The government maintained victim protection efforts. The MOI’s Program of Support and Protection of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings (the Program) remained the only official source of data on victim identification and protection; the government did not officially recognize victims who did not participate in the Program. Police data collection focused on perpetrators rather than victims; an overly broad definition of a victim according to police regulations further hindered data accuracy. In 2019, 15 new victims (11 men and four women) entered the Program, a decrease from 17 in 2018 and 24 in 2017. Of the victims in the program, six were from the Philippines, one was from Slovakia, and eight were Czech citizens. Police referred 11 victims and NGOs referred four victims. In 2019, government-funded NGOs provided services or other support to 259 victims or potential victims, a significant increase from 180 in 2018 and 137 in 2017. The MOI distributed a manual that described trafficking indicators among vulnerable populations to assist government officials in identifying victims. The agency also developed a card-sized version to distribute to regional police; however, observers noted the manual lacked a clear systematic procedure for identifying victims or referring them to the correct services. NGOs reported concern about potential trafficking victims in custody going unidentified, which may have led to the penalization of victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. While the government made some effort to identify foreign victims of labor trafficking among the increasing number of illegally employed foreigners from non-EU countries, observers noted there were persistent weaknesses.
The Program provided medical care, psychological and crisis counseling, housing, legal representation, vocational training, and other specialized services to officially recognized foreign and Czech adult victims of sex and labor trafficking regardless of their immigration status. The MOI provided funding and administrative oversight and selected one NGO to be the primary implementing partner and to manage sub-contracts to other NGOs for additional specialized services. Program-funded shelters, however, often lacked the capacity to house victims with children and had to make other arrangements for them. Participants in the program were granted a 60-day reflection period, after which they were required to assist law enforcement if they wanted to stay in the program, unless subject to a serious health issue. As assisting in the criminal case was a prerequisite for participation in the program after the 60 days, only victims whose traffickers faced criminal charges were therefore eligible for these MOI-funded services. Victims could voluntarily withdraw from the program at any time and would remain eligible for services under the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MLSA); one victim chose to leave the program after this reflection period rather than assist in the investigation in 2019. Victims who chose to participate in the prosecution of their trafficker were eligible for a free legal advocate and, in some cases, the option to choose the gender of the judge or to testify via videoconference. Foreign victims accepted into the program could receive temporary residence and work visas for the duration of relevant legal proceedings. Victims could receive assistance to return to their country of origin at any time or, upon completion of the program, could apply for permanent residency; eight victims received permanent residency in 2019 (two in 2018 and none 2017). Victims unwilling to assist law enforcement were eligible to access MLSA-funded welfare benefits, including housing, in-person and telephone crisis help, social counseling and rehabilitation, a drop-in center for children and youth, and social services for families with children. Although there was a unique national referral mechanism for child and youth victims, there were no specialized programs to provide services specifically to child victims of trafficking, and observers reported identification procedures, crisis support, and long-term services were insufficient. Municipal-level offices of the department of social and legal protection of children made decisions to place children with an institution or NGO. Child victims received MLSA-funded welfare benefits, such as shelter, food, clothing, and medical and psychological counseling.
The MOI allocated approximately 1.6 million koruna ($72,190) for the victim assistance program and voluntary returns, the same amount as in 2018; the program did not spend the full allotment. An international organization used some of this funding to repatriate three victims (three in 2018). The MLSA funded NGOs to provide social services, including to trafficking victims not in the MOI program. Three NGOs reported receiving the full amount or more of their funding requests during the reporting period. Nevertheless, NGOs reported the MLSA’s funding was limited to a specific range of social services, and the structure inhibited long-term planning, as funds were only allocated one year at a time and did not arrive until after the beginning of the fiscal year.
Border police and asylum and migration officials occasionally failed to recognize trafficking indicators among asylum-seekers and did not always proactively screen migrants, including those in detention, for indicators of trafficking. Experts noted some courts declined to recognize victims in migration detention facilities as such if they did not self-identify as victims in their initial asylum claims. Some experts criticized the Refugee Facility Administration (RFA) for charging a daily fee to some migrants for stays in transit zones; such fees increased the vulnerability of potential victims. The RFA designed a process where potential victims and other members of at-risk groups that were identified in an entrance interview for asylum-seekers would be voluntarily housed in a guarded facility or, if in immediate danger, referred to NGOs for services; the RFA did not identify any victims in the transit zones in 2017, 2018, or 2019.
Victims had the legal option of seeking court-ordered compensation from their traffickers through civil suits; however, compensation was rare, as victims could not afford attorney fees for a civil suit. To seek civil damages, the law required a finding of criminal misconduct against the defendant. The law also allowed victims to obtain restitution in criminal proceedings, although courts rarely issued restitution to victims in criminal cases. In November 2019, a court judgment awarded a record five million koruna ($225,580) to the victims in a case involving a transnational trafficking operation, subject to appeal.