The government increased victim protection efforts in some areas. The government identified 128 confirmed trafficking victims and nine potential victims, compared with 142 confirmed victims in 2018 and 131 in 2017. Of the 128 confirmed victims the government identified in 2019, 125 victims, including 30 children, were exploited in sex trafficking and three victims exploited in forced labor. Traffickers exploited 105 of the confirmed victims in sex trafficking or forced labor in Belarus and 23 abroad. The government reported referring 48 victims to NGOs for reintegration services, compared with 54 in 2018 and 60 in 2017.
The Ministry of Interior initiated amendments to the national referral mechanism, which will formally establish a multidisciplinary approach to victim rehabilitation. The government reported law enforcement officials referred 54 confirmed and potential victims to international organizations and NGOs for care, compared with 68 in 2018. The government reported 251 potential victims formally applied for victim status with law enforcement or NGOs, and it approved 128 applications. The government reported increased screening of individuals arrested for commercial sex for trafficking indicators and exempting them from any legal liability; the government identified 101 individuals forced into commercial sex in 2019.
The government provided in-kind assistance to anti-trafficking NGOs in the form of facilities for seminars, conferences, and training; expedited approval of projects and grants; and tax-exempt status. NGOs and an international organization provided the majority of victim assistance; however, the government did not provide financial support for NGOs. The government’s assistance mechanism continued to be underutilized and suffered from burdensome bureaucratic requirements, delays in service delivery, and inconsistent quality of service. NGOs identified and assisted 91 trafficking victims in 2019, compared with 130 in 2018; 33 victims were female and 58 were male, 59 were trafficked for forced labor, 21 were sex trafficked, and the remainder unspecified. The majority of the victims (52) were exploited in Russia, while 30 were exploited internally in Belarus. NGOs reported a variance in the degree of cooperation with regional law enforcement. The government did not have trafficking-specific facilities available to care for victims, but local authorities operated 136 “crisis rooms” (132 rooms in 2018) that offered temporary shelter, including beds, meals, and personal hygiene products to vulnerable adults, including victims of trafficking, regardless of nationality; the government reported one trafficking victim used these facilities. Observers continued to report most victims sought assistance at private shelters because the government’s centers were poorly equipped and lacked qualified caregivers trained in trafficking. The education ministry maintained at least 138 centers that could provide vulnerable children with shelter and basic provisions, including 103 orphanages. An NGO continued to assist with operating child friendly rooms for interviews, the provision of assistance, and reintegration services at 18 of these centers; however, similar to past years, no child trafficking victims received services at these facilities, despite the government identifying child sex trafficking victims.