The government increased protection efforts. The government identified and referred 14 trafficking victims to care (13 in 2016, five in 2015, and eight in 2014). The 14 victims included one male minor and two adult males exploited for labor trafficking and one female minor and nine adult females exploited for sex trafficking. The victims originated from Venezuela, Bolivia, and Trinidad and Tobago. All victims identified were referred to care facilities for assistance; six victims were repatriated. All victims assisted with criminal investigations and received permits that allowed them to legally stay and work in the country; two victims were employed legally. The CTU spent approximately 198,900 TTD ($30,000) on victim care and protection, compared to 700,000 TTD ($105,580) in 2016 and 1 million TTD ($150,830) in 2015 and 2014. The government provided additional funding to NGO care providers through the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services.
The government, working primarily through the CTU, the children’s protective services agency, and the Office of the Prime Minister’s Gender and Child Affairs Office provided victim care services, sometimes in conjunction with local NGOs. The services provided by the government included free short- and long-term accommodation and food, counseling, medical services, provisions for overseas phone calls, language interpretation, and local transportation, as well as clothing, toiletries, and a travel bag. Other assistance available included pre-natal and post-natal care, psychological evaluations, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, access to library facilities, some job skills training, and overseas travel expenses related to repatriation. The government was also prepared to offer sign language and other disability services to victims. Adult female victims of trafficking were housed at domestic violence shelters run by vetted NGOs who worked with the CTU; registered shelters received government funding to house these victims. Adult male victims were placed at safe houses run by the security services. Child victims were housed in homes run by the child protective services agency. In 2016, the CTU acquired a property to establish a dedicated shelter for male and female victims; the government did not report progress in establishing this shelter. Experts noted working-level staff at NGOs and shelters would benefit from training on trafficking. The government finalized an agreement and standard operating procedures with the child protection services agency and with the shelters on trafficking victim care.
Victims housed in NGO-run shelters were allowed freedom of movement after an initial security assessment by the government; however, victims housed in domestic violence shelters were not permitted to leave unchaperoned or at will. However, some experts reported some trafficking victims left the shelters voluntarily. Language interpretation services were available for counseling sessions and police interviews; however, experts reported shelters did not have bilingual staff or volunteers. In addition, some government officials noted a shortage of certain interpreters available to assist with foreign national victim care and testimony. During the reporting period, court proceedings were being upgraded to accept video testimony; however, only written testimony could be used with the consent of the defense. Prosecutors noted defense attorneys rarely waived their right to cross-examination. The CTU provided 24/7 security for victims who participated in court proceedings.