The government maintained victim protection efforts. The MOI’s Program of Support and Protection of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings (the Program) remained the only official source of data on victim identification and protection, although the 2020-2023 national strategy included data collection reform as a key objective. The government did not officially recognize victims who did not participate in the Program, although it provided support to NGOs who identified and helped potential or unidentified victims. Police data collection focused on perpetrators rather than victims; an overly broad definition of a victim according to police regulations further hindered data accuracy. In 2020, 13 new victims (six men and seven women) entered the Program, a decrease from 15 in 2019 and 17 in 2018. Police referred three victims to the Program and NGOs referred eight, while two victims were reported jointly. In 2020, government-funded NGOs provided services or other support to 317 victims or potential victims, a significant increase from 259 in 2019 and 180 in 2018. The MOI distributed an electronic manual that described trafficking indicators among vulnerable populations to assist government officials in identifying victims and began work with representatives from socially excluded localities on a new, more inclusive list of trafficking indicators. However, observers noted the manual lacked a clear systematic procedure for identifying victims or referring them to the correct services. The agency also continued distributing a card-sized version and a manual outlining best practices in handling child trafficking cases to regional police. While the government made some effort to identify foreign victims of labor trafficking among the increasing number of illegally employed foreigners from non-EU countries, observers noted there were persistent weaknesses.
The Program provided medical care, psychological and crisis counseling, housing, legal representation, vocational training, and other specialized services to officially recognized foreign and Czech adult victims of sex and labor trafficking regardless of their immigration status. The MOI provided funding and administrative oversight and selected one NGO to be the primary implementing partner and to manage subcontracts to other NGOs for additional specialized services. Victims with children were generally placed in an NGO-run shelter, or into other MOI-funded housing. Participants in the Program were granted a 60-day reflection period, after which they were required to assist law enforcement if they wanted to stay in the Program, unless subject to a serious health issue. As assisting in the criminal case was a prerequisite for participation in the Program after the 60 days, only victims whose traffickers faced criminal charges were therefore eligible for these MOI-funded services. The MOI drafted procedures that would allow victims to remain in the Program even after termination of the criminal process against the trafficker, thus granting victims easier access to free legal representation in civil compensation proceedings. Victims could voluntarily withdraw from the Program at any time and would remain eligible for services under the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MLSA); all victims in the Program during 2020 chose to cooperate with law enforcement. Victims who chose to cooperate with law enforcement were eligible for a free legal advocate and, in some cases, the option to choose the gender of the judge or to testify via videoconference. Foreign victims accepted into the Program could receive temporary residence and work visas for the duration of relevant legal proceedings. Victims could receive assistance to return to their country of origin at any time or, upon completion of the Program, could apply for permanent residency; the government granted permanent residency to two victims in 2020 (eight in 2019 and two in 2018), extended immigration relief to one victim, and granted one long-term residence permit to a victim due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.
Victims unwilling to assist law enforcement through the Program were eligible to access MLSA-funded welfare benefits, including housing, in-person and telephone crisis help, counseling and social rehabilitation, drop-in centers for children, and social services for families with children. Although the government did not provide specialized centers specifically for child trafficking victims, there was a unique national referral mechanism for child victims and social workers developed individualized support plans for potential child trafficking victims, who received welfare benefits, such as shelter, food, clothing, and medical and psychological counseling. An NGO noted the government increased the number of mental health service providers for child victims during the reporting period. Nevertheless, observers reported identification procedures, crisis support, and long-term services for child trafficking victims remained insufficient. The 2020-2023 national strategy included a plan to study child trafficking in the Czech Republic and to create educational materials for first responders on the identification of and assistance to child victims.
The MOI allocated approximately 1.6 million koruna ($77,090) for the victim assistance program and voluntary returns, the same amount as in 2019 and 2018; the Program did not spend the full allotment. An international organization used some of this funding to repatriate one victim (three in 2019) and an NGO worked with the government to repatriate one potential victim. The MLSA increased its funding to NGOs to provide social services, including to trafficking victims not in the MOI program. MLSA funding for NGOs increased during the reporting period. NGOs reported sufficient funding for short- and long-term activities and believed the ability to use MLSA funds for purposes other than the standard social services they already provided, such as public transportation tickets, telephone, medical checks, and psychological therapy, allowed them to offer more holistic services, which were limited in previous years due to regulations on use of these funds. Nevertheless, NGOs reported the MLSA’s funding structure inhibited long-term planning, as funds were only allocated one year at a time and did not arrive until after the beginning of the fiscal year. To guarantee victims’ access to social services during the pandemic, the government increased funding to provide monthly bonuses for social workers to encourage their continued engagement.
While there were no reports of victims penalized for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit, border police and asylum and migration officials occasionally failed to recognize trafficking indicators among asylum-seekers and did not always proactively screen migrants, including those in detention, for indicators of trafficking. Additionally, the government did not report case details of the two children in a government institution convicted for sex trafficking another child. According to an NGO report, Czech police operating in North Macedonia participated in violent pushbacks of migrants into Greece, which discouraged victims from cooperating and self-identifying. Experts noted some courts declined to recognize victims in migration detention facilities as such if they did not self-identify as victims in their initial asylum claims. Some experts criticized the Refugee Facility Administration (RFA) for charging a daily fee to some migrants for stays in transit zones; such fees could increase the vulnerability of potential victims to debt-based coercion. The RFA maintained a system where potential victims and other members of at-risk groups that were identified in an entrance interview for asylum-seekers would be voluntarily housed in a guarded facility or, if in immediate danger, referred to NGOs for services; the RFA did not identify any victims in the transit zones in 2018, 2019, or 2020.
Victims had the legal option of seeking court-ordered compensation from their traffickers through civil suits; however, compensation was rare, as victims could not afford attorney fees for a civil suit. To seek civil damages, the law required a finding of criminal misconduct against the defendant. The law also allowed victims to obtain restitution in criminal proceedings, although courts rarely issued restitution to victims in criminal cases. An NGO reported one victim received 300,000 koruna ($14,460) as restitution for a forced labor case in 2020. During the reporting period, the November 2019 court judgment awarding a record 5 million koruna ($240,920) to the victims in a case involving a transnational trafficking operation went under appeal.