The government slightly increased protection efforts. The government identified 12 victims (three victims in 2016); 10 victims of sex trafficking and two victims of forced labor (three sex trafficking victims in 2016); all victims were female in 2016 and 2017; and one was a child. The government updated law enforcement guidelines for victim identification, including the treatment of victims, screening for indicators at border posts, and victim-centered interview practices. Mobile groups and task forces screened 682 individuals working at hotels, bars, nightclubs, and bathhouses for trafficking indicators and another 55 individuals deemed as “high-risk” from working at businesses that violated labor standards. Authorities also screened 3,085 Georgian nationals deported from other countries for trafficking indicators at the international airport and border crossings. A multi-disciplinary national referral mechanism (NRM) provided standard operating procedures for identifying and referring victims to services. Law enforcement officially recognized victims who participated in investigations and the Permanent Group assessed and officially recognized victims who declined to participate in investigations. The Permanent Group comprised a five-member board of non-governmental and international organization representatives and was required by statute to convene and assess a potential victim within 48 hours. An NGO provided initial psychological care and temporary shelter for potential victims awaiting official victim status, but an international organization reported an increase in identified victims would cause delays in the 48-hour identification period and constraints in accommodating potential victims. Observers reported the NRM worked effectively and demonstrated strong cooperation between law enforcement and victim assistance agencies; however, victim identification of children in exploitative situations on the street and Georgian and foreign workers in vulnerable labor sectors remained inadequate.
The government operated two specialized shelters and provided medical aid, psychological counseling, legal assistance, childcare services, reintegration support, and a one-time financial payment of 1,000 lari ($380) to victims. Child trafficking victims received the same assistance specialized for minors, in addition to custodial care, education, and family reintegration programs. The government allocated 211,600 lari ($81,070) to the anti-trafficking shelters in Tbilisi and Batumi and other victim assistance programs, compared to 269,220 lari ($103,150) in 2016. Victims could initially stay at the shelter for three months, which could be extended upon the victim’s request; the government-run shelters accommodated two victims identified in 2017. The government-run shelters staffed a nurse, social worker, lawyer, and psychologist and offered separate sections for men, women, and children. Shelter staff chaperoned victims when leaving the shelter but victims could request to leave the shelter unchaperoned. In addition to equal services for domestic and foreign victims, the government reported foreign trafficking victims were eligible for renewable one-year residence permits with the ability to seek legal employment. The law prohibited penalizing trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking; the government reported no such penalization in 2017. The government provided repatriation assistance to Georgian victims returning to Georgia and foreign victims wishing to leave Georgia; three victims received repatriation assistance to return to their home countries in 2017.
The government reported encouraging victims to assist law enforcement with investigations and prosecutions, although their assistance was not required to receive government support; eight victims assisted law enforcement (three in 2016). The Prosecutor General’s Office’s Victim-Witness Coordinators provided counsel to victims from the beginning of the investigation through the end of the court proceedings. Observers reported prosecutors and judges applied victim-centered approaches to prevent re-traumatization during trial. The law allowed recorded testimony or testimony by other technological means; the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) reported none of the trials required such measures in 2017. Victims could pursue financial restitution through civil suits but no trafficking victims have ever received restitution from their traffickers. Observers highlighted the failure to freeze and seize criminal assets as an obstacle to pursuing restitution from traffickers.