The government maintained victim protection efforts. Police identified 14 victims during the reporting period (38 victims in 2016, 92 victims in 2015, and 67 in 2014), including 10 minor victims, but the police may not have reported the accurate number of victims they identified since Czech law did not require reporting on victims. The government did not officially recognize victims who did not participate in the MOI’s victim assistance program and did not include them in official statistics. The MOI reported 24 new victims (17 labor trafficking and seven sex trafficking) in the program for victim services (14 victims in 2016, four in 2015, and 43 in 2014). Of the victims in the program, nine were Czech, five Ukrainian, five Moldovan, two Filipino, one Slovak, one Nigerien, and one Vietnamese. In 2017, government-funded NGOs provided services to 137 potential victims, compared to 139 in 2016.
The MOI program, which was administered by an NGO, was available to both foreign and Czech adult victims of sex and labor trafficking regardless of their legal status and required victims cooperate with law enforcement if they want to stay in the program after 60 days of support, unless subject to a serious health issue. Victims willing to cooperate with law enforcement, even in situations where law enforcement did not pursue a case, could enter the program and be eligible for long-term residency. The government provided medical care, psychological and crisis counseling, housing, legal representation, vocational training, and other specialized services to victims in the program. Victims could voluntarily withdraw from the program at any time. Victims unwilling to cooperate with law enforcement were eligible to access MLSA-funded welfare benefits, including housing, in-person and telephone crisis help, social counseling and rehabilitation, a drop-in center for children and youth, and social services for families with children. The MOI-funded NGO managed these benefits for trafficking victims. Only legal residents could access the welfare program, but NGOs could provide most of the services anonymously; therefore, legal status was not usually a limitation for support. Although there was a unique national referral mechanism for child and youth victims, observers reported identification procedures were insufficient. Municipal-level offices of the department of social and legal protection of children made decisions to place children with an institution or NGO based on their specific needs. Child victims received MLSA-funded welfare benefits, such as shelter, food, clothing, and medical and psychological counseling. During legal proceedings, victims were eligible to receive a free legal advocate and, in egregious sex trafficking cases, the option to choose the gender of the judge. A witness protection law allowed the government to conceal the identity of the witness, provide a new identity to the victim, and assign bodyguards. Police offered short-term protection, including physical protection, use of safe houses, and security monitoring, to potential witnesses; the government did not report whether any victim received protection during the reporting period.
The MOI funded the cost for the victim assistance program, which included funding for voluntary returns. In 2017, the MOI allocated approximately 1.65 million koruna ($79,000), compared to 1.2 million koruna ($57,460) allocated in 2016. An international organization used some of this funding to repatriate six victims. Observers commended the government for funding the repatriation of Czech victims and foreigners, but reported government funding for voluntary returns was insufficient given the demand. The MLSA provided an additional 27.5 million koruna ($1.3 million) to support the integration of foreigners and victims of trafficking, which included funding for welfare benefits provided by NGOs to trafficking victims not in the MOI program. Some experts noted a lack of funding for victim housing, especially female victims with more than one child.
Authorities provided victims with a 60-day reflection period, during which victims received care and determined whether to cooperate with law enforcement; victims with a medically recognized disability, including trauma, received an additional 30 days. Under the law, victims could not be deported, arrested, or fined for offenses that were committed as a result of being trafficked, such as previous illegal stays in the country, current overstays, or false documents, during this period. Foreign victims accepted into the victim care program by MOI’s crime prevention department could receive temporary residence and work visas for the duration of relevant legal proceedings. Upon conclusion of court proceedings, victims could apply for long-term residency; no new victims received long-term residency in 2017, compared with one victim in 2016 and none in 2015.
Some experts criticized the Refugee Facility Administration (RFA) for charging a daily fee to some migrants for stays in transit zones; such fees increase the vulnerability of potential victims. The RFA implemented a system where potential victims identified in an entrance interview for asylum-seekers were removed from the transit zone and referred to NGOs for services; the RFA did not report identifying any victims in the transit zones.
Victims had the legal option of seeking court-ordered compensation from their traffickers in both civil and criminal proceedings, although such restitution was rare as victims often feared retribution from their traffickers during criminal cases and could not afford attorney fees for a civil suit. To seek civil damages, the law required a finding of criminal misconduct against the defendant. The government did not report any victims who received compensation in 2016 or 2017. NGOs reported concern about potential trafficking victims in custody, but there were no reports the government penalized identified victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.