The government maintained minimal protection efforts. The government identified 12 trafficking victims, including three adults, five girls, and four boys—six sex trafficking and six forced labor victims. This is compared with 13 in 2016, 30 in 2015, and 51 in 2014. The government provided 10 of these victims with temporary shelter, medical care, and legal assistance; NGOs provided two victims services. NGOs reported identifying and assisting 10 additional victims, including Nicaraguan and foreign men, women, and children exploited in both sex and labor trafficking. Authorities did not have formal procedures for identifying victims among vulnerable populations, such as individuals in prostitution, migrants, or working children. Officials identified fewer victims in the autonomous regions than other regions, where identification and referral mechanisms were lacking.
The government reported providing limited assistance for victims of gender-based violence, which included trafficking victims, but did not provide funding for specialized services or shelters. NGOs reported the government closed the offices of the specialized women’s unit and its short-term shelters, which has led to challenges in coordination between the government and NGOs. There were no shelters available for men. The government did not provide long-term care, and the availability of extended services from NGOs was limited. The government did not provide funding to or collaborate with NGOs that provided the majority of victim protection, sometimes leaving victims without vital assistance. The government put some child victims at risk of re-victimization by placing them with family members who may have been complicit in their exploitation. Regions outside Managua most affected by human trafficking largely lacked adequate services.
Law 896 established a dedicated fund—to be financed through budget allocation, donations, and seized assets from traffickers—for victim protection and prevention activities. However, for the third year, the government did not make it operational. The Ministry of Family provided funding for services through its annual budget, but these appropriations decreased by 32 percent in 2017. Victims may obtain damages by filing civil suits against traffickers; however, the government and NGOs reported that in practice victims had never exercised this right. The government did not report assisting Nicaraguan victims through its diplomatic missions overseas despite evidence of Nicaraguan victims of both sex trafficking and forced labor in Spain, Panama, and Costa Rica. Authorities sometimes detained victims for questioning, but there were no other reports of victims penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. The government reported screening for indicators of trafficking among migrant populations and those involved in prostitution, but failed to identify any labor trafficking victims or foreign victims. Nicaraguan law provided for humanitarian visas for foreign trafficking victims, but the government did not report granting any such visas in 2017.