The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified 38 victims (46 in 2016); 35 victims were subjected to sex trafficking and three to forced begging (26 to sex trafficking, nine to forced labor, and eleven to forced begging in 2016); 24 were adults and 14 were children (30 adults and 16 children in 2016); 34 were female and four male (30 females and 16 males in 2016); and four victims were Greek and 34 were foreign citizens (11 Greeks and 35 foreign citizens in 2016). Statistics included some, but not all, potential victims identified by non-law enforcement entities. First responders followed standard operating procedures for identifying victims. The government, separately and in cooperation with international organizations and NGOs, trained law enforcement, immigration officers, social service workers, labor inspectors, airport staff, and health workers on victim identification. The government reported increased identification efforts targeting migrants and asylum-seekers and slightly improved interagency coordination at migrant reception centers; authorities identified three potential victims in reception centers. However, observers continued to report some cases of inadequate or hasty screening procedures and vulnerability assessments at migrant entry points and camps. ATU and civil society conducted proactive identification efforts, but most government efforts were reactive and identification resulted only from victims self-identifying. GRETA reported a lack of identification efforts for victims of forced labor, particularly in the agriculture sector, cleaning and domestic service, and the tourism industry. Proactive identification among vulnerable unaccompanied children also remained inadequate, including for forced begging and forced criminality. The law mandated public prosecutors to officially recognize victims based on information collected by law enforcement, or a psychologist and a social worker if a victim did not want to cooperate with law enforcement; public prosecutors officially certified all 38 identified victims in 2017 (four in 2016). Official victim status entitled foreign victims to a renewable one-year residence and work permit, but potential victims without this status had access to equal support and assistance; public prosecutors officially certified 38 victims (four in 2016). Observers reported the government did not consistently use psychologists and social workers for identification procedures and procedures often took six to 12 months for victims to receive official status. Observers also reported the government did not recognize potential victims who were exploited abroad but identified in Greece, creating obstacles in accessing support entitled by law.
The government maintained a national referral mechanism and, in 2017, created and disseminated a manual for identification procedures and standard referral forms. The government also held regular working group meetings to further define roles and responsibilities among law enforcement, government agencies, and NGOs; the labor inspectorate appointed five staff members to participate in the working groups. NGO-run support services reported improved cooperation and increased referrals from law enforcement, but some police officers remained reluctant to refer victims to NGO-run support services. The government, in cooperation with NGOs, provided shelter, psycho-social support, medical care, legal aid, and reintegration support. The government was unable to determine how much funding was spent on victim protection and did not allocate funding to civil society. The government maintained a cooperation agreement with three NGOs to house, protect, and assist vulnerable women and children, including trafficking victims, and allocated three buildings to use as shelters. Observers reported a lack of specialized shelters for trafficking victims; only one NGO-run shelter provided shelter specifically for female trafficking victims. The government provided shelter and general support services to trafficking victims through two agencies: the General Secretariat for Gender Equality operated 19 shelters and 40 counseling centers for female victims of violence and the National Social Solidarity Center operated two long-term shelters, an emergency shelter, and two Social Support Centers for vulnerable populations in need of assistance. Victims in rural areas had little access to support services and were often accommodated in police stations, hospital wards, or received no assistance. Male victims could be accommodated in an NGO-run shelter for sexually exploited men or short-term government shelters for asylum-seekers or homeless persons. Government-run shelters, NGO-run shelters, and facilities for unaccompanied minors accommodated child victims but did not provide specialized support. Observers reported overcrowded facilities for child victims and GRETA reported authorities held unaccompanied children in police cells up to several months due to a lack of shelters. Victims who did not apply for official recognition could receive a residence and work permit by applying for asylum on humanitarian grounds; the government issued 15 residence permits (23 in 2016). Observers reported the process to receive residence permits took time, but the government granted victims a temporary document that prevented deportation or detainment.
The government may have deported, detained, or restricted freedom of movement of some trafficking victims due to inadequate identification efforts. Experts reported a lack of victim-centered approaches, including cases of law enforcement conducting interviews described by victims as interrogations. There were also reports of authorities not adequately informing victims about court proceedings and lacking interpretation services for foreign victims. Court proceedings often lasted two to six years, which hindered cooperation from victims and key witnesses. The government did not provide funding for travel and other expenses for victims to attend court hearings and observers reported traffickers might have paid bribes to repatriated trafficking victims to preclude them from testifying. The law entitled victims to mental health professionals during court proceedings and the use of audiovisual technology for remote testimony, but many courts lacked the capabilities to deploy these resources and many judges continued to require victims to appear in front of their trafficker in court, causing re-traumatization. Observers reported 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 law provided for witness protection and non-disclosure of the witness’ personal information; however, observers reported no trafficking victims had received full witness protection privileges to date and courts sometimes revealed victims’ identities during proceedings. The law entitled victims to file civil suits against traffickers for compensation but no victims to date had received compensation or received restitution from their traffickers. The government reported trafficking victims had never applied for compensation.