The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified 61 potential trafficking victims (36 in 2018). Of these, 19 were victims of sex trafficking, 36 of forced begging, three of forced marriage for the purpose of forced begging and sexual exploitation, and three of multiple types of exploitation (17 were victims of sex trafficking, 19 were victims of labor trafficking, including 18 for forced begging in 2018); 49 victims were female and 12 were male (21 victims were female and 15 were male in 2018); 36 were children (12 in 2018) and six were foreign victims (eight in 2018). Two bylaws provided standard operating procedures (SOPs) for identifying and referring victims to services, including a list of general indicators, but observers reported first responders did not know or consistently use the guidelines and lacked the knowledge to accurately identify trafficking victims. The government operated seven drop-in centers for children and a mobile team for street children in Sarajevo that conducted outreach work. The mobile team identified 160 street children (510 in 2018) and drop-in centers provided 163 children with academic tutoring, hot meals, and laundry services, including 17 who were accommodated in shelters. Drop-in centers lacked resources, capacity, and staff, and could only provide basic food, workshops, and short-term accommodation for a small number of children. Observers reported mobile team members were attacked, threatened, and intimidated by traffickers and perpetrators during their outreach efforts, but law enforcement did not investigate. International organizations reported law enforcement and social workers at centers for social welfare (CSW) justified cases of potential forced child begging and forced labor involving Roma as traditional cultural practices and customs and sometimes returned children to their families even when parents were involved in their exploitation. In addition, a report from an international organization indicated first responders, including Border Police, local police, Service for Foreigners’ Affairs, and CSW, lacked standard guidelines and trafficking indicators for migration flows, interview questions and interpreters, and general capacity to screen the large influx of migrants and refugees. First responders referred potential trafficking victims to law enforcement, which conducted an interview and had authority to officially recognize victims. However, international organizations reported the interview and identification procedures lacked transparency, and some authorities required victims to cooperate with investigations and prosecutions to receive assistance and support. SIPA did not interview potential victims in migrant flows, according to observers, who noted SIPA lacked translators required to communicate with foreign victims and relied on NGOs.
The government partly funded four NGO-run shelters, but government-funded assistance programs required victims to obtain official recognition to access care, and potential victims received assistance only when an NGO had funds from other sources; authorities referred 42 victims to NGO-run shelters (10 in 2018). The Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees allocated 60,000 convertible marks ($34,460) to NGOs assisting domestic trafficking victims in both 2019 and 2018, and the Ministry of Security allocated 70,000 convertible marks ($40,210) to NGOs assisting foreign victims in both 2019 and 2018. However, the government did not disburse these funds to NGOs in 2019 due to the absence of a state government and budget. Funding for victim assistance was disproportionately lower for domestic victims, although they constituted the majority of identified victims. The government did not combine domestic and foreign assistance funds and returned unused funds allocated to assist foreign victims to the state budget instead of reallocating those funds for domestic victim assistance. As a result, some domestic victims did not have access to assistance. The government, in cooperation with NGOs, provided accommodation, psycho-social support, medical assistance, legal assistance, and guardianship for children. However, access to care was not standardized and was based on bylaws that were not legally binding; RS law entitled trafficking victims to social assistance, but Federation and BD laws did not. NGO-run shelters allowed victims to leave voluntarily after informing the staff, but no mechanisms were in place to assist victims outside of shelters, including at CSW. One NGO-run shelter accommodated male trafficking victims but did not offer specialized services. Authorities reported developing a reintegration plan for each victim, including vocational training, but the government did not provide funding for reintegration programs, and observers reported victims spent, at times, multiple years at shelters due to slow court proceedings and a lack of reintegration opportunities. The law provided repatriation assistance to in country citizen victims identified abroad and foreign national victims identified in country; no victims required repatriation assistance in 2019 and 2018. Foreign victims were eligible for a humanitarian visa allowing them to temporarily live and work in BiH, and victims were permitted a 30-day reflection period to determine whether they wanted to request a visa; three foreign victims received humanitarian visas.
The government penalized victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit due to inadequate identification efforts; authorities penalized victims of sex trafficking, forced begging, and forced criminality with misdemeanor charges for petty crimes with some victims owing 10,000 to 15,000 convertible marks ($5,740 to $8,620) after receiving multiple fines. The government reported SOPs incorporated non-penalization standards but acknowledged authorities still penalized victims due to a lack of knowledge of the SOPs exacerbated by frequent rotations and turnover. Sub-state laws against “enticement to prostitution” permitted law enforcement to treat children 14 years and older as juveniles willingly engaged in commercial sex instead of victims of rape or sex trafficking; no prosecutions were reported. The law provided witness protection and free legal aid; the government did not report the number of victims in witness protection and relied mainly on NGOs to provide free legal aid. The government did not consistently conduct victim-centered investigations and prosecutions. For example, prosecutors did not need certification to work with children and often interrogated child victims without a psychologist or social worker present. Authorities also repeatedly interviewed adult victims, and courts did not offer victims any accommodation inside courthouses to prevent re-traumatization. Police did not consistently notify victims’ lawyers when conducting interviews, and some courts required victims to testify with no prior notification or preparation. Victims could obtain restitution through criminal proceedings or compensation through civil suits; a district court awarded a victim 7,500 convertible marks ($4,310), but the victim never received the restitution due to issues in seizing assets. Judges generally rejected restitution in criminal proceedings and encouraged victims to seek compensation by filing civil suits, according to observers, who noted civil suits required victims to submit new testimonies and medical examinations, causing re-traumatization, despite the government convicting their trafficker in criminal proceedings.