The government maintained protection efforts. The government continued to implement a national referral mechanism, launched in November 2018, to identify adult victims and refer them to care. Authorities used guidelines and checklists to screen potential victims for indicators of trafficking and referred identified victims to NGOs for assistance. Government-funded NGOs provided shelter, medical and psychological care, legal assistance, and German language classes to adult victims, including specialized services for victims with disabilities. A separate referral mechanism for children guided local authorities in identifying and providing services to child victims. One government-funded NGO reported it provided services to 336 female victims and their children in 2019 (339 in 2018 and 327 in 2017), of whom police referred 109 and other government agencies referred 46. Some of these victims may have been children, as the organization provided assistance to women and girls age 15 years and older. Another NGO, which provided government-funded services for male victims, reported assisting 65 victims in 2019, although it did not specify how many of these were government referrals. As in previous years, the government did not identify any victims of Austrian citizenship. Although identification statistics did not disaggregate labor and sex trafficking cases, the majority of identified victims were exploited in sex trafficking. Experts noted, however, that the relatively low number of identified forced labor cases could be attributed to authorities’ failure to recognize labor trafficking indicators rather than to low prevalence.
The government allocated €988,110 ($1.1 million) to specialized anti-trafficking NGOs to provide shelter, services, and legal support to victims in 2019, compared to €944,750 ($1.06 million) in 2018; it also allocated €274,590 ($308,530) to an NGO providing specialized services for male victims between April 2018 and December 2019. The Ministry of Labor provided an additional €410,000 ($460,670) for support of NGO-run counseling centers for male trafficking victims and undocumented migrants for the period from June 2018 to December 2019. Government funding comprised the bulk of support for these organizations. The city of Vienna funded a government-run center for unaccompanied minors, including child trafficking victims, offering legal, medical, psychological, social, and language assistance; the center reported it did not provide assistance to any child trafficking victims in 2019. The government provided training to NGOs working with migrants and asylum-seekers to help them identify trafficking victims among these groups. Law enforcement personnel screened individuals in commercial sex, including in brothels and massage parlors, for indicators of trafficking and monitored websites selling commercial sex to identify victims. The government funded NGOs to provide training on victim identification for law enforcement, labor inspectors, detention and asylum center authorities, border control, revenue officials, and military and diplomatic personnel.
The law provided for the protection of victims’ rights during criminal proceedings. NGOs were permitted to accompany victims to hearings and interviews. Courts provided trauma-informed methods for presenting evidence and testimony when victims needed protection from traffickers during the investigation and prosecution phases. Victim protection procedures granted victims a 30-day reflection period to decide whether to assist in the prosecution of their traffickers; some NGOs reported concerns about inconsistencies in the reflection period and noted that victims were not always informed of this right. Victims’ access to services was not dependent on their willingness to participate in the criminal process. The Ministry of Justice reported providing, via NGOs, psycho-social and legal assistance during criminal proceedings to 150 trafficking victims in 2019. Foreign trafficking victims from outside the EU had the right to temporary residency, with possible annual extensions, which allowed access to employment; victims from EU member states did not require residence permits. The government granted 13 residence permits and extended 24 permits to trafficking victims in 2019. Victims who chose to return to their country of origin received repatriation assistance from government-funded NGOs.
Victims could file civil suits against traffickers for damages and compensation, even in the absence of a criminal prosecution, and could still pursue civil suits in the event of an acquittal in the criminal case. Courts could award restitution upon criminal conviction; in 2019, courts awarded restitution to 25 victims in trafficking cases. The government organized training seminars for prosecutors and judges on victim compensation and the criminal process. The Ministry of Justice published guidelines for the non-punishment of victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. Administrative fines for illegal commercial sex or immigration violations were forgiven if the individual was found to be a victim of trafficking. However, gaps in victim identification may have left some victims unidentified in the law enforcement system. In one case in 2019, a victim was convicted for presenting fake identification to police during a brothel inspection; an appellate court overturned the conviction. Experts noted gaps in the government’s referral process for suspected cases of exploitation among asylum-seekers; some migrants who showed signs of trafficking may have been sent to other countries in the EU without receiving services due to the government’s enforcement of EU regulations on asylum-seekers.