The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified two confirmed and 129 potential trafficking victims during law enforcement investigations, compared with 184 confirmed and potential victims in 2016 and 121 in 2015. Of the 131 confirmed and potential victims the government identified in 2017, 127 victims, including 26 children, were sexually exploited. The government reported referring 60 victims to NGOs for reintegration services, compared with 55 in 2016 and 27 in 2015. NGOs reported law enforcement officials referred 134 victims to international organizations and NGOs for care, compared with 27 in 2015 and 32 in 2014; NGOs stated this increase was due to improved cooperation with law enforcement across the country. The government reported training police officers and diplomats on victim identification and referral procedures. According to a GRETA report, authorities did not identify some victims who had initially consented to perform a certain job or service in which they were later exploited; identification procedures did not specify the consent of victims was irrelevant when there was the presence of force, fraud, or coercion. The government reported screening individuals arrested for prostitution for trafficking indicators and exempting them from any legal liability; the government reported that of the 1,298 individuals convicted on prostitution charges in 2017, none were trafficking victims.
The government provided in-kind assistance to anti-trafficking NGOs in the form of facilities for seminars, conferences, and training; expedited approval of projects and grants; and tax-exempt status. The government did not provide financial support for NGOs. NGOs reported assisting 137 trafficking victims in 2017, 22 of whom were children, compared with 279 victims assisted in 2016. An international organization providing victim services experienced a six-month gap in anti-trafficking program funding due to a lapse of international donor funding, which resulted in fewer identifications. The government did not have trafficking-specific facilities available to care for victims, but local authorities operated 128 “crisis rooms” that offered temporary shelter, including beds, meals, and personal hygiene products to vulnerable adults, including victims of natural and manmade disasters, domestic violence, and human trafficking. In 2017, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, which monitored “crisis rooms” operations, adopted a new regulation that allowed victims seeking immediate assistance to shelter at a “crisis room” without a form of identification. The hours of operation were expanded from weekdays only to 24-hours a day. The government reported that three trafficking victims used these facilities.
In previous years, observers reported most victims sought assistance at private shelters because the government’s centers were poorly equipped and lacked qualified caregivers. The education ministry maintained centers that could provide vulnerable children with shelter and basic provisions; however, similar to past years, no child trafficking victims had received services at these facilities, despite the government identifying child sex trafficking victims. The government reported providing medical care and information to 45 potential trafficking victims.