The government decreased victim protection efforts. The government identified 36 potential trafficking victims (82 in 2017). Of these, 17 were victims of sex trafficking, 19 were victims of forced labor, including 18 for forced begging (15 victims of sex trafficking, seven of forced labor, 59 of forced begging, and one whose exploitation was not reported in 2017); 21 victims were female and 15 were male (58 females and 25 males in 2017); 12 were children (47 in 2017); and eight were foreign victims (two in 2017). Two bylaws provided standard operating procedures (SOPs) for identifying and referring victims to services, including a list of general indicators, but observers reported first responders did not know or consistently use the guidelines, lacked the knowledge to accurately identify trafficking victims, and lacked proactive identification efforts, particularly for adult victims. The government operated seven drop-in centers for children that conducted outreach work and a mobile team for street children in Sarajevo; drop-in centers and the mobile team identified 510 street children (130 in 2017). International organizations reported law enforcement and social workers at centers for social welfare (CSW) justified cases of potential forced child begging and forced labor involving Roma as traditional cultural practices and customs and sometimes returned children to their families even when parents were involved in the exploitation. In addition, a report from an international organization indicated first responders, including Border Police, local police, Service for Foreigners’ Affairs, and CSW, lacked standard guidelines and trafficking indicators for migration flows, interview questions and interpreters, and general capacity to screen the large influx of migrants and refugees. First responders referred potential trafficking victims to law enforcement, which conducted an interview and had authority to officially recognize victims. However, GRETA and an NGO reported, in practice, the interview and identification procedures lacked transparency and only prosecutors’ designation of whether a person was a trafficking victim was recognized; some prosecutors required victims to cooperate with law enforcement to receive assistance and support.
The government partly funded four NGO-run shelters, but government-funded assistance programs required victims to obtain official recognition to access care, and potential victims received assistance only when an NGO had funds from other sources; authorities referred 10 victims to NGO-run shelters (26 in 2017). The Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees allocated 60,000 convertible marks ($35,170) to assist domestic trafficking victims in both 2017 and 2018. The Ministry of Security allocated 70,000 convertible marks ($41,030) for assistance to foreign victims in both 2017 and 2018. Funding for victim assistance was disproportionately lower for domestic victims, although they constituted the majority of identified victims. The government failed to reach an agreement to combine domestic and foreign assistance funds and returned unused funds allocated to assist foreign victims to the state budget instead of reallocating those funds for domestic victim assistance. As a result, some domestic victims did not have access to assistance. The government, in cooperation with NGOs, provided accommodation, psycho-social support, medical assistance, legal assistance, and guardianship for children. However, access to care was not standardized and based on bylaws that were not legally binding; RS law entitled trafficking victims to social assistance but Federation and BD laws did not. NGO-run shelters allowed victims to leave voluntarily after informing the staff, but no mechanisms were in place to assist victims outside of shelters, including at CSW, which lacked the resources and staff to provide specialized assistance to trafficking victims. One NGO-run shelter accommodated male trafficking victims but did not offer specialized services. Authorities reported developing a reintegration plan for each victim, including vocational training, but the government did not provide funding for reintegration programs, and observers reported cases of children spending more than two years at NGO-run shelters due to slow court proceedings and a lack of reintegration opportunities. The law provided repatriation assistance to Bosnian citizens identified abroad and foreigners identified in Bosnia; no victims required repatriation assistance (one in 2017). Foreign victims were eligible for a humanitarian visa allowing them to temporarily live and work in BiH, and victims were permitted a 30-day reflection period to determine whether they wanted to request a visa.
The government penalized victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit due to inadequate identification efforts; authorities penalized victims of sex trafficking, forced begging, and forced criminality with misdemeanor charges for petty crimes. The government reported SOPs incorporated non-penalization standards but acknowledged authorities still penalized victims due to a lack of knowledge of the SOPs exacerbated by frequent rotations and turnover. Sub-state laws against “enticement to prostitution” permitted law enforcement to treat children 14 years and older as juveniles willingly engaged in prostitution instead of victims of rape or sex trafficking; no prosecutions were reported. The government did not consistently conduct victim-centered investigations and prosecutions. For example, prosecutors did not need certification to work with children and often interrogated child victims without a psychologist or social worker present. Authorities also repeatedly interviewed adult victims, and courts did not offer victims any accommodation inside courthouses to prevent re-traumatization. Police did not consistently notify victims’ lawyers when conducting interviews; some courts required victims to testify with no prior notification or preparation; and international organizations reported cases of victims’ identity and personal information leaked to the media and published. Victims could obtain restitution through criminal proceedings or compensation through civil suits; a district court awarded a victim 7,500 convertible marks ($4,400). Observers reported civil proceedings required victims to submit new testimonies and medical examinations, causing re-traumatization, despite the government convicting their trafficker in criminal proceedings.