The government maintained protection efforts. The government identified seven victims (30 in 2019 and five in 2018); two were victims of sex trafficking and five were victims of forced labor, including three victims of forced begging; two adults were female, three adults were male, and three were children. In 2019, 24 were victims of sex trafficking and six were victims of forced begging; 28 were female and two were male; all were children. Mobile units and the task force screened 467 individuals (651 in 2019) in commercial sex or employed in vulnerable sectors for trafficking indicators. Authorities interviewed an additional two individuals deemed “high-risk” (two in 2019) due to work at businesses that violated labor standards. Authorities screened 1,177 Georgian nationals deported from other countries for trafficking indicators at the international airport and border crossings (2,521 in 2019). While the government reported fewer inspections and interviews because of business and border closures in response to the pandemic, observers reported a lack of government capacity to identify victims of forced labor and alleged that victim identification efforts, particularly raids on commercial sex establishments, were proven ineffective by the low number of identified victims. The government continued to use guidelines for victim identification, including the proper treatment of victims, screening for indicators, and victim-centered interview practices. The government drafted guidelines for mobile units on identifying child victims among children in labor and/or in homeless situations. A multidisciplinary national referral mechanism (NRM) provided standard operating procedures for officially identifying and referring victims to services. Law enforcement officially recognized victims who participated in investigations, and the Permanent Group assessed and officially recognized victims who declined to participate in investigations; both recognitions granted victims access to the same protection and assistance services. The Permanent Group comprised a five-member board of NGO and international organization representatives and was required by statute to convene and assess a potential victim within 48 hours. Law enforcement officially recognized seven victims, and the Permanent Group officially recognized three victims during the reporting period. GRETA and other experts reported the threshold to obtain victim status through the Permanent Group was high and shifted the burden of proof to victims. For example, the Permanent Group did not grant victim status in 2019, while law enforcement officially recognized all 30 identified victims. IOM reported the work of the Permanent Group improved in 2020, after the government adopted improvements to the procedures of the Permanent Group in 2019.
Government-run crisis centers in five cities and NGOs provided initial psychological care, medical assistance, legal support, and temporary shelter for potential victims awaiting official victim status. Additionally, the government operated anti-trafficking shelters in Tbilisi and Batumi and other victim assistance programs; the government allocated 760,750 lari ($232,640) to the government-run anti-trafficking shelters, compared with 591,000 lari ($180,730) in 2019. The government offered medical aid, psycho-social support, legal assistance, childcare services, reintegration support, and a one-time financial payment of 1,000 lari ($310) to victims. Child victims received the same specialized assistance, in addition to custodial care, education, and family reintegration programs. The government-run shelters were staffed by a nurse and psychologist and offered separate sections for men, women, and children. Victims can initially stay at the shelter for three months, which authorities may extend upon the victim’s request; the government-run shelters accommodated nine victims (six in 2019). Shelter staff chaperoned victims when leaving the shelter, but victims could request to leave the shelter unchaperoned. Five victims received medical care and psycho-social support, six received legal aid, and three received 1,000 lari ($310) in cash assistance, compared with one victim receiving legal aid, one receiving medical care, and none receiving the 1,000 lari ($310) in cash assistance in 2019. In March 2021, the government amended the law to remove a clause that denied victims the 1,000lari ($310) cash assistance if they received restitution from their trafficker in court. Government-run shelters provided personal protective equipment, disinfectants, and COVID-19 tests and adopted social distancing measures, including a space for victims to quarantine for 14 days before moving to the shelter. The government-run shelter also organized an epidemiologist to train nine staff members on victim assistance during a pandemic. While observers occasionally visited the two government-run shelters, experts reported an inability to assess the quality of services at the shelters due to a lack of independent evaluations of the operations and conditions. In previous years, observers reported government-run shelters focused on victims of domestic violence due to the low number of identified trafficking victims and were unable to provide specialized services to trafficking victims.
There were no reports the government penalized victims for crimes their traffickers compelled them to commit. The government provided equal services for domestic and foreign victims and granted foreign victims renewable one-year residence permits with the ability to seek legal employment; five victims received a residence permit (one in 2019). The government could provide repatriation assistance to Georgian victims returning to Georgia and foreign victims wishing to leave Georgia, but it reported no victims required repatriation assistance (none in 2019). The law required closed-door sessions for court proceedings and allowed victims to leave the country pending trial; however, experts reported law enforcement required victims to remain in country through the end of the trial, likely hindering victim cooperation, particularly from foreign victims wanting to repatriate, due to slow court proceedings. Six victims assisted law enforcement (24 in 2019). PGO’s victim-witness coordinators provided counsel to victims from the beginning of the investigation through the end of the court proceedings; victim-witness coordinators provided assistance to 12 child victims and six adult witnesses. The law allowed recorded testimony or testimony by other technological means; three witnesses and one minor victim testified remotely using video conference devices (none in 2019). The law also allowed the possibility of placing a victim into the state’s witness protection program; no victims required the use of witness protection in 2019 or 2020. Victims could obtain restitution through criminal proceedings or compensation through civil suits; however, judges have never awarded restitution or compensation to victims, and observers highlighted the failure to freeze and seize criminal assets as an obstacle to pursuing restitution from traffickers.