The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified six victims in the reporting period (six in 2016). Of these, four victims were subjected to sex trafficking, one to both sex trafficking and forced labor, and one to forced labor (six were subjected to sex trafficking in 2016); five were children (three in 2016); and five were female and the other a male (six females in 2016). The government and NGOs also identified 99 potential trafficking victims in 2017 (125 in 2016); 57 were adults and 42 were children. MLSP reestablished mobile identification teams in four regions for vulnerable populations, including trafficking victims, and continued to dispatch social workers to conduct proactive victim identification at border crossings and migrant and refugee camps; MLSP identified one official victim (one potential victim in 2016). The government trained first responders on victim identification, including police officers, labor inspectors, immigration officials teachers, and social workers. However, experts reported most government agencies lacked proactive identification efforts. Officials screened for trafficking indicators at border posts, but border agents did not properly identify victims. MLSP social workers and police continued to identify potential forced labor victims among predominately Romani children engaged in street begging and street vending. The government placed them in daycare centers and warned, fined, or jailed their parents; in cases where courts deemed parents unfit to care for their children, the state placed the children in orphanages.
First responders referred potential victims to CTHBMSU and MLSP, which were authorized to officially identify victims. The government referred 15 potential trafficking victims and civil society referred 84 potential victims (56 were adults and 41 were children), compared to 36 potential victims referred by the government and 89 by civil society in 2016. The government and NGOs provided potential victims and officially recognized victims with protection and assistance, including food, clothing, medical assistance, psycho-social support, rehabilitation, and reintegration services. MLSP-run social service centers also employed specialized staff and provided psycho-social support and reintegration assistance, including education and job placement. However, potential trafficking victims did not have access to the government-run shelter and its support services until officially recognized by the government and GRETA reported officially recognized victims did not receive any formal notification, which hindered their entitlement to free medical and legal assistance. Specialized assistance was not available for male victims and observers reported only one forced labor victim ever received reintegration support. The government operated a shelter for trafficking victims and a transit center for irregular migrants that offered separate facilities for foreign potential victims of trafficking; both facilities could house male, female, and child victims. The government allocated 2.7 million denars ($52,870) to the government-run shelter and the transit center for foreigners, compared to 3.8 million denars ($72,450) in 2016. The government also allocated 382,950 denars ($7,500) to support services and security for victims, compared to approximately 1 million denars ($19,580) in 2016. The government did not award grants to NGOs in 2016 or 2017; NGOs reported their reliance on these grants forced them to reduce services to victims. Observers reported the government relied heavily on funding from the international community and on NGOs to provide assistance. The government-run shelter opened only when authorities identified an official trafficking victim due to budget restraints. The government-run shelter allowed victims freedom of movement, but the migrant facility did not permit foreign potential victims to leave without a temporary residence permit. GRETA reported the migrant facility was in “poor material condition” and “effectively a detention facility and not the appropriate environment for trafficking victims,” and reported the facility held unaccompanied minors and potential child trafficking victims in recent years. The government-run shelter accommodated five child victims during the reporting period and the migrant facility housed 131 foreigners in 2017. The law permitted foreign victims a two-month reflection period to decide whether to testify against their traffickers, followed by a six-month temporary residence permit, regardless of whether they testified; no foreign victims requested residence permits in 2016 or 2017.
The government did not penalize trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; however, the government may have deported, detained, or restricted freedom of movement of some trafficking victims due to inadequate identification efforts. The government did not report the number of potential victims that assisted in initial investigations (12 in 2016) and five of the six officially identified victims gave statements against their alleged traffickers (two in 2016). The Academy for Judges and Public Prosecutors trained 76 officials in non-penalization of victims and victim identification. The government reported no victims required witness protection services in 2016 or 2017. While victims could claim restitution through civil proceedings, no victims had ever successfully completed a claim due to the complexity of the process. The government and civil society continued efforts to develop a victim compensation fund that allowed authorities to allocate compensation to victims from seized criminal assets.