The government increased efforts to protect and assist victims. Authorities identified 60 victims in 2017 (41 in 2016); eight were minors compared with four in 2016. Government-funded NGOs supported 219 trafficking victims and at-risk individuals (179 victims in 2016). The central government allocated NGOs €115,000 ($138,060) for victim assistance programs, compared with €81,000 ($97,240) in 2016; local governments allotted €16,000 ($19,210) to support trafficking victims. In 2017, 13 victims received compensation of about €34,000 ($40,820) in total. The government assisted nine Lithuanian victims exploited overseas in obtaining legal documents, providing consultations, and coordinating with local NGOs for additional aid and information. Authorities implemented formal victim identification and referral mechanisms for victim assistance; however, observers reported authorities in some parts of the country underutilized both. Observers reported local officials’ tendency to blame trafficking victims persisted, especially in rural areas.
The government established reforms to the institutional child care system by entering into force new legislation that allowed temporary guardianship of a child in foster care for no longer than 12 months, and guardianship of a child under three years of age in a child care institution only in exceptional cases and for no longer than three months. The government allocated €2.7 million ($3.2 million) to the reforms. While the goal was to move all children from institutions to families by 2020, authorities continued to place child victims in mixed-use shelters, as there were no shelters specifically for child trafficking victims. According to NGOs, child protective services reportedly lacked knowledge in recognizing indicators of child trafficking, especially in rural areas. Sexually abused children could seek assistance in the government-operated national support center in Vilnius.
Five publicly funded men’s crisis centers had the capacity to provide support to trafficking victims, including finding shelter; the government reported that 103 male victims received assistance during the reporting period. Victims were reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement because traffickers threatened victims as they were entering or exiting the courtroom. Experts acknowledged the lack of victim protection during the investigation and the trial process. In an effort to prevent re-traumatization of trafficking victims, courts increasingly used video technology to present victims’ testimony, as the criminal code required trafficking victims’ testimony. Legislation allowed foreign trafficking victims a 30-day reflection period to decide whether to cooperate with law enforcement; foreign victims cooperating with law enforcement could receive temporary residency. Authorities identified 20 foreign victims in 2017 and one in 2016. While the government provided legal representation to victims, observers reported the attorneys had little experience with trafficking issues. NGOs often hired private attorneys for victims. In 2017, 13 victims received compensation.