of their exploitation and inappropriately dismissed as unreliable victim testimony. The government did not report the number of victims that cooperated with investigations in 2016 or 2017. The government reported no trafficking victims filed for compensation but all victims were informed of their right to compensation.