The government made mixed efforts in victim protection; while it increased stipends to identified victims and established some new services, it decreased its overall inadequate victim identification so fewer victims received services. The police identified and provided assistance to 146 victims in 2020, a decrease compared with 262 victims in 2019. Authorities approved 134 of 235 applications requesting official victim status, compared with 185 of 283 in 2019. According to an international organization, the pandemic exacerbated existing long-term problems in victim identification and assistance. NGOs reported the government nearly ceased targeted proactive identification efforts because of the pandemic. Moreover, pandemic-related restrictions and the diversion of funding to combat the pandemic further limited trafficking victims’ access to state assistance. An international organization reported pandemic-related restrictions likely limited the number of applications for victim status as potential victims must submit applications in person. The majority of victims were Ukrainians exploited within Ukraine. Officials reported screening undocumented foreign migrants for indicators of trafficking and granted official status to two foreign victims in 2020; separately, international organizations identified four foreign victims in 2020. Almost half of all the identified victims were exploited in areas of armed conflict in Donbas. Civil society reported the government rejected a higher percentage of applications for the second year in a row due to strict internal guidelines for classifying cases as trafficking crimes, police pursuing indictments under statutes other than the trafficking law, and the government demanding additional evidence to confirm victim status contrary to Ukrainian law, including confirmation that the victim was recognized as such in court proceedings or demanding evidence to show movement across a border. The government did not grant official victim status to individuals incarcerated abroad in 2020, compared with 40 in 2019; the government discontinued the use of a simplified application process for potential victims incarcerated abroad, which included waiving the in-person interview requirement. The government continued to rely on international organizations and NGOs, with international donor funding, to identify victims and provide the vast majority of victim protection and assistance. Civil society reported continued systemic shortcomings in the functioning of the national referral mechanism (NRM) at the regional level and noted that government agencies identified a low number of victims through the NRM. An international organization in Ukraine assisted 1,680 victims, compared with 1,345 in 2019. International organizations reported the majority of their identified victims were exploited by labor traffickers. The government cooperated with NGOs on victim identification through the NRM. Victims not requiring specialized services may have chosen not to pursue official victim status, although NGOs reported the emphasis on documents requiring the divulging of sensitive information likely deterred some applicants from applying, as did pandemic-related restrictions. Changes in administration, personnel turnover, and ongoing decentralization reforms continued to obscure local communities’ chains of responsibility for decisions regarding provision of key social services, including identifying, referring, and assisting trafficking victims; however, NGOs continued to report the strengthening of local self-governance expanded local decision-making powers and secured more solid financing over the reporting period.
The government allocated 548,800 hryvnia ($19,390) to the national budget for anti-trafficking measures in 2020, approximately the same amount as in 2019 and 2018. For the past five years, funding for local budgets remained the same at 219,220 hryvnia ($7,750). In December 2020, the government increased financial assistance threefold to approximately 6,800 hryvnia ($240) for each officially recognized victim. Ukraine’s trafficking law entitled victims to housing at a government shelter, psychological assistance, medical services, employment counseling, and vocational training, regardless of whether a criminal case proceeded, or the victim cooperated with law enforcement. The government provided services to victims granted official status; specialized NGOs were actively involved in facilitating victims’ applications for status and access to services at the local level. Some victims requiring shelter stayed at a rehabilitation center run by an international organization. Despite the government’s stated commitment to assume operation of the center and support from the international organization in financial planning and establishing operating procedures, the government did not integrate the center into the national social and health care system. Adult victims could also stay at government-run centers for psycho-social assistance for up to 90 days, with the option to extend, and receive psychological and medical support, lodging, food, and legal and social assistance. Authorities could accommodate child victims in centers for socio-psychological support of children for up to nine months and administer social, medical, psychological, education, legal, and other types of assistance. Authorities identified two child victims of trafficking in 2020 but did not report what services they received, if any. The government established 70 specialized support services in 2020 for victims of domestic violence and trafficking, including nine new shelters, and other services like crisis rooms and mobile crisis response units, although in practice the latter was used primarily in domestic violence cases. The government maintained 21 centers for socio-psychological assistance, 33 state shelters for domestic violence and trafficking victims that assisted 13 trafficking victims in 2020, and 796 social services centers. Observers reported that state assistance remained insufficient to meet victims’ needs; victims continued to rely on NGOs for assistance. Foreign victims were entitled to the same benefits as Ukrainian citizens and had additional access to interpretation services, temporary legal stay, and voluntary repatriation. Authorities could grant permanent residency to foreign victims in danger of retribution should they return to their country of origin. Foreign victims were able to obtain an immigration permit after residing continuously in Ukraine for three years.
The government, often in partnership with international organizations, provided training for officials on victim identification and assistance. The government, in partnership with an international organization and an NGO, assisted in the repatriation of a Ukrainian trafficking victim from Slovenia. The Witness Protection Law provided protections for victims, but courts rarely used protection measures. Closed hearings and remote procedures for questioning and identification were the most frequently used witness and victim protection mechanisms. The government did not restrict victims’ movement. Investigators granted personal protection to eight victims in 2020 and changed the personal data of three witnesses in criminal proceedings. Video testimony systems that ensure the complete separation of victims or witnesses from the accused existed in 14 courts in various regions; the courts used these systems 19 times during hearings of trafficking-related crimes in 2020. The government did not report cases of courts ordering restitution payments for victims in 2020, the same as in 2019.