The government maintained efforts in victim protection. Public officials and NGOs identified 662 victims in 2017, the lowest number identified in over a decade and a decline from 757 identified victims in 2016 and 880 in 2015; these statistics included victims from ongoing investigations and prosecutions initiated in previous years. Of these victims, 51 percent were children, 76 percent were female, and 69 percent were subjected to sex trafficking. Police used the government’s national victim identification and referral mechanism, although observers reported the government did not proactively identify victims. In 2017, 46 percent (307) of registered victims received assistance provided by public institutions and NGOs, compared with 41 percent in 2016. While the government relied on NGOs to assist victims, it did not provide sufficient financial support. The government did not allocate grants directly to NGOs due to legislation precluding direct funding for NGOs, and it declined to allow its national anti-trafficking agency to become an implementing agency for European funding programs, a status that would have allowed them to allot European funds to NGOs. Additionally, for the second consecutive year, the government failed to channel a Swiss-funded grant (approximately $2 million with the Romanian government co-financing 15 percent) to NGOs for victim assistance efforts. However, the government facilitated the transfer of the Swiss funds to IOM in order to disburse the funds to NGOs.
The government maintained five government-run shelters and one shelter jointly run by the government and an NGO that were designated for trafficking victims; these shelters also housed domestic violence victims in separate living areas. Officials referred victims to government-run domestic violence or homeless shelters or privately run shelters when the six trafficking shelters were full. Authorities placed child trafficking victims in general child facilities or in facilities for children with disabilities run by the governmental child protection service, which generally did not offer specialized assistance and frequently re-traumatized children. Perennial problems of abuse and neglect of institutionalized children and the lack of proactive identification in government facilities left children in placement centers and orphanages vulnerable to trafficking. Romanian victims abroad received free travel documents issued by Romanian embassies; the government, NGOs, or an international organization paid for transport costs. Local governments financed and operated transit centers that could assist repatriated victims. The law entitled all victims to legal aid, reintegration support, and psychological and medical care. However, the government did not necessarily provide for more than one mental health counseling session and did not finance medical care costs. NGOs paid for all psychological services costs for victims due to the government’s refusal to reimburse psychologists who assisted victims, and for emergency medical care costs because the government lacked financial assistance and medical care required payment upfront. Moreover, access to medical care required Romanian victims to return to their home districts to obtain identity documents. The process presented logistical and financial hurdles for many trafficking victims; NGOs also covered those costs.
The law permitted foreign victims to request asylum and granted asylum-seekers the right to work after three months. In 2017, an NGO identified one foreign victim from Pakistan among refugees and asylum-seekers, but suspected dozens of other cases. The law also permitted foreign victims who cooperated with authorities to receive a renewable, six-month temporary residence permit. In 2017, 496 victims participating in criminal proceedings accessed services available to victims assisting law enforcement; these services included transporting victims to court and returning them home. Some victims chose not to testify because the justice ministry published the names of all trial witnesses, including children, on its public website, putting victim-witnesses at risk of retaliation and societal or familial ostracization. While the law allowed victims to provide testimony from a separate room, this was rarely done in practice due to judges’ preference for live testimony in front of traffickers. The law entitled victims to restitution from their traffickers; however, victims generally could not afford the fees necessary to initiate civil trials or, in cases in which judges ordered restitution, to pay court officers to collect the money owed from traffickers. Additionally, NGOs reported victims rarely received restitution money because when ordered by courts to pay restitution, traffickers did not do so. Prosecutors typically dropped charges and fines against victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subject to human trafficking.