The government increased protection efforts. The government identified 94 victims (70 for labor trafficking, including one for forced begging, and 24 for sex trafficking), an increase from 82 in 2020 but still far less than the 221 victims identified in 2019. Authorities referred 61 to care facilities, compared with 39 in 2020; the government reported all victims were offered services, but some chose not to accept them. The National Intervention-Consultation Center for Victims of Trafficking (KCIK), run by two government-funded NGOs, provided assistance to 210 potential victims (166 in 2020), including 52 victims of sex trafficking, 87 victims of forced labor (including two for forced begging, two for forced criminal activity, and one for domestic servitude), and 71 victims of other types of exploitation related to trafficking; 115 were female, and 95 were male; and 159 were foreign victims, an increase from 109 in 2020. Due to pandemic- related restrictions, authorities conducted fewer operations to screen workplaces and commercial sex operations for potential victims, and training for police officers was limited. The National Police and Border Guard began using standard operating procedures (SOPs) to identify and refer victims that had been revised during the previous reporting period; these SOPs included tools to identify child victims and potential victims during the asylum process and a list of vulnerable groups that border guard officers should screen for trafficking. In response to an influx of third country nationals attempting to cross the border from Belarus, the government issued a regulation in August 2021 permitting the Border Guard to return to Belarus any migrants who crossed the border irregularly. In October 2021, the government legalized the practice of these “push-backs,” allowing the government to withhold international protection for asylum-seekers; observers expressed concern this law violated asylum seekers’ right to protection and authorities may have deported unidentified trafficking victims. During 2021, the Border Guard identified three potential trafficking victims attempting to enter Poland through the border with Belarus. The government signed an agreement with an international organization to implement a government- and EU-funded project to build capacity within the Border Guard to identify trafficking victims, particularly labor trafficking victims. Police and prosecutors had previously acknowledged that authorities lacked the expertise to identify forced labor and child victims, particularly among unaccompanied children. As in the previous three years, labor inspectors did not identify any victims in 2021. Observers previously noted labor inspectors’ challenges in determining whether an offense constituted a violation of workers’ rights or forced labor. One working group of the national anti-trafficking advisory body developed SOPs for labor inspectors on the identification and referral of labor trafficking victims; in December 2021, the government distributed the SOPs to all district labor inspection offices. The MOI funded training for Polish national airline crews on trafficking indicators and a reporting mechanism developed by the airline. The Ministry of Family and Social Policy conducted two virtual training sessions for social workers focused on the identification of trafficking victims, crisis intervention, and cooperation with other institutions on victim protection. Civil society representatives reported effective cooperation with the national police and Border Guard on victim referral procedures during the reporting period.
KCIK provided Polish and foreign national adult and child victims with medical and psychological care, shelter, legal counseling, welfare support, reintegration services, and referrals to orphanages and foster care for child victims. Observers expressed concern the national system for child victim assistance did not properly address the needs of unaccompanied children and noted the government placed unaccompanied child victims in foster families or orphanages unprepared to assist child victims. Legislation passed in March 2022 mandated that all unaccompanied children entering Poland from Ukraine be provided a court-appointed temporary guardian authorized to represent the child and exercise custody over the child and the child’s property; the legislation also required the government to create a register of all unaccompanied children coming from Ukraine, to be run by the Ministry of Family and Social Policy. KCIK operated two shelters for adult female victims, including one for women with children and a small shelter for men, and it rented apartments for victims who did not prefer shelters. The government allowed victims to seek employment and work while receiving assistance and to leave the shelters unchaperoned and at will; shelters and housing were available for victims with disabilities. Observers noted shelter capacity for male victims was insufficient given the increasing number of male labor trafficking victims. The government provided specialized shelter and housing to 54 victims in 2020 (42 in 2020). Victims also could receive general assistance (social, medical, psychological, and legal) in 171 crisis intervention centers operated and funded by local governments, 17 of which maintained staff trained on assisting trafficking victims; KCIK arranged accommodations for 65 victims using crisis centers and other locations (23 in 2020).
The government allocated 1.1 million zloty ($271,400) to two NGOs that run KCIK for victim services; funding has remained stagnant since 2015. The government also allocated 80,000 zloty ($19,740) to train welfare assistance personnel on identification of victims and provision of assistance to trafficking victims and witnesses, the same amount as in 2020. Experts said limited government funding for victim assistance constrained service provision, particularly outside of Warsaw and Katowice. All non-European Economic Area (EEA) victims were entitled to social welfare benefits, including crisis intervention assistance, shelter, meals, necessary clothing, and financial assistance; in the first six months of 2021, 21 non-EEA national victims received assistance, compared with 16 in the first six months of 2020 (26 total in 2020). Victims from the EEA had access to the full scope of welfare benefits offered to Polish citizens if they could prove habitual residency. NGOs had previously reported some victims, particularly from Romania and Bulgaria, were unable to prove this through the required documentation. Legislation went into effect in January 2021 allowing law enforcement to issue certificates to potential victims from EEA countries, facilitating their access to welfare benefits; in 2021, KCIK provided assistance to 13 EEA nationals (10 Bulgarians, one Romanian, and two Slovakians), compared with six in 2020.
Authorities reported screening individuals in vulnerable populations, including individuals in commercial sex and migrants, during law enforcement operations. Foreign victims were entitled to a three-month reflection period, during which they could stay legally in Poland to decide whether to assist in the criminal process; 61 victims used this benefit in 2021, compared with 11 in 2020. Foreign victims were eligible for a residence permit valid for up to three years, which entitled them to work, and could apply for permanent residency; authorities granted residence permits to 16 foreign victims in 2021, compared with 15 in 2020. The government repatriated one foreign victim to Bulgaria and coordinated with an international organization to repatriate 15 foreign victims (two in 2020); a government-funded NGO repatriated one foreign victim. Polish law permitted victims to provide testimony via video or written statements; audio-video recording of testimony was obligatory for victims younger than 15 years of age and for victims of sexual crimes, including sex trafficking. A government-funded NGO provided legal assistance to 100 victims in 2021. The government reported the majority of victims identified by prosecutors agreed to cooperate in investigations of their traffickers. However, experts noted law enforcement and prosecutorial interview techniques lacked a trauma-informed approach, hindering opportunities to build rapport with traumatized victims, who then were less likely to provide reliable testimony. NGOs reported judges interviewed children and did not receive training on child-friendly, victim-centered, or trauma-informed interviewing techniques, which re-traumatized victims. Courts did not award restitution in 2021, compared with one case in 2020. Victims also could receive compensation in civil suits; the government did not report if any victims filed such suits.