The government increased victim protection efforts. The government identified 80 potential trafficking victims during the reporting period, an increase compared with 61 in 2019. Of these, 17 were victims of sex trafficking, 48 of forced begging, and 15 of multiple types of exploitation; 55 were female and 25 were male; 45 were children; and seven were foreign victims. The government implemented a new database to standardize data collection and expand access to information on identified trafficking victims. Two bylaws provided standard operating procedures (SOPs) for identifying and referring victims to services, including a list of general indicators, but observers continued to report that first responders did not know or consistently use the guidelines and lacked the knowledge to accurately identify trafficking victims. The government operated seven drop-in centers for children and a mobile team for street children in Sarajevo that conducted outreach work. The mobile team identified 165 (160 street children in 2019) and drop-in centers provided 373 children with academic tutoring, hot meals, and laundry services (163 in 2019). Drop-in centers lacked resources, capacity, and staff and could only provide basic food, workshops, and short-term accommodation for a small number of children. Observers reported mobile team members were attacked, threatened, and intimidated by traffickers and perpetrators during their outreach efforts but law enforcement did not investigate these allegations. Law enforcement and social workers at centers for social welfare (CSW) justified cases of potential forced child begging and forced labor involving Roma as traditional cultural practices and customs and sometimes returned children to their families even when parents were involved in their exploitation. In addition, a report from an international organization indicated first responders, including border police, local police, and Service for Foreigners’ Affairs, lacked standard guidelines and trafficking indicators for migration flows, interview questions and interpreters, as well as general capacity to screen the large influx of migrants and refugees. First responders referred potential trafficking victims to law enforcement, which conducted an interview and had authority to officially recognize victims. However, international organizations reported the interview and identification procedures lacked transparency and authorities often required victims to cooperate with investigations and prosecutions to receive assistance and support.
The government partly funded five NGO-run shelters and authorities referred 51 victims to them in 2020. The Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees allocated 60,000 convertible marks ($37,640) to four NGOs assisting domestic trafficking victims in 2020 and the Ministry of Security allocated 70,000 convertible marks ($43,910) to two NGOs assisting foreign victims in 2020. In 2019, the government did not disburse funds to NGOs due to the absence of a state government and budget. The government merged the internal and foreign victim funds into one victim protection fund with 130,000 convertible marks ($81,560) administered by the State Coordinator. This provided a more effective use of victim assistance funds than in previous years when the government returned unused funds allocated to assist foreign victims to the state budget instead of reallocating those funds for internal victim assistance. The government, in cooperation with NGOs, provided accommodation, psycho-social support, medical assistance, legal assistance, and guardianship for child victims. While access to care was not standardized and was based on bylaws that were not legally binding, the government, in cooperation with an NGO, drafted guidelines and standards on providing assistance to victims, particularly children. NGO-run shelters allowed victims to leave voluntarily after informing the staff, but no mechanisms were in place to assist victims outside of shelters, including at CSW. One NGO-run shelter accommodated male trafficking victims but did not offer specialized services. Authorities reported developing a reintegration plan for each victim, including vocational training, but the government did not provide funding for reintegration programs, and observers reported victims spent, at times, multiple years at shelters due to slow court proceedings and a lack of reintegration opportunities. The law provided repatriation assistance to Bosnian citizens identified abroad and foreigners identified in Bosnia; no victims required repatriation assistance in 2019 and one victim required assistance in 2020. Foreign victims were eligible for a humanitarian visa allowing them to temporarily live and work in BiH, and victims were permitted a 30-day reflection period to determine whether they wanted to request a visa; one foreign victim received a humanitarian visa, compared with three in 2019.
The government penalized victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit due to inadequate identification efforts; authorities penalized victims of sex trafficking, forced begging, and forced criminality with misdemeanor charges for petty crimes with some victims owing 10,000 to 15,000 convertible marks ($6,270 to $9,410) after receiving multiple fines. The government reported SOPs incorporated non-penalization standards but acknowledged authorities still penalized victims due to a lack of knowledge of the SOPs exacerbated by frequent rotations and turnover. Sub-state laws against “enticement to prostitution” permitted law enforcement to treat children 14 years and older as juveniles willingly engaged in commercial sex instead of victims of rape or sex trafficking; there were six prosecutions of enticement to prostitution in 2020. The law provided witness protection and free legal aid; the government did not report the number of victims in witness protection and relied mainly on NGOs to provide free legal aid. The government did not consistently conduct victim-centered investigations and prosecutions. For example, prosecutors did not need certification to work with children and often interrogated child victims without a psychologist or social worker present. Police did not consistently notify victims’ lawyers when conducting interviews, and some courts required victims to testify with no prior notification or preparation. Victims could obtain restitution through criminal proceedings or compensation through civil suits; in 2019, a district court awarded a victim 7,500 convertible marks ($4,710) but the victim has not received the restitution because seized properties and assets of the traffickers went toward the state budget rather than restitution. Judges generally rejected restitution in criminal proceedings and encouraged victims to seek compensation by filing civil suits, according to observers, who noted civil suits required victims to submit new testimonies and medical examinations, causing re-traumatization, despite the government convicting their trafficker in criminal proceedings.