The government increased victim protection efforts. Government-funded civil society organizations identified nine potential trafficking victims, compared with seven in 2017. Authorities were unable to confirm the form of trafficking of the potential victims but noted all were foreign nationals. As in previous years, since the government lacked country-wide statistical information on trafficking, anecdotal reports of potential victims varied depending on the source, and double counting likely occurred across organizations, obtaining data was problematic. The Ministry of Welfare (MOW) assisted 25 potential male labor trafficking victims from Ukraine and Romania, and the women’s shelter did not report assisting any potential victims, compared with two and four victims, respectively, in 2017. The national police commissioner maintained detailed procedures for police to use to identify, contact, and work with possible trafficking victims. The government continued to distribute NGO-developed interview guidelines to government employees most likely to encounter trafficking victims. The Directorate of Immigration provided its staff with procedures to identify trafficking victims during the interview process for asylum-seekers. As part of the newly adopted NAP, the government in conjunction with NGOs planned the development of a national referral mechanism (NRM), including cost assessments and roles and responsibilities of stakeholders. Since there was no NRM during the reporting period, police maintained standardized referral procedures that required them to contact welfare services in the municipality and MOW to coordinate victim care and placement. Experts stated these procedures worked effectively in practice but required further guidance on where to refer victims. Furthermore, experts noted while it was generally difficult to build victims’ confidence in and cooperation with authorities, a formal NRM would promote better cooperation between victims and authorities on investigations and, in turn, enhance data collection. In 2018, the Directorate of Labor created procedures on assisting potential victims and maintained a three-member team to respond to suspected trafficking cases and educate government employees on trafficking and identifying possible victims.
The government continued to fund an NGO-run domestic abuse shelter providing emergency shelter to female trafficking victims and their children; the government allocated 77.1 million krona ($664,030) to the shelter, compared with 71 million krona ($611,490) for 2017. The government provided the shelter with an additional 300,000 krona ($2,580) for the provision of services for trafficking victims, compared to 350,000 krona ($3,010) in 2017. The shelter maintained a team of specialists to manage cases involving possible trafficking victims. Victims had access to free legal, medical, psychological, and financial assistance, whether or not they stayed at the shelter or cooperated with authorities. Municipal social service agencies provided services and financial assistance to trafficking victims, and the MOW reimbursed the municipalities for all associated expenses. The government allocated 78 million krona ($671,780) to a separate NGO offering psychological services to individuals in prostitution and trafficking victims, compared to 71 million krona ($611,490) in 2017. The government, in collaboration with several NGOs, maintained a center offering free comprehensive services to abuse victims, including trafficking victims, and allocated 50 million krona ($430,630). There were no accommodations available for male victims, though they could access general social services and receive referrals to NGOs providing food, shelter, legal advice, and health care. Municipal and state child protection services were responsible for assisting unaccompanied children, including child trafficking victims. The government organized courses for health care employees at clinics across the country on working with victims. Victims could file civil suits against traffickers, but no victims did so during the reporting period. Foreign trafficking victims could obtain either a nine-month residence permit or a one-year renewable residence permit, which was available to victims who cooperated with law enforcement or who faced retribution or hardship in their home countries. The government did not issue any temporary residence permits in 2017 or 2018. The government amended the Act on Foreign Nationals to allow potential victims who received residence permits on the basis of trafficking to obtain work permits for the duration of their residence permits.