The government increased some protection efforts. The government identified 34 trafficking victims, an increase from 14 victims identified in 2018, 14 in 2017, and 13 in 2016. There were 33 adult and minor Venezuelan females identified as victims of sex trafficking and one male from India identified as a labor trafficking victim out of 180 vulnerable individuals law enforcement officials screened. A separate group of 46 female potential trafficking victims released from a group of suspected traffickers reported by media were also screened for trafficking. Authorities reported all identified victims received care and 22 victims from prior years continued to receive assistance during the reporting period, compared with 29 victims in 2018 and 14 in 2017. The CTU reported spending 120,000 TTD ($17,920) on victim protection and assistance in 2019, a decrease from 203,100 TTD ($30,330) in 2018 and 198,900 TTD ($29,700) in 2017. The government provided additional funding to children’s homes and adult victim accommodation through the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services. NGOs reported identifying and referring many additional victims to the CTU, but as the NGOs did not receive assistance or case follow-ups, NGOs reported they stopped referring them to the CTU. Outside experts noted there was insufficient government funding and personnel for comprehensive victim care. Some observers indicated that following police actions or immigration raids, authorities detained some foreign victims for violating immigration laws without screening for trafficking indicators or victim care—even though those unlawful acts occurred as part of the trafficking crime and traffickers may have compelled victims to commit them. The CTU reported intervening on behalf of some foreign victims to have them removed from detention centers to alternate sites.
The government jointly provided victim care services in conjunction with NGOs, which included accommodation, counseling, legal aid, consular services, medical and psychological services, assistance in their native language, reintegration for domestic victims and relocation for foreign victims, and in some cases skill and English language training. Observers reported a lack of appropriate shelters with adequate staff and security personnel. In February 2020, the cabinet established the Working Committee for the Delivery of Care to Trafficking Victims to improve quality of victim care. The government housed adult victims in a variety of locations; this varied from NGO-run shelters, government-funded accommodation, to international organization-funded accommodation based on the level of security risks and threats to the victim. Most female victims were housed in domestic violence shelters with strict rules restricting unchaperoned freedom of movement or communication outside. Observers noted that these restrictions caused some victims to run away from shelters or ask to be repatriated before investigations were completed. The government placed adult male victims at safe houses run by the security services. The Children’s Authority placed child victims in government-funded children’s homes in the community, although observers reported a lack of specialized care. While the government indicated victims were allowed to work and stay in country, in practice a majority were not allowed to work because of safety concerns. The government did not provide immigration relief to victims. Although the government agreed that an international body could conduct refugee status determinations, there was no impact on a trafficking victim’s legal status in country and refugee children could not access public education, rendering them more vulnerable to trafficking. Language interpretation services were not always available for counseling sessions and police interviews; experts reported shelters did not have bilingual staff or volunteers. In addition, some government officials noted a shortage of interpreters available to assist with foreign victim care and testimony. The CTU provided 24/7 security for victims who participated in court proceedings. Experts noted working-level staff at NGOs and shelters needed more training on trafficking indicators to better identify potential trafficking victims.