The government decreased victim protection efforts. The government officially identified three victims, compared with 48 in 2020, 39 in 2019, zero in 2018, and one officially identified victim in 2017. Of these, one girl was a victim of sex trafficking, and a boy and a girl were victims of forced labor. First responders carried out the preliminary identification of possible victims and then contacted police who recognized the individuals as potential victims. Police officers proactively screened foreign nationals and individuals in commercial sex for indicators of trafficking; however, police did not identify any victims through these efforts in 2021 or 2020. GRETA reported continuing gaps in screening and identifying victims among asylum-seekers and irregular migrants. Similarly, according to observers, police did not make identification efforts during the summer tourism season to screen the influx of seasonal workers from neighboring countries and did not consistently investigate information submitted by NGOs. The government maintained the Team for Formal Identification of Trafficking Victims (TFITV) to assess and officially recognize potential victims and coordinate victim care and placement. TFITV used standard operating procedures (SOPs) for identifying and referring victims to services, which eliminated the requirement for victims to cooperate with law enforcement in order to receive services. TFITV comprised a doctor, a psychologist, an NGO, police, a social worker from the Center for Social Work, and a representative from the Office for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons (TIP office); TFITV met 15 times and conducted eight field missions, compared with meeting 19 times and conducting eight field missions in 2020. The government provided training on victim identification and assistance to police, labor inspectors, health workers, social workers, and municipality representatives. In 2020, observers reported an NGO worker identified a potential foreign victim, but police refused to initiate the referral process without an approval from a health and sanitation inspector and threatened the victim and NGO worker with charges for not complying with pandemic mitigation measures. A health and sanitation inspector subsequently required the potential foreign victim and NGO worker to quarantine for 28 days, during which the potential foreign victim faced domestic violence. During the reporting period, an NGO-run shelter housed the potential foreign victim, and after persistent advocacy, DSCOTPS started an investigation and transferred the victim to the shelter.
In 2020, the Ministry of Finance and Social Welfare (MFSW) opened a call for proposals to establish a new anti-trafficking shelter (the shelter) and selected an NGO with the necessary licenses. The MFSW allocated €50,000 ($56,690) to the shelter for operational costs, compared with €67,530 ($76,560) in 2020. Centers for Social Work also allocated €250 ($280) per month for each victim accommodated at the shelter. However, GRETA reported that government funding for the shelter was not sufficient to cover operational costs that were approximately €70,000 ($79,370). The shelter provided specialized services for both potential and officially recognized trafficking victims, including immediate needs, health care, psycho-social support, legal assistance, and reintegration assistance; the shelter housed eight potential victims (14 victims in 2020). The shelter could accommodate up to six victims at a time including adult males, adult females, and children, in separate living quarters. Adult victims could leave the shelter after a security and psycho-social evaluation by shelter staff. The shelter purchased personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 tests for staff and victims and adopted social distancing measures, including separate rooms for victims awaiting COVID-19 test results. The shelter reported experiencing further financial strain as a result of these purchases. MFSW operated local social and welfare centers and two regional institutions, which provided general services for victims of abuse, including trafficking victims. In 2020, a self-administered evaluation of the shelter’s support services concluded beneficiaries and visitors of the shelter were satisfied with the quality of care, staff, and facility. However, other experts reported concerns with the shelter staff’s lack of experience in victim protection, including unnecessary operational costs, cooperation issues, and victim confidentiality concerns. For example, the shelter published photos of victims on social media with censored faces but identifiable characteristics, such as clothes and location. Observers reported facing cooperation and collaboration issues specifically with the director of the shelter.
The law allowed foreign victims to acquire temporary residence permits from three months to one year with the ability to extend; no victims applied for temporary residence permits in 2021 or 2020. The law provided witness protection, free legal aid, and a psychologist to participate in prosecutions; no victims participated in prosecutions during 2021. However, observers continued to report the government assigned lawyers with little or no experience to victims, including lawyers with experience in only civil proceedings and not criminal proceedings. In 2020, prosecutors implemented victim-centered approaches for victims who participated in court proceedings, particularly child victims. For example, a child victim testified in the presence of a social worker with audio/visual equipment, while in a separate room from their perpetrator. The government operated support services for victims and witnesses in 15 first instance courts and two high courts that provided assistance during proceedings, including legal and logistical assistance, and measures to prevent re-traumatization. Authorities hired interpreters when necessary from an official list of court interpreters, although the list did not include a Romani interpreter. Judges did not issue restitution in criminal cases or seize assets and property from traffickers towards restitution and/or compensation. Similarly, courts have not awarded any victims compensation in civil proceedings, partly due to civil proceedings lasting two to five years, discouraging victims from seeking compensation. The law on compensation of victims intended to provide financial assistance to victims of violent crimes will not go into effect until Montenegro becomes a member of the EU.