The government maintained victim protection efforts. The MOI’s Program of Support and Protection of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings (the Program) remained the only official source of data on victim identification and protection and was conditioned on a victim’s cooperation with the criminal justice process. The government did not officially recognize victims who did not participate in the Program, although it provided support to NGOs that identified and helped potential or unidentified victims or victims who preferred not to cooperate with police. In 2021, 11 new victims (six men and five women) entered the Program, compared with 13 in 2020, 15 in 2019, and 17 in 2018. Five of the victims were Czech nationals who were exploited in the UK, and six were Mongolian nationals. Police concluded there was insufficient evidence to refer the Mongolian victims’ case to prosecution and removed the victims from the Program after two months, although the government continued to fund their care. Police referred three victims to the Program, and NGOs referred eight; one victim was reported jointly. In 2021, government-funded NGOs provided services or other support to 250 victims or potential victims—some of whom had received services for a year or more (compared with 317 in 2020 and 259 in 2019). Observers noted the high level of cooperation between the authorities and civil society on victim identification and protection efforts; in February 2021, the police created a trafficking liaison position to coordinate efforts among law enforcement and other government authorities, as well as with international organizations and NGOs. The MOI continued distributing an electronic manual that described trafficking indicators among vulnerable populations to assist officials in identifying victims and collaborated with representatives from localities with large minority populations to draft a new, more inclusive, list of trafficking indicators. However, observers noted the manual lacked a clear systematic procedure for identifying victims or referring them to the correct services. The MOI also continued distributing a card- sized version and a manual outlining best practices in handling child trafficking cases to regional police. Observers expressed concern that many victims and potential victims went unidentified, attributing this to authorities’ difficulty in identifying labor trafficking victims among migrant workers or detainees in immigration detention facilities; the government’s strict anti-migration policies and insufficient screening of asylum-seekers; and inadequate training and high levels of turnover of front-line responders, particularly local police. Observers reported some police officers were not aware that traffickers often compelled victims to commit unlawful acts, leading officers to mistakenly identify victims as criminals. Moreover, experts reported that the commercial sex industry’s operational shift in the last five years from clubs to private residences and online had hindered law enforcement’s identification efforts.
The Program provided medical care, psychological and crisis counseling, housing, legal representation, vocational training, and other specialized services to officially recognize foreign and Czech adult victims of sex and labor trafficking, regardless of their immigration status. The MOI provided funding and administrative oversight and selected one NGO to be the primary implementing partner and to manage subcontracts to other NGOs for additional specialized services. Victims were generally placed in an NGO-run shelter or into other MOI-funded housing. Participants in the Program were granted a 60-day reflection period, after which they were required to assist law enforcement if they wanted to stay in the Program, unless subject to a serious health issue. Victims unwilling to assist law enforcement through the Program and victims whose cases authorities did not pursue were eligible to access comparable Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MLSA)-funded welfare benefits, including housing, in-person and telephone crisis help, counseling and social rehabilitation, drop-in centers for children, and social services for families with children; all victims in the Program during 2021 chose to cooperate with law enforcement. Victims could voluntarily withdraw from the Program at any time and would remain eligible for services under the MLSA. Victims in the Program were eligible for a free legal advocate and, in some cases, the option to choose the gender of the judge or to testify via videoconference. MOI-drafted procedures to allow victims to remain in the Program even after termination of the criminal process against the trafficker remained under inter-ministerial review during the reporting period; this change would grant victims easier access to free legal representation in civil compensation proceedings. Foreign victims accepted into the Program could receive temporary residence and work visas for the duration of relevant legal proceedings. Victims could receive assistance to return to their country of origin at any time or, upon completion of the Program, could apply for permanent residency. The government extended seven long-term residence permits to Program participants and reported there were no requests for new permits as all new victims were Czech nationals or legally present in the country. The government did not repatriate any trafficking victims in 2021.
Although the government did not provide specialized centers specifically for child trafficking victims, there was a separate national referral mechanism for child victims, and social workers developed individualized support plans for potential child trafficking victims, who received welfare benefits such as shelter, food, clothing, and medical and psychological counseling. Observers reported the government had paid significant attention to combating child trafficking in recent years, especially to prevent trafficking among children from institutional care. Nonetheless, observers reported identification procedures, crisis support, and long- term services for child trafficking victims remained insufficient. The 2020-2023 national strategy included a plan to study child trafficking in the Czech Republic and to create educational materials for first responders on the identification of and assistance to child victims; the government did not report progress on completing this study.
The MOI allocated approximately 1.6 million koruna ($74,710) for the Program, the same annual amount since 2018; the Program did not spend the full allotment. The MLSA increased its funding to NGOs to provide social services, including to trafficking victims not in the Program. In 2021, the MLSA increased funding for the main NGO providing services to trafficking victims by 6.2 percent compared with the previous year. Another NGO reported a 16.7 percent increase in MLSA funding from 2020 to 2021. NGOs reported sufficient funding for short- and long-term activities and believed the ability to use MLSA funds for purposes other than the standard social services they already provided, such as public transportation tickets, telephone, medical checks, and psychological therapy, allowed them to offer more holistic services, which were limited in previous years due to regulations on use of these funds. Nevertheless, NGOs reported the MLSA’s funding structure inhibited long-term planning, as funds were only allocated one year at a time and did not arrive until after the beginning of the fiscal year.
Border police and asylum and migration officials occasionally were unable to recognize trafficking indicators among asylum-seekers and did not always proactively screen migrants, including those in detention, for indicators of trafficking. Experts noted some courts declined to recognize victims in migration detention facilities as such if they did not self-identify as victims in their initial asylum claims. Moreover, observers expressed concern the Foreigners’ Residence Act, which regulated the detention of foreigners prior to deportation did not define a “vulnerable person,” leading authorities to occasionally detain potential foreign national trafficking victims. Some experts criticized the Refugee Facility Administration (RFA) for charging a daily fee to some migrants for stays in transit zones; such fees could increase the vulnerability of potential victims to debt-based coercion. The RFA maintained a system where potential victims and other members of at-risk groups could be voluntarily housed in a guarded facility or, if in immediate danger, referred to NGOs for services. However, observers noted that due to data privacy regulations, the MOI office in charge of assessing asylum applications did not share with the RFA information that could identify potential victims; the RFA only learned of this information through victim self-disclosure. The government reported MOI officials advised potential victims of available resources and their right to report trafficking to the RFA. The RFA did not identify any victims in the transit zones in 2021, nor in recent prior years.
Victims and witnesses were granted short-term protection when needed, including physical protection, access to safe houses, and security monitoring for up to 60 days; this protection could be extended with approval from the regional police director. The government funded an NGO’s website and chat room revisions to better protect victims during counseling sessions. Victims had the legal option of seeking court- ordered compensation from traffickers through civil suits; however, compensation was rare, as many victims could not afford attorney fees for a civil suit. To seek civil damages, the law required a finding of criminal misconduct against the defendant. An NGO reported a court awarded a victim 100,000 koruna ($4,670) in civil court for trauma-related health injuries. The law also allowed victims to obtain restitution in criminal proceedings, although courts did not consistently issue restitution to victims in criminal cases. In May 2021, an appeals court confirmed the November 2019 court judgment awarding a record 5 million koruna ($233,460) to the victims in a case involving a transnational trafficking operation.