The government maintained modest efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. The government identified at least two trafficking victims, compared with four trafficking victims identified the previous reporting period. Poor record keeping and inadequate resources hindered reliable data collection, and statistics were often not disaggregated to differentiate trafficking from similar crimes. The MOGCSP estimated that it provided assistance to at least eight victims and 30 potential child trafficking victims during the reporting period. While the government had standard operating procedures to identify trafficking victims, authorities reported the majority of law enforcement, immigration, and social services personnel lacked training on such procedures and, at times, identified some trafficking victims as victims of other crimes. Many officials continued to view internal trafficking, especially child domestic servitude, as a community practice rather than a crime. Due to this lack of awareness of trafficking among authorities and communities, as well as insufficient government resources to identify trafficking victims, most trafficking victims remained unidentified. In November 2018, the government finalized the national referral mechanism to direct victims towards services, but the cabinet must formally endorse the mechanism before it can be implemented. As a result, the government remained without a formal process to refer victims to care and agencies responsible rarely coordinated such efforts.
Police and community members generally referred trafficking victims to the MOGCSP. The anti-trafficking task force working group, of which the MOGCSP was a member, was responsible for coordinating victim care. In cases involving one victim, the members of the task force referred the victim to a government or NGO safe house or coordinated foster care. When authorities identified a group of potential trafficking victims, the individuals were either referred to NGOs for care or funds were provided by either the MOGCSP or the Ministry of Justice to provide care in government shelters. In part because the government did not have consistent funding for victim care and officials did not receive training on referral procedures, not all identified victims of crime, including trafficking, received comprehensive care during the reporting period. Government-provided shelter and services remained basic and short-term. The MOGSCP reported that it operated two shelters for victims of sexual and gender-based violence and trafficking, as well as 12 transit centers throughout the country, and LNP operated one victim safe house. The shelters provided long-term care and social services, while the transit centers provided medical services and short-term accommodation. In theory, each transit center had at least one social worker, one nurse trained in sexual- and gender-based violence cases, and one police officer on staff; however, resources allocated to each center varied, and officials reported only three of Monrovia’s five transit centers had sufficient space and staffing to care for victims. Most of the transit centers did not actually provide short-term accommodations. The Ministry of Health could provide limited medical and psycho-social services. The government relied heavily on NGOs and private shelters when government shelters were unavailable. During the previous reporting period, MOGCSP embedded two social workers within the WACPS to assist women and children, including trafficking victims, at the police safe house. LNP provided food and other in-kind support to the police safe house. Shelter and services were available to both domestic and foreign victims. No shelter was available for adult male victims, although some MOGCSP shelters could accommodate young boys. Adult victims were sometimes allowed to leave the shelters at will. Shelters often could not protect victims’ identities, and stays were limited, usually up to three months due to capacity. MOGSCP could arrange foster care for victims who required longer-term care. MOGSCP continued collaboration with NGOs through regular meetings of the Child Protection Network, which facilitated government-NGO partnership on child protection cases. The government collaborated with the Government of Sierra Leone to repatriate two Sierra Leonean trafficking victims identified in Liberia.
The government did not systematically encourage victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of their traffickers but at times provided victim-witnesses support to offset the costs of participating in a trial; the government, in partnership with NGOs, provided transportation, accommodation, and security for two Sierra Leonean victims when they returned to Monrovia for their alleged trafficker’s trial. The anti-trafficking law provided for restitution, and victims could file civil suits against their traffickers; no victims received restitution or filed civil suits during the reporting period. The government did not have a formal policy that provided alternatives to removal to countries in which victims would face retribution or hardship but could offer alternatives, including temporary residency, on a case-by-case basis. There were no reports the government penalized victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit; however, due to a lack of training on victim identification and the absence of measures to screen for trafficking among vulnerable populations, it was possible that victims remained unidentified in the law enforcement system.