The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified 32 trafficking victims (36 in 2016). Of these, 18 were subjected to sex trafficking, seven to forced labor, three to forced begging, and four to “slavery and servitude” (26 were subjected to sex trafficking, nine to forced labor, and one victim to “slavery and servitude” in 2016); 19 were children (18 in 2016); 29 were female and three were male (34 females and two males in 2016); and 25 were from Kosovo, five from Albania, one from the Philippines, and one from Moldova. The government adopted a list of trafficking indicators to assist law enforcement and social service providers in proactively identifying victims; however, observers reported a lack of guidance and proactive identification efforts for victims of forced begging, especially children. A multi-disciplinary national referral mechanism (NRM) provided standard operating procedures (SOPs) for identifying and referring victims to services. The NRM required an investigator from the THBD and a victim’s advocate from the Victim’s Assistance and Advocacy Office to convene and assess the victim as low, medium, or high risk of danger and coordinate victim care and placement. SOPs required a social worker to attend for child victims. Observers reported the NRM functioned well and highlighted good cooperation amongst actors.
The government licensed and partially funded two NGO-run shelters to provide services to trafficking victims, along with the state-run Interim Security Facility (ISF). These shelters provided legal assistance, medical and psychological services, counseling, education, recreational services, and other rehabilitative support. Victims also had access to nine Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MLSW) care facilities but the government did not have a care facility in the country’s four northern municipalities. ISF temporarily accommodated trafficking victims assessed as high risk. Authorities required victims to have a police escort outside of the ISF while court proceedings were ongoing and required an approval from a prosecutor and the KP for victims to permanently leave the ISF while assessed as high risk. The facility had the capacity to shelter 40 individuals with separate rooms for females, males, and families. Victims stayed at the ISF for an average of 90 days before transferring to a NGO-run shelter. ISF accommodated 35 victims, including five potential victims and two victims identified in 2016. The two NGO-run shelters provided support services to victims assessed as low- to medium-risk; one of these NGO-run shelters was solely for children. Observers reported reintegration programs faced limited success due to a lack of resources and high unemployment. The government allocated €152,870 ($183,520) for victim protection, compared to €171,010 ($205,290) in 2016. The government continued to decrease funds for NGO-run shelters; NGO-run shelters received €72,870 ($87,480), compared to €91,010 ($109,260) in 2016 and €101,930 ($122,360) in 2015. The ISF received €80,000 ($96,040) in 2016 and 2017. NGO-run shelters reported government funding was inadequate and operations could not continue without funding assistance from foreign donors. The MLSW required funding applications every six months, causing a gap in funding while applications were processed and approved. One NGO-run shelter temporarily closed for a month due to the MLSW delaying calls for funding applications.
There were no reports of victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. The government encouraged victims to participate in investigative and judicial processes by providing protection at ISF, accommodation and care at other facilities, and participation in the witness protection program. All 32 victims participated in investigations and court proceedings (36 in 2016). The law entitled foreign victims to a 30- to 90-day reflection period in which victims could recover before deciding whether to cooperate with law enforcement. The government reported suspected traffickers were not present when victims provided statements and foreign victims could return to their countries of origin after testifying without waiting for the conclusion of the trial. The law entitled foreign victims to a temporary residence permit for at least six months; one victim received a permit (two in 2016). The government allocated €100,000 ($120,050) to the crime victim compensation fund and established a compensation committee to review claims; the first trafficking victim was compensated in December 2017 with approximately €5,000 ($6,000).