The government maintained strong protection efforts, with CICESCT’s immediate response team providing robust assistance to victims throughout the year. The government and NGOs identified 42 trafficking victims in 2020, including 31 exploited in sex trafficking and 11 in forced labor; two of the labor trafficking victims were children forced to commit unlawful acts. In comparison, the government identified 75 victims (66 in sex trafficking and 9 in forced labor) and NGOs identified 78 victims in 2019, and the government identified 73 victims (63 in sex trafficking and 10 in forced labor) in 2018. Authorities identified five of the victims through calls to government hotlines, and 16 were identified in Mexico or Guatemala and repatriated to Honduras. The government’s disaggregated victim data included some victims of related crimes such as child pornography; all identified victims were Honduran citizens and included 43 children and 24 adults, 56 females and 10 males, and one LGBTQI+ individual. First responders referred potential trafficking victims to CICESCT’s immediate response team, composed of two psychologists and a social worker, for immediate support. This team continued to operate during the pandemic despite restrictions on movement and inadequate funding for personal protective equipment. The immediate response team provided 67 victims of trafficking and related crimes with assistance, including legal advice, immediate protection, and psychological services. In accordance with the government’s intersectoral protocol on victim protection, CICESCT coordinated with relevant government institutions and NGOs to provide additional services to victims, including mental health counseling, legal services, medical care, lodging, food, family reintegration, and repatriation. CICESCT referred 37 victims—five boys, 22 girls, and 10 women—to government and NGO shelters for additional care. Victims who tested positive for COVID-19 faced delays or limitations in receiving services from shelters. The government provided 31 victims with witness protection services including measures to protect their identity; shelter; and economic, medical and psychosocial assistance.
Law enforcement, immigration, and social service providers had written procedures for identifying and assisting victims, including screening for indicators of trafficking among vulnerable populations and referring potential victims to CICESCT’s immediate response team. CICESCT and the anti-trafficking prosecution unit each operated trafficking-specific hotlines that functioned throughout the pandemic. The government reported 41 calls to the CICESCT hotline led to 22 potential cases referred for investigation. Officials in the Returned Migrant Assistance Center conducted evaluations of returned Hondurans and referred suspected trafficking cases to CICESCT; however, screening for trafficking indicators was not systematic among returned migrants, and the government did not report whether these efforts resulted in identification of any victims during the year. The government followed a regional protocol to facilitate the repatriation of victims identified abroad and funded food, transportation, and lodging for such victims through a fund administered by the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Child victims could receive care from government or NGO shelters, while women had the option of receiving assistance from NGO shelters; there were no specialized shelters for trafficking victims and no shelters that accepted men. The government offered services to both forced labor and sex trafficking victims but identified a disproportionately low number of forced labor victims compared to the estimated prevalence of forced labor in the country.
The government initially allocated 8.93 million lempiras ($357,150) to CICESCT but later decreased its actual disbursement to 6.18 million lempiras ($247,020) due to pandemic-related funds redistribution and budget cuts. This amount was an increase from 5.53 million lempiras ($221,400) provided in 2019, though officials reported they lacked adequate financial and human resources to provide comprehensive victim care, support victims throughout the country, and collect and analyze victim data. CICESCT provided 76,970 lempiras ($3,080) to an NGO operating a shelter that accommodated women, girls, and boys up to age 12 and dedicated 318,040 lempiras ($12,720) to victims’ immediate needs including food, hygiene supplies, and lodging. Other Honduran government agencies also provided funds from their budgets for victim assistance.
Some victims provided testimony through pre-recorded interviews in secure Gesell chambers or, due to the pandemic, video calls. Honduran law prohibited the prosecution of victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. However, the government lacked formal procedures for identifying victims among children apprehended for gang-related criminal activity. NGOs reported authorities did not properly identify children forced to engage in illegal activities by criminal groups, reporting that the government may have inappropriately treated such children as criminals instead of victims. Honduran law allowed foreign victims to receive temporary or permanent residency status, including authorization to work, though the government did not identify any foreign victims in 2020.