The government further decreased its minimal protection efforts. The government identified eight trafficking victims, including four women and four girls, compared with six victims in 2018, 12 in 2017, 13 in 2016, and 30 in 2015. The government reported there were no additional victims identified by NGOs and other organizations; however, outside data indicated there were at least several dozen NGO-identified trafficking victims in 2019. Although the government claimed there were no foreign trafficking victims in 2019, an international organization arranged the repatriation of three victims to Guatemala, Panama, and Costa Rica. The government reported developing a new set of protocols for identifying child and adolescent trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; it did not, however, share further details or confirm implementation, and observers could not substantiate the reports. Officials did not identify any victims in the autonomous regions where one-sixth of the population resided and where identification and referral mechanisms were lacking.
The government provided medical and psychological attention, legal advice, and protection measures for the eight victims it identified, who were Nicaraguan nationals. The government reported there was an allocation for trafficking victim protection in the national budget, but it did not provide for specialized services or shelters and the government did not disclose a figure for these allocations. The government placed two adolescent victims in non-specialized shelters and returned the other two adolescent victims to their homes, despite risk of re-victimization. The government did not prioritize accessibility for disabled trafficking victims in care facilities. There were no shelters available for men. NGOs reported there was minimal, if any, formal coordination with the government on victim services provision.
According to the government, adult victims were free to leave shelters at will, but it was not clear whether they were permitted to do so without supervision. The government did not provide long-term care, and the availability of extended services from NGOs was limited. The government did not provide funding to or collaborate with NGOs that provided the majority of victim protection, sometimes leaving victims without vital assistance. Observers reported the government maintained an unofficial policy of placing victims with family members, which puts these individuals at risk of re-victimization by family members who may have been complicit in their exploitation. The Ministry of Family coordinated services for child trafficking victims, including medical and legal services and access to education. Both Managua and regions outside Managua largely lacked adequate services for trafficking victims.
Law 896 established a dedicated fund for victim protection and prevention activities to be financed through budget allocation, donations, and seized assets from traffickers. However, for the fifth year, there was no indication that the government made the fund operational. Law 896 provided victims the ability to testify in advance of the trial and allowed testimony via video or written statement to encourage participation and protect a victim’s identity; however, the government did not report using these provisions during the reporting period. Victims may obtain compensation by filing civil suits against traffickers; however, the government and NGOs reported that, in practice, victims had never exercised this right. The government reported one instance of limited collaboration with a foreign government to identify a victim. While there were no reports of identified victims penalized for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit, authorities frequently misclassified trafficking victims, potentially resulting in penalties for misidentified victims. The government did not report efforts to screen for or identify trafficking victims among migrant populations or individuals in commercial sex. Nicaraguan law provided for humanitarian visas for foreign trafficking victims, but the government did not recognize any foreign victims in 2019.