The government maintained insufficient protection efforts. Public officials and NGOs identified 698 victims in 2019 (518 sex trafficking; 138 labor trafficking, including forced begging and forced theft; and 42 victims of attempted trafficking), an increase from 497 in 2018 and 662 in 2017. These statistics included victims from ongoing investigations and prosecutions initiated in previous years. Of these victims, 327 were minors. As in past years, fewer than half of identified victims received assistance. In 2019, 49 percent (339) of identified victims received assistance from public institutions, public-private partnerships, and NGOs, compared with 48 percent in 2018 and 46 percent in 2017. Authorities used the existing national victim identification and referral mechanism to identify and refer victims. While ANITP drafted a new mechanism in 2018 with the support of NGOs, the government did not implement it during the reporting period. Observers reported authorities did not proactively identify victims, particularly among vulnerable populations, such as individuals in commercial sex. They also noted authorities did not identify victims in key places such as placement centers, and identification typically occurred after a criminal investigation started. Consequently, NGOs claimed the actual number of victims was higher than the reported number. Observers also reported authorities fined persons in commercial sex, even if they were minors, without looking for trafficking indicators.
Based on information gathered during the identification process, authorities informed victims of the services available to them, after which victims decided the services they preferred and consented to the referral process. Authorities referred identified adult victims to ANITP and minor victims to child protection services. Victims received protection and assistance services in government-run facilities and in NGO-run trafficking shelters. The government maintained three government-run shelters designated for trafficking victims with the capacity to accommodate 18 adults; the shelters also housed domestic violence victims. Authorities placed child victims in general child facilities or in facilities for children with disabilities run by child protection services. Despite children representing 47 percent of identified victims, these shelters did not offer specialized services and frequently re-traumatized children. The National Authority for the Protection of Children’s Rights and Adoption (ANPDCA) reported that child protection services in most counties did not have the expertise and resources to offer services tailored to the special needs of trafficking victims. ANPDCA also reported local child protection services, which were supposed to provide service to trafficking victims, lacked the necessary knowledge that would allow them to justify funding requests for specialized services. Child protection services managed only two centers that focused specifically on child trafficking victims. Perennial problems of abuse and neglect of institutionalized children, coupled with the lack of proactive identification in government facilities, left children in placement centers vulnerable to trafficking. In 2019, authorities identified no foreign victims among refugees and asylum-seekers, but observers estimated there were dozens of cases. The law permitted foreign victims to request asylum and granted asylum-seekers the right to work after three months. The law also permitted foreign victims who cooperated with authorities to receive a renewable, six-month temporary residence permit. Romanian victims abroad received free travel documents issued by Romanian embassies; however, the government did not pay for repatriation expenses, resulting in NGOs and an international organization having to absorb the costs.
Nonexistence of government funding for NGO assistance and protection services remained a problem. While the government relied on NGOs to accommodate and assist victims, it did not allocate grants directly to NGOs due to legislation precluding direct funding. The government did not impose mandatory minimum standards on the quality of victim assistance, and as a result, assistance varied greatly depending on the facility. The law entitled all victims to psychological and medical care; however, the government did not provide more than one mental health counseling session and did not finance medical care costs. NGOs paid for all psychological services costs for victims due to the government’s refusal to reimburse psychologists who assisted victims. NGOs also covered victims’ emergency medical care costs because the government lacked financial assistance, and medical care required payment upfront. Moreover, access to medical care required Romanian victims to return to their home districts to obtain identity documents. The process presented logistical and financial hurdles for many trafficking victims; NGOs also covered those costs.
In general, victims lacked adequate support during criminal cases. In 2019, 255 victims participating in criminal proceedings accessed services available to victims assisting law enforcement; these services included concealing victims’ identities, protection at victims’ residence, and transporting victims during travel. While the government provided legal aid to victims, the lawyers assigned often lacked experience working with trafficking victims. Additionally, the government published the names of all trial witnesses, including minors, on the internet, putting victim-witnesses at risk of retaliation. The law entitled victims to reparation from their traffickers; however, victims generally could not afford the fees necessary to initiate civil trials or, in cases in which judges ordered restitution, to pay court officers to collect the money owed from traffickers. However, if victims did not obtain restitution in court, the government could reimburse for expenses related to hospitalization, material damage caused by the traffickers, and revenues victims lost while being trafficked. Furthermore, in the event traffickers’ assets were not seized but a guilty verdict was reached, the government could pay material damages for documented expenses, such as medical bills.