The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified 73 victims (29 in 2017). Of these, 60 were victims of forced criminality, 10 of sex trafficking, three of forced labor, and one unknown (eight of sex trafficking, seven of forced criminality, three of forced labor, and eleven of multiple types of exploitation in 2017); two were minors (14 minors in 2017); 26 women and 46 men (six women and nine men in 2017); and 62 were foreign victims (10 in 2017). The government conducted three large operations to screen for indicators of trafficking: police cooperated with the Ministry of Labor to screen 14,792 people, 8,523 vehicles, and 372 locations for indicators of forced labor; police screened 86,268 people, 38,793 vehicles, and 958 locations for indicators of child trafficking; and police separately screened 131,037 people, 49,172 vehicles, and 7,991 locations for indicators of sex trafficking and forced criminality. However, none of these efforts led to the identification of a victim. Civil society reports indicated government efforts to screen migrants and asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children, were seriously lacking. While the government denied allegations of police abuse against migrants, international organizations criticized the government for violent pushbacks of illegal migrants, and civil society reported border police assaulted and harassed migrants, including vulnerable persons such as asylum seekers, children, persons with disabilities, and pregnant women, which strongly discouraged victims from self-identifying or cooperating with authorities.
A multi-disciplinary national referral mechanism provided standard operating procedures for identifying and referring victims to services. According to the national referral mechanism, first responders carried out the preliminary identification of potential victims and contacted one of four regional mobile teams consisting of social workers and NGO representatives that travelled to assess the potential victims in person and coordinated victim care and placement. The MOI officially identified all victims in cooperation with first responders and the regional mobile team and specialized police officers responsible for child protection were called for potential child victims. The government trained police officers, border police, social workers, and members of the regional mobile teams on victim protection. The government and NGOs provided victims protection and assistance, including shelter, medical assistance, legal assistance, psycho-social support, rehabilitation, and reintegration services. The government funded two NGO-run shelters, one for adults and one providing specialized support for children; these shelters accommodated two new adults and one adult who arrived the previous year (one child and seven adults in 2017). The Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy (MDFYSP) organized a foster family for one minor victim (nine in 2017) and the Center for Social Welfare supervised two minors who were living with their families and one minor who lived independently after becoming an adult. The Center for Missing and Exploited Children (CMEC) provided a range of educational and psycho-social services for unaccompanied minors and exploited children, including child trafficking victims. The government moved toward implementation of foster care and away from using state child care institutions to mitigate traffickers targeting children from state orphanages. MDFYSP allocated 609,055 kunas ($96,520) to support the NGO-run shelters, compared to approximately 360,000 kunas ($57,050) in 2017. In addition, the government allocated 365,386 kunas ($57,910) to CMEC and the Office for Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities (OHRRNM) allocated 20,000 kunas ($3,170) for direct cash subsidies to victims in both 2017 and 2018.
Foreign victims had access to the same services as domestic victims, but foreign victims without work permits at the time of their exploitation could not receive compensation for lost wages. Foreign victims could receive a temporary residence permit after a 60-day reflection period for adults and 90 days for minors; government reported one victim received a temporary stay based on humanitarian concerns. The Office of the Chief State Prosecutor maintained written instructions on non-penalization of victims. Seven victim and witness support offices at county courts provided assistance during criminal proceedings, including requests to testify via video link, referrals to specialized institutions, logistical assistance, and measures to prevent re-traumatization. None of the victims entered witness protection in 2018 (none in 2017). Children provided testimonies to specialized professionals in child interview rooms. In previous years, OHRRNM created a roster of pro bono legal counsel available for victims, but observers reported a shortage of lawyers trained to represent trafficking victims. The government trained police officers on victim-centered investigations; however, in previous years experts reported some judges lacked sensitivity and an understanding of the impact of psychological trauma on victims’ ability to consistently and clearly relate the circumstances of their exploitation and inappropriately dismissed victim testimony as unreliable. Police reported some difficulties in encouraging victims to cooperate with investigations, particularly sex trafficking cases or cases involving potential foreign victims. State prosecutors were obliged to inform victims in criminal proceedings of their right to compensation, however the government reported that no trafficking victims filed for such compensation.