The government maintained efforts to identify, refer, and assist sex trafficking victims; however, authorities remained largely dependent on NGOs to fund and provide services. The CICESCT’s “immediate response team” used protocols for identifying and referring sex trafficking victims, but Honduran authorities lacked systematic procedures to identify forced labor victims. The immediate response team, which included a full-time lawyer, psychologist, and social worker, worked with government ministries and civil society organizations to coordinate services for victims, including food, shelter, and health screenings, as well as referrals to longer-term support services, such as psychological, legal, and social services. The team operated a 24-hour trafficking-specific hotline, which received 45 calls in 2017 compared to more than 60 calls in 2016. The government identified 150 victims in 2017 (84 sex trafficking and 66 labor trafficking; 97 adults and 53 children), compared to 111 victims in 2016. It also provided immediate support to the 150 identified victims (all Honduran except one foreign national). The government also assisted 120 victims identified in previous years. The foreign ministry assisted and helped repatriate six Honduran nationals through its diplomatic missions in Argentina, France, Guatemala, and Mexico. Of the 150 victims identified within the country, 145 were reunited with their families and received limited long-term support and five remained housed in shelters. There were limited services available for adult victims, and services for both adults and children outside the capital were even more limited.
The government provided the CICESCT with a budget of 2.3 million lempiras ($96,550) for 2017, and other government agencies also provided funds from their budgets for victim assistance. International donors and NGOs continued to fund and provide services for victims. The government contracted with shelters with specialized sex trafficking expertise to provide services to identified victims. In 2017, CICESCT provided funding to a shelter for adults, with specialized training for supporting trafficking victims. Adult victims were typically placed in shelters for victims of various forms of abuse. There were increased, but still limited, long-term support and reintegration services for victims, including legal, psychological, and social support. Many victims remained vulnerable to re-trafficking. Authorities made efforts to screen for indicators of trafficking among the large numbers of Hondurans returned from abroad, including unaccompanied migrant children. The lack of adequate victim and witness protection programs, exacerbated by a slow trial process and the fear of retaliation by traffickers, led some victims—particularly adults or those exploited by criminal groups—to decline to cooperate with law enforcement. Officials acknowledged many children forced to engage in illegal activities by criminal groups were not properly identified, and thus may have been treated as criminals instead of victims. The government enabled victims to provide testimony via pre-recorded interviews in Gesell chambers and increased the number of such chambers from eight to 10 in 2017. Honduran law allowed foreign victims to receive temporary or permanent residency status, including authorization to work; the government did not report any victims received such benefits in 2017.