The government made mixed protection efforts. The government identified 263 trafficking victims (39 for sex trafficking, 177 for labor trafficking, and 47 for unspecified forms of trafficking), compared with 110 victims identified in the previous reporting period. The government did not report referring any victims to services compared with one victim referred in the previous reporting period. The government provided repatriation assistance (including consular, legal, and transportation assistance and providing travel documents when necessary) to facilitate the return of 19 labor trafficking victims from overseas. The government intercepted 27 potential victims of trafficking planning to travel to the Middle East for domestic work. The government had formal SOPs for victim identification and referral to care. Nonetheless, NGOs reported a lack of specialized SOPs to identify and refer potential trafficking victims from underserved communities hindered victim identification efforts.
While the government did not report referring or assisting any victims, it dedicated 306 million Rwandan francs ($288,680) for services for victims of crime, including trafficking, compared to 181.3 million Rwandan francs ($171,040) in 2021. The government continued to operate its network of 44 Isange one-stop centers, located in district capitals and hospitals, to assist GBV and trafficking victims. The centers offered short-term shelter and psycho-social, medical, and legal services; the government did not report how many trafficking victims it assisted at these centers. The government reported victims would generally stay at the centers for three days, after which victims could choose between longer-term shelter or independent living options. The government continued its collaboration with an international organization to train protection actors and counselors at the centers on the identification of trafficking victims and their referral to services. NGOs reported the centers would primarily focus on the needs of female victims, negatively affecting readiness to assist male victims.
Observers reported four shelters affiliated with NGOs and 17 government-affiliated safe houses could also offer services to trafficking victims. The long-term government shelters provided up to six months of services for trafficking and GBV victims. The extent and quality of services varied between locations and social workers did not always screen to identify trafficking victims among GBV victims. The government and NGOs reported adult victims who resided at shelters would have freedom of movement. Temporary shelter services were available to foreign national victims, and foreign victims had the same access to services as Rwandans. The government reported providing counseling services, medical care, education, and vocational training for former child soldiers and children who experienced homelessness; the government did not report how many children received services. NGOs offered general assistance and support in refugee camps, but a lack of capacity and resources inhibited the implementation of effective procedures, screening, and assistance to trafficking victims in refugee camps.
The anti-trafficking law stated trafficking victims should not be penalized for their involvement in any unlawful activity that was a direct consequence of being trafficked. However, due to inconsistent use of identification procedures, authorities may have arrested or detained some unidentified trafficking victims, especially among underserved communities such as individuals in commercial sex, adults and children experiencing homelessness, and children in forced begging. The government continued operating transit centers that advocacy groups and NGOs reported detained vulnerable persons and potential trafficking victims – including individuals in commercial sex, adults and children experiencing homelessness, members of the LGBTQI+ community, foreign nationals, and children in street vending and forced begging – and did not adequately screen for trafficking indicators among them. The government held many potential victims of trafficking in these centers, which functioned as de facto detention facilities, for up to six months. Observers further noted authorities often released detainees back on the streets abruptly and without notice, thereby exposing them to possible revictimization. While some centers provided detainees and identified victims with psychological counseling, education, vocational training, and reintegration services, not all transit centers offered the same services. Observers reported officials did not follow victim referral procedures with respect to the LGBTQI+ community and individuals in commercial sex due to widespread cultural prejudice. Officials were less likely to refer LGBTQI+ trafficking victims for services, if at all.
The anti-trafficking law required the government to provide support to identified Rwandan trafficking victims abroad by providing consular, legal assistance, and covering the cost of repatriation, including transportation. The government reported having a dedicated budget to repatriate Rwandans overseas, and diplomats and immigration officials worked to facilitate 19 repatriations. However, observers noted Rwanda’s relatively limited diplomatic presence often made it difficult for Rwandan officials abroad to provide assistance to trafficking victims. Media and NGOs reported victims could receive support packages of 250,000 Rwandan francs ($236) upon reintegration into their home communities; however, the government did not report providing this assistance to any victims. The government reported 48 victims participated in investigations and prosecutions. The government could provide victim-witness assistance to support participation in the criminal justice process and the anti-trafficking law called for the government to provide legal assistance and information to victims in a language they understood; however, the government did not report if any victims received this assistance. The law also protected the identity of victims by allowing court proceedings to be conducted by camera and permitting the use of a video link. The government, in coordination with an international organization, continued operation of a child-friendly space, which could provide assistance to trafficking victims participating in court proceedings. Observers reported the government planned to establish several more of these spaces, funding permitting. Foreign national victims were eligible to obtain employment and remain in Rwanda during trial proceedings. The government did not report whether it granted this immigration relief to any victims during the reporting period. The law allowed victims to obtain restitution in criminal prosecutions, file civil suits against traffickers for civil damages, and stated victims were exempt from paying any associated filing fees. The government reported the Rusizi Intermediate Court awarded criminal restitution and civil damages to one trafficking victim during the reporting period.