The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified 71 trafficking victims (70 in 2016); 66 female victims of sex trafficking and five male victims of forced labor (69 female sex trafficking victims and one male forced labor victim in 2016). The government did not identify any child victims in both 2016 and 2017. Sixty-eight victims were Azerbaijanis and three were foreign victims (one foreign victim in 2016). The government had SOPs for victim identification but first responders, including law enforcement, immigration, and social services personnel, were either unaware of the procedures or did not consistently follow and understand them. SOPs required first responders to refer potential victims within 24 hours to ATD, who officially recognized victims based on an investigation. NGOs and the government provided support services to some potential victims; however, individuals without official recognition did not receive the one-time government-provided allowance and did not have the ability to bring a civil claim against the alleged traffickers. Civil society referred six potential trafficking victims to ATD (466 potential victims in 2016) but ATD determined none to be victims in both 2016 and 2017; civil society members noted ATD did conduct adequate review of referred cases in making such determinations in 2017. Observers reported minimal efforts to proactively identify Azerbaijani victims of internal trafficking, including children; as a result, all officially identified victims were foreign victims exploited in Azerbaijan or Azerbaijani victims repatriated from foreign countries, likely reflecting an overemphasis on transnational movement. The government-funded an NGO to provide training workshops for local police on how to identify and assist trafficking victims.
The government allocated 150,530 manat ($88,030) for victim protection, compared to 154,000 manat ($90,060) in 2016. The MIA-run trafficking-specific shelter provided accommodation, financial assistance, legal assistance, and medical and psycho-social support; 65 officially recognized victims and six potential victims received support at the MIA-run shelter (63 officially recognized victims and seven potential victims in 2016). The MIA-run shelter had separate areas for women, men, and children but limited freedom of movement for victims and required victims to submit an application to leave the shelter. Observers reported the MIA-run shelter generally did not accommodate victims who did not cooperate with law enforcement. The Victim Assistance Center (VAC) in Baku provided legal, psychological, medical, and employment assistance to officially recognized and potential trafficking victims. ATD referred 68 victims to the VAC and civil society referred 28 potential victims to the VAC. The VAC provided 44 officially recognized victims with medical aid, 52 with psychological assistance, and 53 with legal aid. The government also provided 21 officially recognized victims and potential victims with employment and 10 with vocational training. The government established a new VAC in Goychay to provide specialized rehabilitation services to trafficking victims. Civil society reported good cooperation with the VAC and praised their reintegration services. The government did not provide funding to NGO-run shelters despite relying heavily on their victim support and reintegration services to 41 victims (40 victims in 2016). NGOs remained severely underfunded and restrictive legislation governing foreign grants limited NGOs’ ability to receive funding from foreign donors. Most NGO-run shelter staff who provided support services during the reporting period worked on a voluntary basis. The State Migration Service (SMS) issued temporary residence permits for two victims from Russia and one victim from Ukraine.