The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified 31 victims (38 in 2017); 30 were victims of sex trafficking and one of forced labor (35 sex trafficking and three forced begging in 2017); 22 were adults and nine children (24 adults and 14 children in 2017); 27 female and four male (34 were female and four male); five were Greek victims and 26 foreign victims (four Greeks and 34 foreign victims in 2017). Statistics included some but not all potential victims identified by non-law enforcement entities. ATU and civil society conducted proactive identification efforts, but other government efforts were largely reactive and reliant on self-identification. Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention screened migrants and asylum-seekers for trafficking indicators at island Reception and Identification Centers (RIC); regional asylum offices identified two potential victims (three in 2017). However, some asylum-seekers waited over a month for their screening due to a lack of staff and resources, resulting in a trafficking survivor re-victimized in a migrant camp while waiting for legal documents and RIC screening procedures. Each RIC designated a trafficking focal point who collected information on potential trafficking cases, but many staff working at RICs were on short-term contracts, which limited their experience and training to identify victims. The government screened migrants, including unaccompanied children, upon arrival, but observers reported authorities did not screen migrants again when facing deportation. In addition, civil society reports indicated authorities assaulting and harassing migrants and conducting several informal forcible removals to Turkey, strongly discouraging victims from self-identifying or cooperating with authorities. GRETA reported a lack of identification efforts for victims of forced labor, particularly in the agriculture sector, cleaning and domestic service, and the tourism industry. Proactive identification among vulnerable unaccompanied children also remained inadequate, including for forced begging and forced criminality.
The government officially launched a multi-disciplinary national referral mechanism (NRM), including appropriate standard operating procedures and referral forms. The government, separately and in cooperation with international organizations and NGOs, trained law enforcement, immigration officers, social service workers, labor inspectors, and health workers on victim identification and new referral procedures. The NRM required first responders to inform and coordinate with EKKA when potential victims were identified for victim care and placement. The law authorized public prosecutors to officially recognize victims based on information collected by law enforcement, or a psychologist and a social worker if a victim did not want to cooperate with law enforcement. Official victim status entitled foreign victims to a renewable one-year residence and work permit, but potential victims without this status had access to equal support and assistance. Observers reported inconsistent use of psychologists and social workers for identification procedures and procedures lasting up to two years for victims to receive official status. The government did not recognize potential victims who were exploited abroad but identified in Greece, creating obstacles in accessing support entitled by law. The government, in cooperation with NGOs, provided shelter, psycho-social support, medical care, legal aid, and reintegration support. The government was unable to determine how much funding was spent on victim protection and did not allocate funding to civil society, with the exception of projects co-financed by the EU and state budget funds. Furthermore, EKKA secured €631,840 ($724,590) from EU security funds to support the NRM and signed a memorandum of understanding with an NGO to host a legal consultant and two anti-trafficking advisors for two months. Two agencies provided shelter and general support services to trafficking victims: the General Secretariat for Gender Equality (GSGE) operated 19 shelters and 40 counseling centers for female victims of violence and EKKA operated two long-term shelters, an emergency shelter, and two Social Support Centers for vulnerable populations in need of assistance; EKKA assisted nine victims (seven in 2017). Central and local governments also maintained cooperation agreements with some NGOs to house, protect, and assist vulnerable children, including trafficking victims, and allocated buildings to use as shelters. However, observers reported a lack of specialized shelters for trafficking victims; only one NGO-run shelter provided shelter specifically for female trafficking victims and some police officers remained reluctant to refer victims to NGO-run support services. Victims in rural areas had little access to support services and were often accommodated in police stations, hospital wards, or received no assistance. An NGO-run shelter for sexually exploited men or short-term government shelters for asylum-seekers or homeless persons could accommodate male victims. Adults could voluntarily leave the shelters unchaperoned. Government-run shelters, NGO-run shelters, and facilities for unaccompanied minors accommodated child victims but did not provide specialized support. Observers reported overcrowded facilities for child victims and GRETA reported authorities held unaccompanied children in police cells up to several months due to a lack of shelters. In addition, delays in payment to shelters for unaccompanied children further limited available spaces, exacerbating the vulnerabilities of 2,000 unaccompanied minors without adequate protection. Victims who did not apply for official recognition could receive a residence and work permit by applying for asylum or for a residence permit on humanitarian grounds; the government issued 10 residence permits and renewed an additional 13 for certified victims but the government did not provide statistics about residence permits or granting of asylum to victims who lacked official recognition. The process to receive residence permits was difficult without an attorney and took time, but the government granted victims a temporary document that prevented deportation or detainment.
The government may have deported, detained, or restricted freedom movement of some trafficking victims due to inadequate identification efforts. Experts reported a lack of victim-centered approaches, including cases of law enforcement conducting interviews described by victims as interrogations. There were also reports of authorities not adequately informing victims about court proceedings and lacking interpretation services for foreign victims. Court proceedings often lasted two to six years, which hindered cooperation from victims and key witnesses. For example, an appeals court unanimously acquitted 20 traffickers convicted of sex trafficking in November 2018 after the four victims that testified against them in lower courts did not attend court proceedings. The government did not provide funding for travel and other expenses for victims to attend court hearings and some suspected traffickers intentionally postponed court appearances to increase the chances of victims being unwilling to testify in court and/or may have paid bribes to repatriated victims to preclude them from testifying. In previous years, observers reported traffickers likely bribed state certified interpreters to alter the content of victim statements or influence their testimony. The law entitled victims to mental health professionals during court proceedings and the use of audiovisual technology for remote testimony, but many courts lacked the capabilities to deploy these resources and judges did not allow it, even in cases where the lack of these benefits could cause re-traumatization. Observers reported judges lacked sensitivity and an understanding of the impact of psychological trauma on victims’ ability to consistently and clearly relate the circumstances of their exploitation and inappropriately dismissed as unreliable victim testimony. The law provided for witness protection and non-disclosure of the witness’ personal information; however, no trafficking victims received full witness protection privileges to date, only police escorts during trials, and courts sometimes revealed victims’ identities during proceedings. The law entitled victims to file civil suits against traffickers for compensation but no victims to date had received compensation or received restitution from their traffickers. The government reported trafficking victims had never applied for compensation.