The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified 150 victims (31 in 2018), some of whom fell into more than one category of exploitation; 111 were sex trafficking victims, 68 were forced labor cases, including 42 cases of forced begging, two cases of forced criminality, and one case of recruitment for armed operations (30 were victims of sex trafficking and one of forced labor in 2018); 116 were female, 28 were male, two were transgender, and no information on four victims (27 female and four male in 2018); 49 were minors (nine minors in 2018); and 126 were foreign victims (26 foreign victims in 2018). The government standardized data collection and, unlike previous years, aggregated and produced all statistics on victim identification from government and civil society stakeholders. Observers commended ATU’s ability to consistently identify victims but noted other government efforts were largely reactive and reliant on self-identification. The Hellenic National Public Health Organization and regional asylum officers screened migrants, asylum-seekers, and unaccompanied children for trafficking indicators at island Reception and Identification Centers (RIC); regional asylum offices identified 15 victims (two in 2018). However, asylum-seekers waited longer than a month for their screening due to a lack of staff and resources, resulting in a trafficking survivor re-victimized in a migrant camp while waiting for legal documents and RIC screening procedures. Each RIC designated a trafficking focal point who collected information on potential trafficking cases, but many staff working at RICs were on short-term contracts, which limited their experience and training to identify victims. Civil society and media continued to report incidents in which authorities allegedly assaulted and harassed refugees and migrants, forcibly removing them to Turkey. Greece temporarily suspended asylum applications for the month of March in response to the movement of thousands of people in Turkey to the Greece-Turkey land border in Evros. The border closure prevented victims from self-identifying or cooperating with authorities. Observers reported a lack of identification efforts for victims of forced labor, particularly in the agriculture sector, cleaning and domestic service, and the tourism industry; however, labor inspectors reported the difficulties in conducting inspections in rural areas and on islands due to the community receiving prior notice before inspections from local citizens. Proactive identification among vulnerable unaccompanied children also remained inadequate, including for forced begging and forced criminality. International organizations reported some first responders could not distinguish between sex trafficking and commercial sex, rejected sex trafficking victims who self-identified, and, at times, sent them back to the trafficker.
The government launched a multi-disciplinary NRM, including appropriate standard operating procedures and referral forms. The NRM required first responders to inform and coordinate with EKKA when potential victims were identified for victim care and placement; government entities referred 68 victims and civil society organizations referred 82 victims. The government, separately and in cooperation with international organizations and NGOs, trained law enforcement, immigration officers, social service workers, labor inspectors, and health workers on victim identification and new referral procedures. The law authorized public prosecutors to officially recognize victims based on information collected by law enforcement or a psychologist and a social worker, if a victim did not want to cooperate with law enforcement. However, observers reported inconsistent use of psychologists and social workers for identification procedures; only victims who cooperated with investigations received the status, and procedures could take up to two years for victims to receive official status. Official victim status entitled foreign victims to a renewable one-year residence and work permit; victims without this status only had access to immediate support and assistance. Additionally, the government did not recognize victims who were exploited abroad but identified in Greece. Of the 150 victims identified by the government, public prosecutors granted official victim status to only two victims, while 25 victims were in the process of receiving official victim status; 44 victims were EU citizens and 24 were Greek citizens who did not need a residence and work permit.
The government, in cooperation with NGOs, provided shelter, psycho-social support, medical care, legal aid, and reintegration support. The government was unable to determine how much total funding was spent on victim protection and did not allocate funding to civil society, with the exception of projects co-financed by the EU and state budget funds. EKKA secured €631,840 ($709,930) from EU security funds to support the NRM from 2018 to 2022 and maintained a memorandum of understanding with an NGO to host a legal consultant and two anti-trafficking advisors. Two agencies provided shelter and general support services to trafficking victims: the General Secretariat for Family Policy and Gender Equality (GSFPGE) operated 19 shelters and 42 counseling centers for female victims of violence, and EKKA operated two long-term shelters, an emergency shelter, and two Social Support Centers for vulnerable populations in need of assistance. GSFPGE and EKKA shelters assisted 12 victims (nine victims in 2018). However, EKKA and GSFPGE shelters rejected some victims from accessing support due to the lack of capacity, resources, and space to provide assistance and accommodation. Victims in rural areas and islands had little access to support services and often were accommodated in police stations, hospital wards, or received no assistance. Observers reported a lack of specialized shelters for victims with only one NGO-run shelter providing specialized assistance for female trafficking victims. Only an NGO-run shelter for sexually exploited men and short-term government shelters for asylum-seekers or homeless persons could accommodate male victims. Government-run shelters, NGO-run shelters, and facilities for unaccompanied minors accommodated child victims but did not provide specialized support. Central and local governments also maintained cooperation agreements with some NGOs to house, protect, and assist vulnerable children, including trafficking victims, and allocated buildings to use as shelters. Observers reported overcrowded facilities for child victims, and authorities held vulnerable unaccompanied children in police cells up to several months due to a lack of shelters. Victims who did not apply for official recognition could receive a residence and work permit by applying for asylum or for a residence permit on humanitarian grounds; the government issued two residence permits (10 in 2018) and renewed an additional 13 for certified victims (13 in 2018); the government did not provide statistics on residence permits or granting of asylum to victims who lacked official recognition. The process to receive residence permits was difficult without an attorney and took time.
The government may have deported, detained, or restricted freedom movement of some trafficking victims due to inadequate identification efforts. Prosecutors relied heavily on victim testimony without corroborating evidence, and court proceedings often lasted two to six years, which hindered cooperation from victims and key witnesses. For example, an appeals court unanimously acquitted 20 traffickers convicted of sex trafficking in November 2018 after the four victims that testified against them in lower courts did not attend court proceedings. The government did not provide funding for travel and other expenses for victims to attend court hearings, and some suspected traffickers intentionally postponed court appearances to increase the chances of victims being unwilling to testify in court and/or may have paid bribes to repatriated victims to preclude them from testifying. In previous years, observers reported traffickers likely bribed state-certified interpreters to alter the content of victim statements or influence their testimony. The law entitled victims to mental health professionals during court proceedings and the use of audiovisual technology for remote testimony, but many courts lacked the capabilities to deploy these resources and some judges did not allow it, even in cases where the lack of these benefits could cause re-traumatization. The law provided for witness protection and non-disclosure of the witness’ personal information; however, no trafficking victims received full witness protection privileges to date; police only escorted victims during trials; and courts revealed victims’ identities during proceedings. Prosecutors did not request restitution for victims in criminal proceedings; no victims to date had received restitution from their traffickers. Greek law entitled victims to file civil suits against traffickers for compensation; no victims to date had received compensation from their traffickers.