The government slightly decreased victim protection efforts. The government identified 82 potential trafficking victims (44 in 2016). Of these, 15 were victims of sex trafficking, seven of forced labor, 52 of forced begging, seven of forced begging and involuntary sexual servitude in forced marriages, and one whose exploitation was not reported (six of sex trafficking, 12 of forced labor, 20 of forced begging; and six of both sex trafficking and forced labor in 2016); 58 victims were female and 25 were male (26 were female and 18 were male in 2016); 47 children (10 were children in 2016). Two bylaws provided standard operating procedures for identifying and referring victims to services. The government also maintained guidelines to assist first responders in identifying trafficking victims, including a list of indicators, but observers reported first responders did not know or consistently use the guidelines and lacked proactive identification efforts, particularly for adult victims. The government operated seven drop-in centers for children that conducted outreach work and a mobile team for street children in Sarajevo; drop-in centers and the mobile team identified 130 street children. International organizations reported law enforcement and social workers at centers for social welfare (CSW) justified cases of potential forced child begging, forced labor, and forced marriage involving Roma as traditional cultural practices and customs and sometimes returned children to their families even when parents were involved in the exploitation. First responders referred potential trafficking victims to law enforcement who conducted an interview and had authority to officially recognize victims. However, GRETA and an NGO reported, in practice, the interview and identification procedures lacked transparency and only prosecutors’ designation of whether a person was a trafficking victim was recognized; prosecutors often required victims to cooperate with law enforcement to receive assistance and support. The government-funded assistance programs required victims to obtain official recognition to access care and potential victims received assistance only when an NGO had funds from other sources; authorities referred 26 victims to NGO-run shelters (13 in 2016).
The government partly funded two specialized NGO-run shelters. The Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees allocated 60,000 marks ($36,810) to assist domestic trafficking victims in both 2016 and 2017. The Ministry of Security allocated 70,000 marks ($42,940) for assistance to foreign victims in both 2016 and 2017. Funding for victim assistance was disproportionately lower for domestic victims, although they constituted the majority of identified victims. The government returned to the State budget unused funds allocated to assist foreign victims but did not reallocate those funds for domestic victim assistance. NGOs reported good cooperation with the government but greatly lacked resources. The government, in cooperation with NGOs, provided accommodation, psycho-social support, medical assistance, legal assistance, and guardianship for children. However, access to care was not standardized and based on bylaws that were not legally binding; RS law entitled trafficking victims to social assistance but Federation and BD laws did not include trafficking victims to such assistance. NGO-run shelters allowed victims to leave voluntarily after informing the staff, but GRETA reported no mechanisms were in place to provide assistance to victims outside of shelters, including at CSW that lacked the resources and staff to provide specialized assistance to trafficking victims. One NGO-run shelter accommodated male trafficking victims but did not offer specialized services. Authorities reported developing a reintegration plan for each victim, including vocational training, but the government did not provide funding for reintegration programs and observers reported cases of children spending over two years at NGO-run shelters due to slow court proceedings and a lack of reintegration opportunities. The law provided repatriation assistance to Bosnian citizens identified abroad; the government repatriated one victim from Hungary in 2017. Foreign victims were eligible for a humanitarian visa allowing them to temporarily live and work in Bosnia and victims were permitted a 30-day reflection period to determine whether they wanted to request a visa.
The government penalized victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; observers reported victims of forced begging and forced criminality were penalized with misdemeanor charges for petty crimes. The government may have deported, detained, or restricted freedom of movement of some trafficking victims due to inadequate identification efforts. Sub-State laws against “enticement to prostitution” permitted law enforcement to treat children 14 years and older as juveniles willingly engaged in prostitution instead of victims of rape or sex trafficking. The government did not consistently conduct victim-centered investigations and prosecutions; authorities repeatedly interviewed victims and victims frequently appeared in front of their traffickers in court, causing re-traumatization. Police did not consistently notify victims’ lawyers when conducting interviews and international organizations reported cases of victims’ identity and personal information leaked to the media and published. Victims could seek restitution through criminal or civil suits. In 2016, a district court upheld an appeal made by an NGO that filed the first lawsuit for compensation on behalf of four trafficking victims and in 2017; the court ordered the traffickers to pay 12,100 marks ($7,420) to their four victims. Observers reported civil proceedings required victims to submit new testimonies and medical examinations, causing re-traumatization, despite the government convicting their trafficker in criminal proceedings.