The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified 167 victims (150 in 2019) some of whom fell into more than one category of exploitation; 75 were sex trafficking victims, 94 were forced labor victims, including 73 victims of forced begging, two victims of forced criminality, and one victim of “slavery;” 78 were women and 15 were men; 35 were girls and 39 were boys; and 140 were foreign victims. Observers commended ATU’s ability to consistently identify victims but noted other government efforts were largely reactive and reliant on self-identification. The Hellenic National Public Health Organization and regional reception service and asylum officers screened migrants, asylum-seekers, and unaccompanied children for trafficking indicators at island Reception and Identification Centers (RIC) and identified 10 possible cases involving abuse and exploitation in the country of origin or transit countries (15 in 2019), of which four cases were referred to the national referral mechanism (NRM). In previous years, asylum-seekers waited more than a month for their screening due to a lack of training, staff, and resources and, as a result, a trafficking survivor was re-victimized in a migrant camp in 2019 while waiting for legal documents and RIC screening procedures. The government expedited the registration and screening process of migrants and asylum-seekers at the RICs but, in some cases, unidentified trafficking victims stayed in the same facility with their traffickers or were re-victimized due to pandemic-related restriction measures prevented movement between facilities and regions. Additionally, positive COVID-19 cases among staff and reduced capacity due to pandemic mitigation efforts exacerbated delays in identification procedures. Each RIC designated a trafficking focal point who collected information on potential trafficking cases, but many staff working at RICs were on short-term contracts, which limited their experience and training to identify victims. International organizations, NGOs, and media continued to report a serious lack of government efforts to screen migrants and asylum-seekers, including unaccompanied children, at border crossings. Reports documented violent pushbacks of migrants and asylum-seekers into Turkey, while civil society and media reported allegations that border police assaulted and harassed migrants and asylum-seekers, including women and children, which strongly discouraged victims from self-identifying or cooperating with authorities. In previous years, observers reported a lack of identification efforts for victims of forced labor, particularly in the agriculture sector, cleaning and domestic service, and the tourism industry; however, labor inspectors reported difficulties in conducting inspections in rural areas and on islands due to the community receiving prior notice before inspections from local citizens. Civil society reported some first responders could not distinguish between sex trafficking and commercial sex, rejected sex trafficking victims who self-identified and, at times, sent them back to the traffickers.
The government maintained a multi-disciplinary NRM, including appropriate standard operating procedures (SOPs) and referral forms. The NRM required first responders to inform and coordinate with EKKA when potential victims were identified for victim care and placement; government entities referred 39 victims in 2020 (68 in 2019) and civil society organizations referred 113 victims (82 in 2019). The government, separately and in cooperation with international organizations and NGOs, trained law enforcement, immigration officers, social service workers, labor inspectors, and asylum officers on victim identification and referral procedures. The law authorized public prosecutors to officially recognize victims based on information collected by law enforcement, or a psychologist and a social worker if a victim did not want to cooperate with law enforcement. In 2020, a prosecutor officially recognized a victim for the first time based solely on the recommendations of NGO experts, social workers, and psychologists; however, observers reported inconsistent use of psychologists and social workers for identification procedures, cooperation with investigations was often required to receive official victim status, and procedures were lengthy and sometimes took years for victims to receive. Official victim status entitled foreign victims to a renewable one-year residence and work permit; victims without this status only had access to immediate support and assistance. Additionally, the government did not recognize victims who were exploited abroad but identified in Greece. Of the 167 victims identified by the government, public prosecutors granted official victim status to only four victims (two in 2019), while six victims were in the process of receiving official victim status (25 in 2019). Forty-seven victims were EU citizens, and 27 were Greek citizens who did not need a residence and work permit, including 33 child victims from Bulgaria, 23 child victims from Greece, and nine from Romania.
