The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government officially identified 94 victims (91 in 2019); 85 were female sex trafficking victims, five were female forced labor victims, and four were male forced labor victims (85 female sex trafficking victims and six male forced labor victims in 2019); one was a foreign victim from Russia (two foreign victims from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in 2019); and two were child victims (one in 2019). Most officially identified victims were Azerbaijani victims identified in destination countries or foreign victims exploited in Azerbaijan; officials identified eight Azerbaijani victims of internal trafficking (one in 2019). The government did not report information on identified children and parents “involved in begging for the purpose of helping their parents” in 2019 or 2020 (450 children and 207 parents in 2018) but observers reported police declined to investigate potential forced child begging cases and returned most children to their parents without investigating the role of the family in the children’s exploitation, leaving these children vulnerable to further harm. The government had standard operating procedures (SOPs) for victim identification but first responders, including law enforcement, immigration, and social services personnel, were either unaware of the procedures or did not consistently follow or understand them. Observers continued to report the lack of screening of vulnerable populations for trafficking indicators, including women, children, LGBTQI+ persons in commercial sex, and foreign migrant workers. Additionally, the government lacked policies tailored to children, such as interview questions, indicators, and referral procedures. SOPs required first responders to refer potential victims within 24 hours to ATD, which officially identified victims based on an investigation. NGOs and the government provided support services to some potential victims; however, individuals without official recognition did not receive the one-time government-provided allowance and did not have the ability to bring a civil claim against the alleged traffickers. Civil society referred two potential victims to ATD in 2020 but none of the potential victims were determined by ATD as trafficking victims.
The government allocated 119,000 manat ($70,000) for victim assistance, compared with 110,000 manat ($64,710) in 2019. The government also allocated 113,350 manat ($66,670) for the MIA-run shelter, compared with 84,700 manat ($49,820) in 2019. The State NGO Council provided 172,000 manat ($101,180) for 19 civil society projects, including 30,000 manat ($17,650) for two NGO-run shelters, compared with 209,000 manat ($122,940) for 20 projects, including 57,000 manat ($33,530) for two NGO-run shelters in 2019. MIA provided a land grant in October to an NGO to construct a new shelter, but government funding overall was still inadequate for NGO-run shelters. NGO-run shelters remained severely underfunded and restrictive legislation governing foreign grants limited NGOs’ ability to receive funding from external donors. Most NGO-run shelter staff who provided support services worked on a voluntary basis. The MIA operated a shelter for trafficking victims, which provided accommodation, financial assistance, legal assistance, and medical and psycho-social support; 80 officially identified victims received support at the shelter (78 in 2019). The MIA-run shelter had separate areas for women, men, and children but limited freedom of movement and required victims to submit an application to leave the shelter. The MIA-run shelter accommodated potential victims for up to one month but longer stays required victims to cooperate with law enforcement. The MIA-run shelter provided the only accommodation for male victims. The government provided a resettlement allowance of 700 manat ($412) for officially identified victims; 91 officially identified victims received the resettlement allowance, the same number as in 2019. The VAC in Baku and Goychay provided legal, psychological, medical, and employment assistance to officially recognized and potential victims. VACs assisted 32 officially identified victims (85 in 2019), including 19 victims and four of their children with medical aid, 14 with psychological assistance, and 11 with legal aid. The government did not provide data on the number of potential victims who received assistance from VACs in 2019 or 2020. The government aided 12 officially identified victims to find employment (14 in 2019) and 25 with vocational training (45 in 2019). The government provided in-kind support and assistance to children of victims; 27 children received school supplies (56 in 2019), 14 children received identity documents (14 in 2019), and 27 children were enrolled in preschool education (22 in 2019). Observers reported that low pay for VAC employees led to high staff turnover and decreased service quality due to inexperienced staff assisting victims. In previous years, the government awarded some contracts to organizations with no experience and jeopardized victim safety and assistance quality. The government referred 80 victims to NGO-run shelters (67 in 2019). NGO-run shelters operated at full capacity despite pandemic mitigation efforts but one NGO-run shelter in Ganja suspended operations after shelling in the armed conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh damaged its facility. The SMS did not report data on the number of temporary residence permits issued to foreign victims in 2019 or 2020 but the government assisted a foreign victim in obtaining a passport.
Observers reported that law enforcement’s attitude towards victims improved, but authorities may have penalized sex trafficking victims with administrative fines for prostitution crimes due to an absence of screening efforts. In previous years, an international organization referred foreign migrant workers who displayed indicators of trafficking, but ATD did not recognize any as a victim and authorities subsequently deported some. Authorities did not use victim-witness protection measures for trafficking victims. In previous years, GRETA and other international organizations reported prosecutors believed such measures were unnecessary for trafficking victims and noted the lack of licensed attorneys providing legal assistance to victims due to low pay. Children testified without a child psychologist or attorney to communicate legal terminology in a child-friendly manner, which may have caused further trauma to these children. Judges did not issue restitution in criminal cases and did not provide information on compensation in civil suits. The government reported confiscating property, cash, securities, and other assets from traffickers and transferring it to a victim assistance fund.