The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified 25 victims (73 victims in 2018). Of these, 13 were victims of sex trafficking, three of labor trafficking, seven of forced criminality, one of both labor trafficking and forced criminality, and one of “imposing slavery” (60 of forced criminality, 10 of sex trafficking, three of labor trafficking, and one unknown in 2018); 16 were minors (two in 2018); 17 females and eight males (26 females and 46 males in 2018); and three foreign victims (62 in 2018). In 2019, the government conducted three large operations to screen for indicators of trafficking: in April police cooperated with the Ministry of Labor to screen 18,353 people and, 11,160 vehicles for indicators of forced labor; in June police screened 67,554 people, 62,077 vehicles, and 545 locations for indicators of child trafficking; and, in September police separately screened 99,742 people, 25,118 vehicles, and 474 locations for indicators of sex and child trafficking and forced criminality. These efforts led to the identification of one adult trafficking victim and one child victim. While the government reported increasing screening efforts in migrant populations, civil society and media reports continued to indicate government efforts to screen migrants and asylum-seekers, including unaccompanied children, were seriously lacking. International organizations criticized the government for violent pushbacks of illegal migrants, and civil society and media continued to report border police assaulted and harassed migrants. International and civil society organizations claimed these practices strongly discouraged victims from self-identifying or cooperating with authorities. The MOI denied reports of migrant abuse and reported it conducted internal investigations related to all claims of abuse.
A multi-disciplinary national referral mechanism provided standard operating procedures for identifying and referring victims to services. According to the national referral mechanism, first responders carried out the preliminary identification of potential victims and contacted one of four regional mobile teams consisting of social workers from a Center for Social Work and NGO representatives, who travelled to assess the potential adult victims in person and coordinated victim care and placement. For child victims, first responders contacted the MDFYSP, who dispatched a mobile team of specialized social workers. The MOI officially identified all victims in cooperation with first responders and the regional mobile team and with specialized police officers responsible for protection were called for potential child victims. Officials reported the mobile team for child victims functioned well, but NGOs participating in the mobile team for adults were financially burdened with travel and training costs. Observers reported difficulties in recruiting new NGO members into the mobile team due to the financial burden. In addition, the one-day training for new team members was inadequate to learn the complex process of identifying victims. The Office for Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities (OHRRNM) committed to paying travel costs for mobile teams but, according to participating NGOs, OHRRNM did not reimburse invoices in a timely manner, if at all.
The government and NGOs provided victims protection and assistance, including shelter, medical assistance, legal assistance, psycho-social support, rehabilitation, and reintegration services. The government funded two NGO-run shelters, one for adults and one providing specialized support for children, and the Center for Missing and Exploited Children provided a range of educational and psycho-social services for unaccompanied minors and exploited children, including child trafficking victims; these shelters accommodated two adults and three children (three adults in 2018). The government continued efforts in the implementation of foster care and away from using state child care institutions to mitigate traffickers targeting children in state orphanages. MDFYSP organized a foster family for three child victims (one in 2018) and appointed special caregivers for five children. MDFYSP organized trainings for foster families and special caregivers and required them to maintain a license but officials reported the need to increase the number of foster families and special caregivers to fully support the increasing number of child victims. Civil society organizations reported good cooperation with MDFYSP. The Croatian Employment Bureau appointed special coordinators in regional and branch offices, who assisted victims in finding employment and worked with businesses to employ victims. MDFYSP allocated 457,000 kunas ($70,420) to support the NGO-run shelter for adults, compared with 609,060 kunas ($93,850) in 2018, and 527,000 kunas ($81,200) for the NGO-run shelter for children, compared with 365,390 kunas ($56,300) in 2018.
The government did not report any cases of penalization of victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. Foreign victims had access to the same services as domestic victims, but foreign victims without work permits at the time of their exploitation could not receive compensation for lost wages. Foreign victims could receive a temporary residence permit after a 60-day reflection period for adults and 90 days for minors; government reported one victim in 2019 received a temporary stay based on humanitarian concerns (one in 2018). Seven out of the 15 county courts had Victim and Witness Support Offices (VWSO) that provided assistance during criminal proceedings, including requests to testify via video link, referrals to specialized institutions, legal and logistical assistance, and measures to prevent re-traumatization. The government funded a civil society network to provide legal and psychological assistance and logistical support in county courts without VWSOs. Observers reported courts with VWSOs offered assistance consistently but the eight courts without a VWSO did not have the capacity or resources to provide victim-centered approaches. Some judges lacked sensitivity and an understanding of the impact of psychological trauma and required victims to provide statements or testimonies multiple times, causing re-traumatization. Children could provide testimonies to specialized professionals in child interview rooms, but observers reported, in one case, a judge required a minor to testify in court for seven hours. The law provided witness protection, but the government reported no victims entered witness protection in 2019. Authorities reported difficulties in encouraging victims to cooperate with investigations, particularly sex trafficking cases or cases involving potential foreign victims. Experts reported judges rejected claims for restitution in criminal cases and recommended victims request compensation or file a civil suit. Judges in civil courts were sometimes better positioned to assess emotional pain, but civil suits were expensive, lengthy, and required victims to re-testify about their exploitation, causing re-traumatization.