The government, in cooperation with NGOs, provided shelter, psycho-social support, medical care, legal aid, and reintegration support. While the government provided personal protective equipment and virtual assistance to victims, observers reported virtual assistance for victims was nonexistent or not effective. The government was unable to determine how much total funding was spent on victim protection and did not allocate funding to civil society, with the exception of projects co-financed by the EU and state budget funds. EKKA secured €631,840 ($755,260) from EU security funds to support the NRM from 2018 to 2022 and maintained a MOU with an NGO to host a legal consultant and two anti-trafficking advisors. Two agencies provided shelter and general support services to trafficking victims: the General Secretariat for Family Policy and Gender Equality (GSFPGE) operated 21 shelters and 40 counseling centers for female victims of violence and EKKA operated two long-term shelters, an emergency shelter, and two Social Support Centers for vulnerable populations in need of assistance. GSFPGE and EKKA shelters assisted 22 victims (12 in 2019). However, EKKA and GSFPGE shelters continued to reject some victims from accessing support due to the lack of capacity, resources, and space to provide assistance and accommodation. For example, during lockdown measures in 2020, government-run shelters did not have space to accommodate some trafficking victims due to an increase in domestic violence cases, while some shelters stopped receiving new cases all together. Experts reported the government did not transfer trafficking victims identified at RICs to the mainland for victim assistance due to the lack of accommodation and housing. The government also required victims to obtain a negative COVID-19 test before staying at a government-run shelter, but victims lacked access to medical services and COVID-19 tests were initially scarce and expensive; however, once ONRHT was notified of the need, it coordinated with relevant ministries and regional governments to ensure identified trafficking victims had access to COVID-19 tests. As in previous years, victims in rural areas and islands had little access to support services and often were accommodated in police stations, hospital wards, or received no assistance. Observers reported a lack of specialized shelters for victims with only one NGO-run shelter providing specialized assistance for female trafficking victims and an NGO-run shelter for sexually exploited men and short-term government shelters for asylum-seekers or homeless persons for male victims. Government-run shelters, NGO-run shelters, and facilities for unaccompanied children accommodated child victims but did not provide specialized support. Central and local governments maintained cooperation agreements with some NGOs to house, protect, and assist vulnerable children, including trafficking victims, and allocated buildings to use as shelters. Victims who did not apply for official recognition could receive a residence and work permit by applying for asylum or for a residence permit on humanitarian grounds. The government issued one residence permit (two in 2019) and renewed an additional one for a certified victim (13 in 2019); the government did not provide statistics on residence permits or granting of asylum to victims who lacked official recognition. The process to receive residence permits was difficult without an attorney and took time.
There were no reports the government penalized victims for crimes traffickers compelled them to commit; however, due to a lack of consistent screening efforts for trafficking indicators in migrant flows, authorities likely detained some unidentified migrants and asylum-seekers. Prosecutors relied heavily on victim testimony without corroborating evidence, and court proceedings often lasted two to six years, which hindered cooperation from victims and key witnesses. The government did not provide funding for travel and other expenses for victims to attend court hearings, and some suspected traffickers intentionally postponed court appearances to increase the chances of victims being unwilling to testify in court and/or may have paid bribes to repatriated victims to preclude them from testifying. The law entitled victims to mental health professionals during court proceedings and the use of audiovisual technology for remote testimony, but many courts lacked the capabilities to deploy these resources. Additionally, some judges did not allow remote testimony because they wanted to examine the victim and the witnesses in person, even in cases where testimony could cause re-traumatization. The law provided for witness protection and non-disclosure of the witness’ personal information; however, no trafficking victims received full witness protection privileges to date, police only escorted victims during trials, and courts revealed victims’ identities during proceedings. Judges have never issued restitution for victims in criminal proceedings. Greek law entitled victims to file civil suits against traffickers for compensation; however, no victims to date had filed for or subsequently received compensation from their traffickers in part due to their reluctance to wait for the case to obtain a decision in a lengthy court process.