The government moderately improved efforts to identify and protect victims. The government identified one Timorese child sex trafficking victim involved in a prosecution in October 2021; the National Police’s Vulnerable Persons Unit and Ministry of Social Solidarity and Inclusion (MSSI) assisted the victim to return to her family after she requested to do so and conducted regular home visits after her return. In comparison, during the previous reporting period, the government identified and offered protection services to three trafficking victims. Immigration and police officials continued to report their ad hoc use of trafficking indicators based on the Bali Process to identify victims; however, for the seventh consecutive year, the government did not finalize or widely disseminate comprehensive, government-wide SOPs for victim identification. While relevant ministries collaborated to share information on trafficking victims, there was no formal referral process; generally, authorities based their referral process on the well-established process used for victims of GBV, which did not address the needs of victims of all forms of trafficking. To address this issue, in January 2022, the Ministry of Interior, on behalf of the government, signed a cooperative agreement with and allocated $300,000 to an international organization to conduct trainings on victim identification and assistance for police and immigration officials in 2022. MSSI reported it maintained technical officers in each of the 13 districts of the country that continued to work closely with an NGO to provide victims of GBV and trafficking with assistance, including medical and psychological care, security, and legal assistance. MSSI did not report any cases of trafficking to the NGO; however, the NGO reported it received one victim referral from law enforcement during the reporting period. MSSI reported it had $10,000 available to provide for trafficking victims during the reporting period, but the government did not utilize this funding. Despite the availability of care for victims, the quality of care was below international standards and did not adequately address the needs of male trafficking victims. Furthermore, the greatest level of care was available in Dili and other urban areas in the different municipalities, as limited infrastructure and human resources hindered victims’ access to care in rural areas. Article 9 of the anti-trafficking law permitted victims to seek compensation for losses and damages incurred as a result of the trafficking crime, but no victims received such benefits during the reporting period. The government’s policies allowed foreign victims alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution; it did not provide such assistance during the reporting period.
The government implemented regulations and guidance on the 2017 Law on Preventing and Combating Human Trafficking, which stated trafficking victims may not be detained, accused, or judged for having entered or resided illegally in Timor-Leste nor for having perpetrated crimes traffickers compelled them to commit. Neither the government nor civil society partners reported incidents where authorities penalized trafficking victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. However, due to a failure to properly screen for and identify trafficking indicators, immigration and law enforcement officials may have detained or deported some unidentified trafficking victims, including during routine raids on establishments known for commercial sex. Police officials and victim assistance NGOs also reported traffickers coached victims to state they were voluntarily in commercial sex, which officials reported made it difficult for them to identify victims during raids. Nevertheless, law enforcement officials risked re-traumatizing some victims due to a lack of victim-centered screening procedures.