The government maintained protection efforts. The government lacked a centralized database to aggregate efforts across ministries and could not provide comprehensive data on victim protection. There were three agencies involved in victim identification: the ATU, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MWA), and the Ministry of Children and Adolescents (MINNA). These agencies reported identifying 166 trafficking victims in 2021. By comparison, the government reported identifying 299 victims in 2020—a notable increase over previous years, attributable to screening returning migrant workers during a required quarantine—and 86 in 2019. Traffickers exploited 74 of these identified victims in sex trafficking and 86 in forced labor; the government did not report the form of trafficking experienced by the remaining six victims. Among the 166 victims identified, there were 72 women, 46 girls, nine men, and 33 boys. The government’s interagency anti-trafficking roundtable directed a national referral mechanism for prosecutors, police, labor inspectors, and border officials; in 2021, the government updated this referral process to encompass pandemic measures, such as quarantine requirements. Some government entities, such as the National Migration Office and Ministry of Health, had victim identification protocols, but there was no universal protocol to facilitate the proactive identification of victims. Use of available referral and identification resources was inconsistent and ad hoc. Civil society organizations reported the government applied the identification protocols less consistently among minority and Indigenous populations; as a result, authorities may have disproportionately penalized minority and Indigenous trafficking victims for crimes their traffickers compelled them to commit. MINNA developed and implemented new standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the identification of child trafficking victims at national borders. Under these new SOPs, border officials and MINNA coordinated to screen children traveling alone for trafficking indicators, codifying the screening process which contributed to the identification of 256 child trafficking victims during the period of increased border crossings in 2020.
There were three dedicated shelters with capacity for up to 38 female trafficking victims, one managed by the MWA for adults and two shelters for child victims managed by MINNA; one of MINNA’s shelters was co-managed by an NGO. MWA could also serve female trafficking victims at its two domestic violence shelters. The government reported providing some form of support services to 160 trafficking victims; it reported referring 45 victims to shelter services—it referred 22 women victims to an MWA shelter and 23 children to MINNA shelters. In the absence of sufficient shelter capacity, most victims returned to their homes, where they may have struggled to access other support services; returning home also increased victims’ vulnerability to re-trafficking, as victims’ families may have been involved in their exploitation. By comparison, MINNA provided shelter to 26 child victims in 2020 and 44 in 2019. Observers reported pandemic-related safety protocols contributed to limited capacity in shelters. MINNA coordinated direct cash transfers for 39 victims in 2021, compared with the ATU and MWA providing transfers for 50 victims in 2020. In addition to shelter and food, the government had a limited ability to provide psychological support, social assistance, legal advice, and reintegration programs for some victims. The ATU, MINNA, and MWA collaborated to prioritize victims most in need of these services. The government continued its entrepreneurial program for trafficking survivors, awarding small business seed grants to 36 victims (32 women and four men) in 2021, compared with six such grants in 2020. The government did not have a shelter to assist male trafficking victims; however, the ATU could provide psychological assistance, food, and immediate shelter at hotels on an ad hoc basis before facilitating the return of male victims to their community of origin. An interagency working group—created to support provision of services to trafficking victims outside of government shelters—met several times during the year but did not report any substantive outcomes. Aside from some funding provided to the NGO operating the MINNA shelter, the government did not provide assistance to NGOs providing victim services. Lack of substantive cooperation with civil society limited the government’s ability to provide comprehensive care. The overall quality of care for victims, particularly in rural areas, was inadequate due to limited resources and the lack of qualified personnel.
The ATU continued to provide basic assistance to trafficking victims due to insufficient victim services provision by other parts of the government. However, the ATU did not receive government funding for victim assistance and relied on occasional allocations from an NGO-managed victims’ services fund. This funding supported the government’s case-by-case provision of food assistance, direct cash transfers, and reintegration programming for trafficking victims. Government officials reported funding was insufficient to assist victims adequately. The government’s 2020 emergency budgetary reallocation measures—which redistributed funding from across the government, including anti-trafficking funding, to support pandemic measures— remained in effect until December 31, 2021. In addition to shelter capacity limitations, government entities reported pandemic restrictions interrupted in-person services; MWA used virtual consultations to minimize disruption. MINNA provided approximately $38,500 in 2021 to the NGO that operated the specialized shelter for underage victims, compared with the same amount in 2020 and approximately $50,000 in 2019. Foreign trafficking victims were eligible for residence permits to remain in Paraguay; however, civil society reported high administrative fees made the application process burdensome for victims. The government helped repatriate one victim in 2021, compared with one in 2020 and five in 2019. Law 4788/12 outlined a procedure to award victims restitution when the courts convicted their traffickers; victims could also file civil suits with the support of a government attorney to obtain compensation. The government did not report any trafficking cases where victims received restitution or compensation. MINNA provided training for its officials on safe repatriation for child trafficking victims; otherwise, the government did not train officials on victim identification, referral, or care.