The government increased protection efforts. The government’s victim identification statistics were the same as the number of victims that received services during the year. One government-funded NGO reported it provided services to 334 female victims and their children in 2021 (314 in 2020), of whom police referred 75 victims (24 men and 51 women). Some of these victims may have been children, as the organization provided assistance to women and girls ages 15 years and older. Another NGO, which provided government-funded services for male victims, reported assisting 61 victims in 2021 (62 in 2020). While the majority of victims were foreign nationals, the government identified 42 Austrian victims in 2021, an increase compared with 13 in 2020. Although identification statistics did not disaggregate labor and sex trafficking cases, the majority of identified victims were exploited in sex trafficking. Experts noted, however, that the relatively low number of identified forced labor cases with foreign national victims could be attributed to authorities’ failure to recognize labor trafficking indicators rather than to low prevalence. The 2021-2023 NAP established comprehensive guidelines on victim identification and referral procedures for a wide range of stakeholders including health and social service providers, and asylum and immigration authorities. Authorities used guidelines and checklists to screen potential victims for indicators of trafficking and referred identified victims to NGOs for assistance. The government maintained a separate national referral mechanism to identify and refer child trafficking victims. Law enforcement agencies intensified efforts to monitor social media platforms to identify sex trafficking victims. Pandemic lockdowns between November 2020 and May 2021 and between November and December 2021 hampered victim identification efforts, particularly the identification of trafficking victims in the legal commercial sex industry, as the industry moved increasingly online and underground.
The government allocated €1.47 million ($1.67 million) to specialized anti-trafficking NGOs to provide shelter, services, and legal support to victims in 2021, compared with €1.43 million ($1.62 million) in 2020. Government funding accounted for the bulk of support for these organizations. Government-funded NGOs provided shelter, medical and psychological care, legal assistance, and German language classes to adult victims, including specialized services for victims with disabilities. Foreign victims had the same access to services as domestic victims. One government-funded NGO reported it increased tailored assistance for women with disabilities and transgender women and girls, offered victims the option of private accommodations, and launched a mentorship program for survivors. The city of Vienna funded a government-run center for unaccompanied migrant children, including child trafficking victims, offering legal, medical, psychological, social, and language assistance; the center reported it did not provide assistance to any child trafficking victims in 2021. The government’s anti-trafficking task force published annual guidelines on child victim identification and continued distributing brochures on children’s rights. An NGO reported that out of 5,770 unaccompanied children who applied for asylum in 2021, 4,489 (78 percent) went missing; observers noted these missing children were highly vulnerable to trafficking and recommended the government assign a guardian to unaccompanied children immediately upon identification. In January 2022, the Ministry of Interior submitted for inter-ministerial review a comprehensive concept for a national center for child trafficking victims. The government provided training to NGOs working with migrants and asylum-seekers to help them identify trafficking victims among these groups. The government funded NGOs to provide training on victim identification for law enforcement, labor inspectors, detention and asylum center authorities, border control, revenue officials, and military, diplomatic, and consular personnel. The FCO created online consultation hours for police officers with trafficking specialists to further improve law enforcement identification efforts and developed short videos for police officers describing the crime of trafficking and distinguishing it from human smuggling.
The law provided for the protection of victims’ rights during criminal proceedings. NGOs were permitted to accompany victims to hearings and interviews. Courts provided trauma-informed methods for presenting evidence and testimony when victims needed protection from traffickers during the investigation and prosecution phases. Victim protection procedures granted victims a 30-day reflection period to decide whether to assist in the prosecution of their traffickers; some NGOs reported concerns about inconsistencies in the reflection period and noted victims were not always informed of this right. Victims’ access to services was not dependent on their willingness to participate in the criminal process. Ministry of Justice (MOJ)-funded NGOs provided psycho-social and legal assistance during criminal proceedings to approximately 110 trafficking victims in 2021, compared with 150 in 2020. The provision of legal aid was constrained by gaps in the identification of victims; experts noted cases in which victims were not properly identified and therefore unable to access specialized legal assistance. Foreign trafficking victims from outside the EU had the right to temporary residency, with possible annual extensions, which allowed access to employment; victims from EU member states did not require residence permits. The government granted nine residence permits and extended 13 permits to trafficking victims in 2021, compared with seven new permits and 18 extensions in 2020. Victims who chose to return to their country of origin received repatriation assistance from government-funded NGOs.
Victims could file civil suits against traffickers for damages and compensation, even in the absence of a criminal prosecution, and could still pursue civil suits in the event of an acquittal in a criminal case. Courts could award restitution upon criminal conviction; in 2021, courts awarded restitution to nine victims in trafficking cases, compared with eight in 2020. Experts expressed concern that access to compensation and restitution remained rare in trafficking cases; furthermore, compensation awards were unevenly enforced, as it was the victim’s responsibility to enforce the order through a claim with legal authorities. NGOs also documented cases where compensation was stalled by the return of the victim to their home country. The government continued to include the topic of victim compensation in its trainings and seminars for prosecutors and judges, and the MOJ increased its cooperation with the Ministry of Finance to improve law enforcement’s access to financial information; prosecutors can use the information to obtain judicial orders needed for seizing assets, which can be awarded to victims as compensation in judicial criminal proceedings. Authorities forgave administrative fines for illegal commercial sex or immigration violations if the individual was found to be a victim of trafficking. However, authorities may have detained unidentified victims due to gaps in victim identification. Observers noted courts did not consistently apply the non-punishment provision for identified victims and cited the lack of a specific legal provision on the non-punishment of victims of trafficking. Experts noted gaps in the government’s referral process for suspected cases of exploitation among asylum-seekers; some migrants who showed signs of trafficking may have been sent to other countries in the EU without receiving services due to the government’s enforcement of EU regulations on asylum-seekers.