The government increased protection efforts. The government reported identifying 25 alleged victims (eight sex trafficking victims and 17 labor trafficking victims), compared to 33 alleged victims (20 sex trafficking and 13 labor trafficking victims) in 2016. The government identified two child victims in 2016 and eight in 2017. Police, labor, and immigration officials had standard operating procedures for identifying victims, and the government had a victim referral process among government officials, civil society organizations, and foreign embassies. Immigration officials referred suspected victims to lead investigative agencies. All police officers received basic training in victim identification; however, several NGOs reported officials failed to recognize key indicators of trafficking when interviewing potential victims, particularly in cases involving sex or labor exploitation through various forms of psychological coercion or debt bondage, and among migrant workers. NGOs reported authorities’ opaque victim identification and referral standards sometimes complicated effective use of the government’s referral mechanism.
The government provided 80 percent of the cost of some services, including funding for shelters to accommodate adult and child victims. The government designated one shelter exclusively for adult female trafficking victims. Authorities permitted freedom of movement outside of the shelter for most residents, but restricted movement for any residents deemed to be under physical threat or in need of psychological care. Although the government did not identify any male victims during the year, it designated one shelter for male victims. The government allocated funding for an NGO that provided trauma recovery services including counseling and medical care for female victims. The government provided a range of additional support measures, including interpreters, medical services, temporary work permits, and resettlement assistance. However, absent a formal policy mandating the provision of these services to all victims, and due to front-line officers’ incomplete understanding of psychological coercion, some victims likely did not benefit from these services. NGOs reported police did not consistently screen for trafficking indicators among women apprehended in law enforcement operations; the government may have prosecuted and punished unidentified sex trafficking victims for immigration violations or soliciting.
To provide freedom of movement, the government implemented a new policy initiative in 2017 permitting victims who were material witnesses in court cases against their former employers to leave the country, at the government’s expense, pending trial procedures. Four victims benefited from this policy during the year. The government offered assistance such as shelter and food for victims participating in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenses. The government granted six victims short-term work permits, available for the duration of their legal processes, compared to 12 in 2016. NGOs reported that the government facilitated pro bono legal assistance for victims of trafficking to pursue civil court claims for restitution; most declined the offer, but one victim received five years of unpaid wages in a civil claim. The government did not provide long-term alternatives to removal to countries where victims may face hardship or retribution.