The government increased efforts in some areas of protection. The Cabinet of Ministers introduced draft legislation intended to increase the safety of persons with disabilities from exploitation, improve procedures for establishing victim status, expand the network of victim service providers, and improve protections for foreign victims and stateless persons; the legislation remained pending in Parliament at the close of the reporting period. The government significantly increased identification through the national referral mechanism. The police identified 349 victims in 2017 (103 in 2016). The government continued to rely on international organizations and NGOs, with international donor funding, to identify victims and provide the vast majority of victim protection and assistance. In 2017, an international organization in Ukraine assisted 1,256 victims, compared with 1,105 in 2016. International organizations and the government reported the majority of identified victims were subjected to labor exploitation. Authorities approved 195 of 273 applications requesting official victim status in 2017, compared to 110 of 124 in 2016 and 83 of 91 in 2015. Of the 78 cases not approved in 2017, 34 were refused and 41 applications were incomplete—the other cases remained pending. The government increased cooperation with NGOs and waived in-person interview requirements to grant official victim status to four Ukrainians incarcerated abroad for actions committed as a result of being trafficked, which resulted in their release and repatriation. Victims not requiring specialized services may have chosen to not pursue official victim status. The government increased efforts on proactive victim identification and held national workshops with stakeholders to improve cooperation on victim identification within the context of the national referral mechanism. Ongoing decentralization reforms obscured local communities’ chains of responsibility for decisions regarding provision of key social services, including identifying, referring, and assisting trafficking victims. The law directed law enforcement officials to proactively identify trafficking victims; however, individuals in prostitution were not always screened for signs of trafficking. Some victims trafficked for prostitution may have been subjected to administrative charges.
The government disbursed 98,800 hryvnia ($3,510) to the national budget and 219,220 hryvnia ($7,790) to local budgets for anti-trafficking measures in 2017, maintaining allocations from the previous year. State authorities allocated 1.7 million hryvna ($61,330) for the implementation of the national action plan over the next four years—47 percent above what is called for in the plan. The government increased the amount of financial assistance provided to each officially recognized victim, and the amounts provided were greater than the official subsistence level. Ukraine’s trafficking law entitled victims to housing at a government shelter, psychological assistance, medical services, employment counseling, and vocational training, regardless of whether a criminal case proceeded or the victim cooperated with law enforcement. Authorities assigned victims with official status a case management team, which provided referrals to care facilities, NGOs, or other services according to an individualized plan. Some victims requiring shelter stayed at a rehabilitation center run by an international organization with funding from international donors, housed in a state-run hospital. Adult victims could also stay at government-run centers for socio-psychological assistance for up to 90 days and receive psychological and medical support, lodging, food, and legal assistance. The government increased the number of centers for socio-psychological assistance from 20 to 21 and maintained 692 additional social services centers. Observers reported the provision of assistance was problematic due to funding shortfalls and high turnover of trained staff. Authorities could accommodate child victims in centers for socio-psychological rehabilitation of children for up to 12 months and administer social, medical, psychological, education, legal, and other types of assistance. The government, often in cooperation with international organizations, provided significantly more training for government officials on victim identification and assistance during the reporting period than last year. The Ministry for Social Policy (MSP), in cooperation with an international organization, implemented an interactive e-learning module on the identification and referral of trafficking victims. The government reported it assisted in the repatriation of nine Ukrainian victims from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, and Turkey.
Victims had the legal right to file civil suits for restitution, and courts ordered restitution payments for 24 trafficking victims in 2017, compared to 79 in 2016. Various protective measures were legally available inside courtrooms for victims who testified at trial, but in practice, it is not clear that authorities consistently applied these measures and treated trafficking victims in a victim-sensitive manner. The government reported changing personal data of victims for security purposes in four cases in 2017, as opposed to two in 2016. NGOs reported the government often did not provide legal assistance or other support to victims during criminal cases.
Officials reported screening illegal migrants for indicators of trafficking. Authorities did not recognize any foreign victims in 2017, but international organizations reported identifying three victims from Moldova, Russia, and Uzbekistan. Foreign victims were entitled to the same benefits as Ukrainian citizens. Legislation that would allow foreign victims to remain in Ukraine for extended periods and work legally in the country remained pending with the government. There was no legal way for foreign victims to extend their stay, change legal residency, secure employment rights, or seek protection from deportation to countries where they would face hardship or retribution. There were no reports the government penalized victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; however, due to uneven screening, it is possible that authorities may have detained, deported, or punished trafficking victims.