The government increased victim protection efforts. The government identified 22 victims, compared with 17 victims in 2020. Of these, 19 were victims of sex trafficking, and three were victims of forced begging; 16 were girls, four women, and two boys; and one was a victim from Albania. First responders used standard indicators to screen vulnerable populations; however, GRETA and other observers reported a lack of guidance and proactive identification efforts for victims of forced begging, especially children. KP and border police continued to classify forced begging of children by their parents as parental neglect or abuse rather than trafficking, stating that children accompanied by their parents did not meet the definition of trafficking. A multi-disciplinary national referral mechanism (NRM) provided standard operating procedures (SOPs) for identifying and referring victims to services. The NRM required an investigator from the THBD and a victim’s advocate from the Victim’s Assistance and Advocacy Office to convene and assess the victim as low-, medium-, or high-risk of danger and coordinate victim care and placement. The NRM also required a social worker for child victims to participate in the assessment.
The government licensed and partially funded two NGO-run shelters to provide services to victims, along with the specialized state-run Interim Security Facility (ISF). The government annually allocated €100,000 ($113,380) to the ISF, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MLSW) allocated €56,000 ($63,490) to one NGO-run shelter and €63,000 ($71,430) to the other, compared with €50,000 ($56,690) and €55,000 ($62,360) respectively in 2020. The Pristina municipal government also provided €14,000 ($15,870) to one of the NGO-run shelters, compared with €13,000 ($14,740) in 2020. In addition, the Pristina municipal government funded the renovation of one NGO-run shelter with €33,000 ($37,410). NGO-run shelters reported government funding in 2020 was satisfactory but reported delays in receiving funds. The three shelters provided legal assistance, medical and psychological services, counseling, education, recreational services, and reintegration support. ISF temporarily accommodated victims assessed as high- risk, such as victims of cases with the trafficker still at large, victims testifying in court proceedings, or those awaiting repatriation; ISF accommodated 14 victims (nine victims in 2020). Authorities required victims to have a police escort outside of the ISF while court proceedings were ongoing and required an approval from a prosecutor and the KP for victims assessed as high-risk to permanently leave the ISF. The facility had the capacity to shelter 40 individuals for up to 90 days with separate rooms for females, males, and families. Eleven staff members worked at ISF, including the director, victim advocates, nurses, and a teacher, but it did not employ an in-house psychologist. The shelters also administered COVID-19 tests to victims immediately after arrival and ensured COVID-positive victims received medical attention and safety precautions. Centers for Social Welfare (CSW) appointed case managers who prepared care plans in cooperation with the victim and shelter staff. CSW provided services to child victims and also acted as legal guardians, but observers reported CSW did not have enough staff to handle all their responsibilities. Civil society reported good quality of care for victims, but reintegration programs had limited success due to a lack of resources and high overall unemployment.
GRETA reported representatives from THBD and CSPO had a good understanding of the principles surrounding non-penalization of trafficking victims. However, due to a lack of consistent screening and identification procedures for forced begging, authorities likely deported some unidentified trafficking victims. The law entitled foreign national victims to a 90-day reflection period in which victims could recover before deciding whether to cooperate with law enforcement. Authorities afforded foreign victims the same rights and services as internal victims and the law entitled foreign victims to a temporary residence permit for at least six months; no foreign victims requested a permit in 2021 or 2020. All 22 victims participated in investigations by providing statements to THBD, prosecutors, and pre-trial judges (17 in 2020). The government updated SOPs and required a psychologist and prosecutor to attend interviews with victims in addition to a victims advocate and police. The government reported suspected traffickers were not present when victims provided statements and foreign victims could return to their countries of origin after testifying without waiting for the conclusion of the trial. The government assisted in repatriating one victim (three in 2020). The law provided witness protection, free legal aid, and confidentiality of a victim’s identity; no victims required witness protection, but KP reported a municipal official unknowingly provided a victim’s birth certificate to a suspected trafficker. The law allowed judges to grant a victim restitution in criminal cases or to receive compensation from a government financed compensation program if the victim was unable to obtain restitution from the traffickers; no victims received restitution or compensation in 2021, compared with one victim receiving €3,000 ($3,400) in 2020.