The government identified significantly fewer victims, but increased funding for services thereby maintaining victim protection efforts. The government identified 73 victims in 2018 (63 sex trafficking and 10 labor trafficking) compared to 150 victims in 2017 (84 sex trafficking and 66 labor trafficking) and 111 victims in 2016. The CICESCT used an “immediate response team” protocol for identifying and referring sex trafficking victims and distributed the protocol to other institutions, but authorities lacked systematic procedures to identify forced labor victims. The immediate response team, which included a full-time lawyer, psychologist, and social worker, worked with government ministries and civil society organizations to coordinate services for victims, including food, shelter, and health screenings, as well as referrals to longer-term support services, such as psychological, legal, and social services as well as family reintegration and, when necessary, resettlement. The team operated a 24-hour trafficking-specific hotline for victim referrals, which received 65 calls in 2018 resulting in 25 investigations, compared to 45 calls in 2017, and more than 60 calls in 2016. Authorities made efforts to screen for indicators of trafficking among unaccompanied migrant children returned from abroad, but inconsistently screened Honduran adults returned from abroad.
The Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion (SEDIS) provided psychological services, economic support, and, in coordination with the Ministry of Health, medical services to the 73 identified victims and ongoing support to 218 victims identified in previous reporting periods. SEDIS also provided microloans and mentoring to 21 victims to support small business development including sales of food, accessories, household items, and the repair of household items. The Child Welfare Agency administered initial assessments and services for child victims and referred foreign victims for repatriation and Honduran children to certified centers for medical, psychological, and psychiatric services and social reintegration following legal hearings. The foreign ministry, in partnership with international organizations, assisted and repatriated 12 Honduran nationals through its diplomatic missions in Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize, compared to six Honduran nationals through its diplomatic missions in Argentina, France, Guatemala, and Mexico in 2017.
The government increased the CICESCT budget to 7.9 million lempiras ($316,000) in 2018 compared to 2.3 million lempiras ($92,000) for 2017, but was not able to use all of the funds due to a five-month spending freeze. Other government agencies also provided funds from their budgets for victim assistance. CICESCT coordinated with several NGOs to provide services and shelter for victims. In 2018, CICESCT provided funding to an NGO to create a shelter for adult female victims. Trafficking victims surveyed by an independent research team in 2018 indicated a need for the following services in priority order: educational and vocational programs, counseling and psychological support, shelter, medical services, drug or alcohol rehabilitation, and legal services and prioritized their recovery over pursuing criminal complaints against their traffickers. The government offered services to sex trafficking victims, but services to a disproportionately low number of forced labor victims despite evidence that forced labor is more prevalent in the country. Despite the government’s increased budget for and provision of services to victims, care providers at the local and national levels reported insufficient resources from the government.
The government provided witness protection services to 15 victims who assisted in investigations and prosecutions, which included measures to protect the identity of the victim and witnesses; shelter; and economic, medical and psycho-social assistance. An independent assessment of trafficking in Honduras revealed the majority of victims did not file criminal complaints due to fear of reprisal, a lack of knowledge about the crime, and a low level of trust in the system. Officials acknowledged authorities did not properly identify many children forced to engage in illegal activities by criminal groups and thus may have treated them as criminals instead of victims. The government maintained Gesell chambers in which victims could provide testimony via pre-recorded interviews, but it did not report the number of victims who used these chambers. Honduran law allowed foreign victims to receive temporary or permanent residency status, including authorization to work; the government did not identify foreign victims in 2018 who could have received such benefits. Honduran law provided for restitution and civil damages to be awarded upon a trafficking conviction, but neither restitution nor civil damages were awarded to victims in 2018.