The government maintained minimal efforts to protect victims. The government has not identified a victim since 2016, when the government identified eight victims. The government reported law enforcement screened for trafficking indicators when detaining or arresting individuals involved in commercial sex, migrants, or other vulnerable groups. The government reported it did not receive any victim referrals from NGOs or civil society organizations. Two local NGOs reported that in the course of their work supporting victims of sexual and gender-based violence, they sometimes discovered a possible trafficking connection when the victim was an undocumented foreigner in irregular immigration status. These NGOs reported encountering approximately 20-30 potential trafficking victims during the reporting period, an increase from previous years, probably due to pandemic-driven economic hardship. However, the NGOs reported they did not formally document or report their findings to authorities, citing fear of retaliation from the traffickers against the potential victims.
During the reporting period, Cuban medical workers provided health services in response to the pandemic and Cuban athletic coaches worked in the country. The government reported that the Cuban medical workers were working under legal contract and were being treated in accordance with local labor laws but did not provide a copy of the contract. The government did not report any activities of the National Committee for Monitoring the Rights of the Child, which was responsible for outreach on protections for children, including against sex trafficking.
Both the police and immigration used standard operating procedures (SOPs) to interview potential victims. The government reported it updated the SOPs during the previous reporting period to take into account changing trafficking modes; the government had not approved the revised SOPs at the end of the reporting period. A formal referral process for government authorities and NGOs existed for victim care, as required by law, but the government reported having only an informal process by which the Sex Crimes and Trafficking Unit would identify a potential victim and then refer them to other members of the National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons (Task Force) for service provision. The Sex Crimes and Trafficking Unit also could place victims in protective care and refer them to an NGO-operated safe house, although it did not do so this reporting period. The government designated the Gender Affairs Bureau as the government coordinator for local NGO assistance to victims.
Under the TIPPA, all victims, including those with disabilities, had to be provided safe shelter, counseling, health care, and information regarding their rights. A foreign victim of trafficking and the victim’s accompanying dependent children could receive, for the duration of their stay and at the relevant minister’s discretion, support that included housing or safe shelter, education and training opportunities, psychological counseling, legal assistance, help with obtaining documents, living expenses, and medical assistance. Authorities could interview victims to ascertain their housing and general health care needs. The government had the capacity and financial resources to provide all services except housing but did not report doing so during the reporting period. There was no specialized shelter for trafficking victims. Female trafficking victims and their dependents could reside at an NGO-operated women’s domestic shelter; however, this shelter did not have the resources for, and previously struggled to assist, trafficking victims. The government had a separate agreement with an NGO to provide accommodations to male victims. Adult victims could leave shelters unchaperoned and could work while receiving assistance. The children’s care board could provide care for any identified child victims.
The TIPPA authorized the government to provide safeguards for victims’ identities and those of their families, issue work permits, and provide transportation and security during legal proceedings. Authorities initiated new measures during the reporting period to enable trafficking victims and witnesses to provide testimony virtually, including from other countries, but did not report using these measures during the reporting period. The government could accommodate victims who wished to be repatriated in a safe place; they could return without unreasonable delay. The government maintained an informal policy allowing foreign victims to receive temporary legal status as an alternative to their removal to countries where they face hardship or retribution by traffickers. The Minister of National Security could authorize victims, on a case-by-case basis, to remain and work in the country; however, the government did not report granting this status during the reporting period as it identified no victims. Government policy permitted victims to leave the country and return for hearings, but the government did not report any such instances during the reporting period. The TIPPA allowed courts to order restitution from a trafficker after a conviction; however, no victims received restitution during the reporting period.