The government minimally increased protection efforts. The government identified and referred more victims to care, but it neglected to conduct adequate screening of potential victims detained at government transit and detention centers. The government identified 131 trafficking victims in 2020, compared with 96 victims in 2019. Officials referred 37 victims to government and NGO shelters for assistance, compared to 30 during the previous reporting period. In 2019, the government collaborated with an international organization to develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) for victim identification and referral; however, due to limitations imposed by the pandemic, the government did not finalize and implement the SOPs during the reporting period. Law enforcement, immigration officials, and social workers in government one-stop centers had victim identification guidelines, but implementation remained limited and officials reported lacking knowledge and training to screen specifically for trafficking among GBV victims they assisted. In addition, sources reported challenges distinguishing trafficking from other crimes such as forced marriage, abduction, commercial sex, migrant smuggling, and rape; concurrently, sources reported a need for gender-specific victim identification procedures. Immigration authorities emphasized screening of foreign workers for trafficking indicators when such workers arrived at border posts.
The government decreased funding for victim care due to pandemic-related budget shortfalls; it dedicated 206 million Rwandan francs ($216,840) for victim care in 2020 compared to 233 million Rwandan francs ($245,260) in 2019. Despite decreased funding, the government continued to operate its network of 44 one-stop centers to assist GBV and trafficking victims. The government’s one-stop centers—located in hospitals and district capitals—provided short-term shelter and psycho-social, medical, and legal services to victims. The government did not report how many trafficking victims it assisted at the one-stop centers; however, NGOs reported assisting 21 victims referred by the one-stop centers. NGOs reported the one-stop centers primarily focused on the needs of female victims; assistance for male victims remained insufficient and service providers lacked knowledge on how to prevent further trauma and revictimization. The government organized 16 government-run and 12 NGO-run shelters into a network for the provision of longer-term care; the government operated and oversaw the network during the reporting periods. The long-term shelters provided up to six months of shelter services for human trafficking and GBV victims. The extent and quality of services varied between locations, particularly regarding the provision of adequate psycho-social counseling, and social workers did not always screen and identify trafficking victims as distinct from GBV victims. The government continued to distribute to all relevant stakeholders a directory of service providers to assist trafficking victims developed in the previous reporting period, in partnership with an international organization. The government and NGOs reported adult victims were free to leave shelters and support programs on their own accord. NGOs reported foreign victims had the same access to services as domestic victims. The government reported providing and funding counseling services, medical care, literacy and numeracy education, and vocational training for the reintegration of identified former child soldiers – both boys and girls – and treating and discharging a total of 82 children in 2020. NGO service providers offered general assistance and support in refugee camps, but a lack of capacity and resources inhibited the development and implementation of effective procedures, screening, and assistance to victims of trafficking in refugee camps. NGOs reported a lack of coordination and collaboration between the government and civil society inhibited their ability to provide assistance for trafficking victims.
The 2018 anti-trafficking law stated that trafficking victims should not be detained, charged, or prosecuted for their involvement in any unlawful activity that was a direct consequence of being exploited. However, due to a lack of formal identification procedures, authorities sometimes penalized victims for forced begging and other crimes their traffickers compelled them to commit. The government continued operating transit centers that advocacy groups and NGOs reported detained vulnerable persons and potential trafficking victims – including those in commercial sex, homeless adults and children, members of the LGBTQI+ community, foreign nationals, and children in street vending and forced begging – and did not adequately screen for trafficking indicators. Observers reported the government held many potential victims of trafficking in these centers, which functioned as de facto detention facilities, for up to six months. Observers further noted that authorities often released detainees back on the streets abruptly and without notice, thereby exposing them to possible revictimization. Former detainees often reported being detained and moving through the detention centers a few times a year. NGOs also reported law enforcement officials may have arrested on immigration charges and deported potential foreign trafficking victims without first screening for trafficking indicators. While some centers provided detainees and identified victims with psychological counseling, education, vocational training, and reintegration services, not all transit centers offered the same services.
The government repatriated an unknown number of Rwandan victims identified abroad. The anti-trafficking law also required the government to provide support to identified trafficking victims abroad by covering the cost of transportation and repatriation to Rwanda. In 2020, the Ministry of Justice and the Directorate General for Immigration and Emigration drafted two ministerial orders to clarify responsibilities for interagency coordination to support the repatriation of victims and coordination of efforts to identify and assist internal victims; however, the government had not released the orders by the end of the reporting period. Media and NGOs reported victims received support packages of 250,000 Rwandan francs ($263) upon reintegration into their home communities. In 2019, the government collaborated with an international organization to draft SOPs to serve as the basis for these ministerial orders; however, the SOPs had yet to be adopted at the end of the reporting period. The 2018 anti-trafficking law called for the government to provide legal assistance and information to victims in a language they understood; however, the government did not report the number of potential victims to whom it provided such assistance. The National Public Prosecution Authority continued to operate two safe houses for witnesses in criminal cases, which were available to trafficking victims; however, the government did not report the number of trafficking victims who used safe houses during the reporting period. An NGO previously reported that seven of the one-stop centers had video recording equipment to allow victims the ability to testify via video testimony; however, the government did not report using this option during the reporting period. The anti-trafficking law also protected the identity of victims by allowing court proceedings to be conducted by camera and permitting the use of a video link, but the government did not report providing any victims with these protections during the reporting period. The anti-trafficking law continued to permit foreign victims to remain in Rwanda for a minimum of six months or until legal proceedings concluded. The government did not report whether it granted this immigration relief to any victims during the reporting period; however, the government did report efforts not to deport foreign victims who faced retribution in their home countries. The anti-trafficking law continued to allow victims to file civil suits against traffickers and stated that victims were exempt from paying any associated filing fees, but the government did not report any suits filed during the reporting period.