The government maintained protection efforts. The government identified 950 potential trafficking victims, compared with 894 in 2017 and 1,118 in 2016. For the second consecutive year, the governmental Mission for the Protection of Women against Violence and the Fight against Human Trafficking (MIPROF) and the National Supervisory Body on Crime and Punishment released the results of a large-scale victim survey completed by 24 NGOs, intended to serve as a model for future annual data collection on victims. It found 74 percent were victims of sex trafficking, 15 percent forced labor, seven percent forced criminality, two percent forced begging, and two percent of other forms of exploitation. Fifty-three percent of victims surveyed came from Nigeria, with the remainder from North Africa and Eastern Europe.
The government had formal procedures for identifying victims and an NGO-run referral mechanism. The Ministry of Solidarity and Health and the City of Paris provided funding for the Ac-Se system, an NGO-managed network of 45 NGO-run shelters and specialized NGOs assisting adult victims of sex and labor trafficking. Both police and NGOs referred victims to Ac-Se. Ac-Se assisted 86 trafficking victims in 2018, compared with 79 in 2017 and 82 in 2016. Ninety-five percent were victims of sex trafficking and the remaining five percent of labor trafficking. Ac-Se provided them shelter, legal, medical, and psychological services. The government continued to identify fewer victims than in previous years; civil society did not interpret this trend as a decrease in trafficking prevalence and reported an increase in victims over recent years. The government provided Ac-Se with €234,000 ($268,350) in 2018, in addition to an unreported amount of funding to NGOs supporting the Ac-Se network.
Local governments provided French language classes to victims, and some victims could qualify for subsidized housing and job training programs. The government, through the national employment agency, provided some foreign victims an initial stipend of €350 ($401) a month; civil society reported the conditions for being granted a stipend were not uniform and varied by region. The central and municipal governments also partially funded the operation of a shelter in Paris and a small number of emergency apartments external to the Ac-Se system. Police referred child trafficking victims to the Child Welfare Services (ASE) system. GRETA and the French independent rapporteur on trafficking reported a lack of adequate resources for the special assistance needs of child trafficking victims. The French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons’ (OFPRA) social workers, staff, senior protection officers, interpreters, and new refugee protection officers received training on victim identification and assistance protocols. The government continued to operate a hotline for children in abusive situations, including trafficking. Ac-Se, with assistance from 60 partner organizations, operated a separate hotline during the reporting period. The hotline on average referred 50 trafficking cases a year to Ac-Se for assistance. The MOJ partnered with Ac-Se to train front-line responders, including labor inspectors and social workers, on the identification and referral of trafficking victims. The MOJ continued to hold an annual seminar on victim identification procedures for members of the judiciary. Newly assigned border police and cybercrime investigators received victim identification training. Aviation and law enforcement officials contributed to an NGO-led victim identification training for Paris airport staff. The government distributed pocket-sized victim identification indicator guides to border police and NGOs, and developed detailed internal training manuals for educators and security forces who encounter child trafficking victims.
The government had an NGO-run referral program to transfer victims detained, arrested, or placed in protective custody by law enforcement authorities to institutions that provided short-term care. Judges heard criminal trials for trafficking or aggravated pimping in private at the victim’s request. Victims could receive a 30-day reflection period during which they could decide whether to lodge a complaint or participate in criminal proceedings against a trafficker; however, some authorities were not familiar with the reflection period and did not offer it. Victims were eligible for temporary residence permits, regardless of whether they cooperated with police investigations. Trafficking victims were also eligible for international protection under refugee status or subsidiary protection status in cases where victims had a credible fear of retaliation, including from public authorities in their country of origin, if returned. However, a large collective of anti-trafficking NGOs believed the new law on asylum and immigration, which eased restrictions on migrant deportation, limited victims’ ability to receive temporary residence due to new time-bound restrictions on permit applications and more stringent approval criteria. GRETA reported police arrested and prosecuted child victims of forced begging and criminality without screening for trafficking indicators. Criminal courts could order traffickers to pay restitution to victims; however, authorities did not report ordering such restitution. Victims could bring a civil suit against a trafficker for compensation and were eligible to receive compensation through the Crime Victims Compensation Program. However, NGOs reported victim compensation payments were rare; the government did not report any instances of victim restitution or compensation during the reporting period.