The government maintained protection efforts. The government identified five victims (12 victims in 2017); three were victims of sex trafficking and two were victims of forced begging (10 victims of sex trafficking and two victims of forced labor in 2017); all victims were female (all female victims in 2017); and two were children (one child victim in 2017). Mobile groups and task forces screened 395 individuals (682 in 2017) at 98 locations (149 in 2017), such as hotels, bars, nightclubs, and bathhouses, for trafficking indicators. Authorities interviewed another 17 individuals deemed as “high-risk” (55 in 2017) from working at businesses that violated labor standards. Authorities screened 3,009 Georgian nationals deported from other countries for trafficking indicators at the international airport and border crossings (3,085 in 2017). The government continued to use and disseminate guidelines for victim identification, including the proper treatment of victims, screening for indicators at border posts, and victim-centered interview practices. A multi-disciplinary national referral mechanism (NRM) provided standard operating procedures for officially identifying and referring victims to services. Law enforcement officially recognized victims who participated in investigations and the Permanent Group assessed and officially recognized victims who declined to participate in investigations. The Permanent Group comprised a five-member board of non-governmental and international organization representatives and was required by statute to convene and assess a potential victim within 48 hours. Law enforcement officially recognized all five victims in 2018 (eight officially recognized by law enforcement and four by the Permanent Group in 2017). Government-run crisis centers in four cities, including a new crisis center built in Ozurgeti, and NGOs provided initial psychological care, medical assistance, legal support, and temporary shelter for potential victims awaiting official victim status. Observers reported the NRM worked effectively but raised concerns about the low number of identified potential victims, including inadequate identification efforts for children in exploitative situations on the street and Georgian and foreign workers in vulnerable labor sectors.
The government allocated 548,960 lari ($205,600) to the government-run anti trafficking shelters in Tbilisi and Batumi and other victim assistance programs, compared to 211,600 lari ($79,250) in 2017. The government provided medical aid, psychological counseling, legal assistance, childcare services, reintegration support, and a one-time financial payment of 1,000 lari ($370) to victims, regardless of their decision to assist law enforcement with investigations and prosecutions. Child victims received the same assistance specialized for minors under the government’s care, in addition to custodial care, education, and family reintegration programs. Five victims received legal aid, one received medical care, and one received the 1,000 lari ($370) in cash assistance. The government-run shelters were staffed by a nurse, psychologist, social worker, and lawyer, and offered separate sections for men, women, and children. Victims could initially stay at the shelter for three months, which authorities could extend upon the victim’s request; the government-run shelters accommodated three victims (two victims in 2017). Observers reported government-run shelters currently focus on victims of domestic violence due to the low number of identified trafficking victims and were unable to provide specialized services to trafficking victims. Shelter staff chaperoned victims when leaving the shelter, but victims could request to leave the shelter unchaperoned. In addition to equal services for domestic and foreign victims, foreign victims were eligible for renewable one-year residence permits with the ability to seek legal employment; four victims received residence permits. The government could provide repatriation assistance to Georgian victims returning to Georgia and foreign victims wishing to leave Georgia, but reported no victims required repatriation assistance (three in 2017).
Five victims assisted law enforcement (eight in 2017). The law required closed door sessions for court proceedings and allowed victims to leave the country pending trial; however, experts reported law enforcement requested victims to remain in-country through the end of the trial, likely hindering victim cooperation, particularly from foreign victims wanting to repatriate, due to slow court proceedings. The Prosecutor General’s Office’s Victim-Witness Coordinators provided counsel to victims from the beginning of the investigation through the end of the court proceedings; Victim-Witness Coordinators provided assistance to four victims and 12 witnesses. The law allowed recorded testimony or testimony by other technological means; none of the trials used such measures (none in 2017). The law also allowed the possibility of placing a victim into the state’s witness protection program; no victims required the use of witness protection in 2017 and 2018. Observers reported prosecutors and judges applied victim-centered approaches to prevent re-traumatization during trial. No trafficking victims have ever received restitution or compensation from their traffickers. Observers highlighted the failure to freeze and seize criminal assets as an obstacle to pursuing restitution from traffickers.