The government further decreased its minimal protection efforts. The government identified one trafficking victim in 2020, compared with eight trafficking victims in 2019, six in 2018, 12 in 2017, 13 in 2016, and 30 in 2015. The government reported NGOs and other organizations did not identify any additional victims; however, civil society reported their organizations continued to identify victims throughout 2020, anecdotally reporting increased victimization during the pandemic. The government claimed the pandemic did not impact trafficking risk or its ability to identify or provide services to victims. The one identified victim recognized by the government was a Nicaraguan national; the government had no record of foreign trafficking victims exploited in Nicaragua or Nicaraguans exploited abroad, despite media reports of several cases where Costa Rican, Panamanian, and Spanish officials identified Nicaraguan victims exploited in sex and labor trafficking. The government did not report implementing or training officials to use a set of protocols it reportedly developed in 2019 to facilitate identifying child and adolescent trafficking victims among vulnerable populations. Officials did not identify any victims in the autonomous regions where identification and referral mechanisms were lacking and where one-sixth of the population resided.
The government provided medical and psychological attention to one trafficking victim in 2020. The government reported agencies had allocations for trafficking victim protection in the national budget, but these did not provide for specialized services or shelters, nor did the government disclose a figure for the allocations. The government reported all services were accessible to disabled victims, but did not indicate what accommodations it made to ensure access. In 2020, the government stopped claiming to coordinate with NGOs, instead reporting it did not coordinate or collaborate with NGOs on victim identification or assistance. NGOs reported there had been minimal, if any, communication with the government on victim services since 2018.
The government did not provide funding or other support to NGOs that provided the majority of available victim protection services in the country, leaving victims the government did not acknowledge without vital assistance. The government did not report providing shelter or other housing support to any victims in 2020. Alleging a breach of charter, the government ordered the closure of two NGO shelters serving child victims of violence, including trafficking. Observers reported the government maintained an unofficial policy of placing victims with family members, which put trafficking victims at risk of re-victimization by family members who may have been complicit in their exploitation. There were no shelters available for men. There was limited capacity for long-term shelter services in Nicaragua; the government could not provide such care, and NGOs had a limited ability to provide extended shelter. The Ministry of Family coordinated services for child trafficking victims, including medical and legal services and access to education; officials could refer child trafficking victims to “special protection centers,” but the government often returned child victims to their families’ care, despite risk of re-victimization. Both Managua and the more rural regions lacked adequate services for trafficking victims.
Law 896 established a dedicated fund for victim protection and prevention activities to be financed through budget allocation, donations, and seized assets from traffickers. However, for the sixth year, there was no indication that the government made the fund operational. Law 896 provided victims the ability to testify in advance of the trial and allowed testimony via video or written statement to encourage participation and protect a victim’s identity; however, the government did not report using these provisions during the reporting period. Victims could obtain compensation by filing civil suits against traffickers; however, the government and NGOs reported that, in practice, victims had never exercised this right. The government collaborated with Costa Rican officials to investigate reports of a Nicaraguan trafficking victim exploited abroad. While there were no reports of identified victims penalized for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit, authorities frequently misclassified cases involving trafficking victims, potentially resulting in penalization of unidentified victims. The government did not report efforts to screen for or identify trafficking victims among migrant populations or individuals in commercial sex. Nicaraguan law provided for humanitarian visas for foreign trafficking victims, but the government did not recognize any foreign victims in 2020.