The government increased victim protection efforts. The government identified nine victims; six were victims of sex trafficking and three were victims of both sex trafficking and forced labor, compared with four sex trafficking victims, one sex trafficking and forced labor victim, and one forced labor victim in 2017. Of these, three were children (five in 2017); all nine were female (five females and one male in 2017); and one foreign victim in 2017 and 2018. The government and NGOs also identified 104 potential victims (99 potential trafficking victims in 2017); 25 were adults and 79 were children (57 adults and 42 children in 2017); 65 were females and 39 were males; and four were foreign potential victims (75 in 2017). The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy (MLSP) maintained mobile identification teams comprising social workers, inspectors, and psychologists in five regions for vulnerable populations, including trafficking victims; mobile teams identified all 104 potential victims and assisted 390 individuals. MLSP continued to dispatch social workers to screen vulnerable populations at border crossings and migrant and refugee camps; MLSP did not identify any victims through these efforts (one official victim in 2017). The government trained first responders on victim identification, including police officers, labor inspectors, border police officers, and social workers. MLSP social workers and police continued to identify potential forced labor victims among predominately Romani children engaged in street begging and street vending. The government placed them in daycare centers and warned, fined, or jailed their parents; in cases where courts deemed parents unfit to care for their children, the state placed the children in orphanages. However, government and civil society actors raised concerns about the low number of identified victims, and experts reported most government agencies lacked proactive identification efforts. Border agents screened for trafficking indicators at border posts, but did not properly identify victims, and international organizations reported authorities conducting several informal forcible removals to neighboring countries. The Office of the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) within MLSP remained responsible for coordinating the identification and referral procedures. First responders referred potential victims to the Anti-trafficking Unit and/or the NRM, which were authorized to officially identify victims. The government updated standard operating procedures on identification and referral and civil society reported the procedures worked well, particularly with the participation of social workers in the official identification phase, but some first responders followed referral procedures on an ad hoc basis. NRM officials and social workers participated in interviews with potential victims, but law enforcement and the labor inspectorate did not consistently include NRM officials and social workers at the outset of identifying potential trafficking cases. Mobile identification teams, comprising government and civil society representatives, referred 104 potential trafficking victims and civil society separately referred 20 potential victims, compared with 15 potential victims referred by the government and 84 by civil society in 2017.
The government allocated 3.07 million denars ($57,420) to the Center for Victims of Trafficking and Sexual Violence (the Shelter) and the transit center for foreigners (migrant facility), compared with 2.66 million denars ($49,720) in 2017. The government allocated 525,850 denars ($9,830) to support services and security for victims, compared with 382,950 denars ($7,160) in 2017. The government did not award grants to NGOs in 2016, 2017, or 2018; NGOs reported the lack of these grants forced them to reduce services to victims. The government relied heavily on funding from the international community and on NGOs to provide assistance. The government and NGOs provided potential victims and officially recognized victims with protection and assistance, including food, clothing, medical assistance, psycho-social support, rehabilitation, and reintegration services. MLSP assigned a guardian from a center for social welfare for victims while at the shelter and MLSP-run social service centers maintained one social worker at each of the 30 centers dedicated to handling trafficking cases and provided psycho-social support and reintegration assistance, including education and job placement. The government and NGOs provided assistance to 31 official and potential victims, including basic necessities to 31, counselling and medical assistance to 22, legal assistance to six, and vocational training for one. MLSP and an NGO shared operating costs for the Shelter, the only specialized shelter for trafficking victims. The same NGO managed daily operations of the Shelter and the government amended legislation to accommodate domestic and foreign potential trafficking victims at the Shelter. GRETA reported officially recognized victims did not receive any formal notification, which hindered their entitlement to free medical and legal assistance. Specialized assistance was not available for male victims and observers reported only one forced labor victim ever received reintegration support. The Shelter and the migrant facility could both house male, female, and child victims. The Shelter allowed victims freedom of movement, but the migrant facility did not permit foreign potential victims to leave without a temporary residence permit. GRETA reported the migrant facility, despite renovations, was in “poor material condition” and “effectively a detention facility and not the appropriate environment for trafficking victims.” The Shelter accommodated all nine confirmed victims (five child victims in 2017) and the migrant facility housed a total of 317 foreigners (131 foreigners in 2017). The law permitted foreign victims a two-month reflection period to decide whether to testify against their traffickers, followed by a six-month temporary residence permit, regardless of whether they testify; no foreign victims requested residence permits in 2017 or 2018.
The government amended the penal code to include a non-punishment clause for trafficking victims and the Academy for Judges and Public Prosecutors trained officials in non-penalization of victims and victim identification. In previous years, the government may have deported, detained, or restricted freedom of movement of some trafficking victims due to inadequate identification efforts. The government did not report the number of potential victims who assisted in initial investigations in 2017 or 2018 (12 in 2016) but four officially identified victims gave statements against their alleged traffickers (five in 2017). The government reported no victims required witness protection services in 2017 or 2018. Victims could not leave the country before testifying in court; however, prosecutors, with the consent of the defense, can make exceptions and allow a victim to leave the country prior to testifying. While victims can claim compensation through civil proceedings, no victims had ever successfully completed a claim due to the complexity of the process. The government and civil society continued efforts to develop a victim compensation fund that allowed authorities to allocate compensation to victims from seized criminal assets.