The government increased protection efforts. Authorities reported identifying 173 victims (114 of sex trafficking and 59 of labor trafficking) in the first eight months of 2017, compared with 85 victims (73 of sex trafficking and 12 of labor trafficking) in the first six months of 2016. Authorities also identified 308 victims of sexual exploitation and 235 victims of labor exploitation, some of whom may be trafficking victims; an increase from 274 and 207 in 2016, respectively. Since 2013, the government has used a victim identification protocol developed with NGO input. NGOs reported good cooperation with law enforcement in the identification and referral of victims for assistance, including NGO participation in inspections of brothels and at locations where victims may have been present. The Intelligence Center against Terrorism and Organized Crime provided victim identification training to national police and civil guard personnel working at ports of entry. Government and civil society reported an increase in port-of-entry victim identification as a direct result from the training. In December 2017, the Ministry of Health, Social Services, and Equality (MSSSI) distributed standardized EU victim identification guidance to public health workers and NGOs and drafted a report on the actions for identification and care of child victims. Civil society reported the need to standardize protocols for child victims across the whole of government.
The government allocated €3.5 million ($4.2 million), plus an unspecified amount from regional governments, for the protection and support of trafficking victims, including €2 million ($2.4 million) for NGOs providing temporary shelter and access to legal, medical, and psychological services. The government, through victim service offices, provided free health care, legal assistance, social welfare benefits, and funds for repatriation to victims, and also referred victims to an NGO network running facilities, which received funding from national and local governments. Government and civil society reported victim service centers were generally overburdened and needed additional training and resources to provide trafficking victims with the assistance prescribed by law. There were specialized centers for child victims of crime and seven trafficking shelters—all NGO-run—to assist child victims. Two multipurpose NGO-run shelters were available for adult male victims. The MSSSI, collaborating with NGOs, continued to update and use a victim resource guide, available in 12 languages, which listed by region 44 NGOs providing services, 82 shelters for victims and their children, and 143 centers that provide services without lodging, including social, psychological, medical, legal, training, housing, and job search tools.
In 2015, the government enacted laws providing additional protections to sex trafficking victims, including more time to appeal the dismissal of cases against alleged traffickers; the ability to appeal decisions made by court officials regarding terms of incarceration, parole, and release; as well as requiring that victims receive updates on the status of cases. The government had not yet reported on implementation of these provisions, but civil society reported the laws lacked effective implementation. The government expanded a regional program that assigned NGO-supplied “social interlocutors” (usually survivors of trafficking themselves) to act as a liaison for victims during legal proceedings and court testimony. In March 2017, social interlocutors received a week of training with judges, prosecutors, NGOs, and labor inspectors. Assets seized from convicted defendants supported a fund used to fight or prevent trafficking or to assist victims, although NGOs reported that seized assets were rarely used for victim compensation. NGOs reported inconsistent application of victim protections by judges and called for legal reform to protect witnesses better, including permitting video testimony in all cases and increased resources to the Office of Witness Protection to provide adequate assistance to victims, as fewer victims were willing to testify against criminal networks in cases where the court allowed release of witness names.
Foreign victims could request a renewable residence permit for up to five years based on their cooperation with law enforcement or, in some cases, on the basis of their personal situation without regard to whether they assisted law enforcement. Victims could also receive assistance to return to their country of origin if they were not participating in a criminal prosecution. The government allowed for reflection periods of a minimum of 90 days—time during which victims from outside the EU could recover while deciding whether to assist law enforcement. The government did not report how many victims received this benefit in 2017. Citizens of EU member states, however, were not limited to the 90-day reflection period and faced no deadline for claiming social services or cooperating with authorities.