The government increased efforts in some areas of protection. Draft legislation introduced in 2017 intended to increase the safety of persons with disabilities from exploitation, improve procedures for establishing victim status, expand the network of victim service providers, and improve protections for foreign victims and stateless persons remained pending in Parliament. The police identified 275 victims in 2018 (349 in 2017). The government continued to rely on international organizations and NGOs, with international donor funding, to identify victims and provide the vast majority of victim protection and assistance. An international organization in Ukraine assisted 1,265 victims, compared with 1,256 in 2017. International organizations reported the majority of their identified victims were subjected to labor trafficking; the government reported identifying approximately equal numbers of victims subjected to labor and sex trafficking. Authorities approved 214 of 266 applications requesting official victim status, compared with 195 of 273 in 2017 and 110 of 124 in 2016. In 2017, the government simplified the application process for potential victims incarcerated abroad, including waiving the in-person interview requirement; the government granted official victim status to 28 individuals incarcerated in Russia in 2018. Authorities did not approve 52 applications reportedly due to police not qualifying the crime as trafficking or the victim submitting incomplete applications. Victims not requiring specialized services may have chosen not to pursue official victim status, although NGOs reported the emphasis on documents deterred some labor victims and members of the Romani community from applying. The government maintained efforts on proactive victim identification and cooperated with NGOs on victim identification through the national referral mechanism. Ongoing decentralization reforms obscured local communities’ chains of responsibility for decisions regarding provision of key social services, including identifying, referring, and assisting trafficking victims; however, NGOs reported the strengthening of local self-governance expanded local decision-making powers and secured more solid financing.
The government allocated 548,000 hryvnia ($19,780) to the national budget for anti-trafficking measures in 2018, compared to disbursements of 98,800 hryvnia ($3,570) to the national budget and 219,220 hryvnia ($7,910) to local budgets for anti-trafficking measures in 2017. The government did not report any funding disbursements to local budgets in 2018. The government provided financial assistance to each officially recognized victim in amounts greater than the official subsistence level. Ukraine’s trafficking law entitled victims to housing at a government shelter, psychological assistance, medical services, employment counseling, and vocational training, regardless of whether a criminal case proceeded or the victim cooperated with law enforcement. Authorities assigned victims with official status a case management team, which provided referrals to care facilities, NGOs, or other services according to an individualized plan. Some victims requiring shelter stayed at a rehabilitation center run by an international organization with funding from international donors, housed in a state-run hospital. Adult victims could also stay at government-run centers for socio-psychological assistance for up to 90 days and receive psychological and medical support, lodging, food, and legal assistance. Authorities could accommodate child victims in centers for socio-psychological rehabilitation of children for up to 12 months and administer social, medical, psychological, education, legal, and other types of assistance. The government maintained 21 centers for socio-psychological assistance, as well as 692 social services centers. The government created a new social service center offering psychological services in Transcarpathia and continued to cooperate with local administrations and NGOs to provide victims aid in centers for socially vulnerable populations, which facilitated the creation of a 35-bed shelter for vulnerable females, including victims of trafficking, in Poltava. Observers reported the provision of assistance was problematic due to funding shortfalls and high turnover of trained staff. The government, often in cooperation with international organizations, provided training for officials on victim identification and assistance. The government reported it assisted the repatriation of two Ukrainian victims from Azerbaijan and China.
Victims commonly suffered threats and intimidation throughout the legal process. NGOs reported the release of alleged traffickers on bail increased the risk to victims; in some cases, alleged traffickers lived in the same community as their victims. However, the government did not report whether it provided any victims with witness protection or protective measures inside courtrooms. NGOs reported the government often did not provide legal assistance or other support to victims during criminal cases. The government did not report cases of courts ordering restitution payments for victims in 2018.
Officials reported screening illegal migrants for indicators of trafficking, but did not identify any foreign victims in 2018; international organizations reported identifying three victims—two from Moldova and one from Belarus. Foreign victims were entitled to the same benefits as Ukrainian citizens and had additional access to interpretation services, temporary legal stay, and voluntary repatriation. Legislation that would allow foreign victims to remain in Ukraine for extended periods and work legally remained pending with the government. There was no legal way for foreign victims to extend their stay, change legal residency, secure employment rights, or seek protection from deportation to countries where they would face hardship or retribution.