The government made uneven protection efforts, including assisting fewer victims than the prior year. The government reported police identified 892 victims of exploitation in 2019, compared to 950 in 2018. Of the 892 victims of exploitation, 175 were victims of trafficking and 717 were victims of aggravated sexual exploitation, which in some cases included victims of adult and child sex trafficking. This compared to 177 victims of trafficking and 773 victims of sexual exploitation in 2018. Victim protection data included all French departments and territories, including those overseas. The governmental Mission for the Protection of Women against Violence and the Fight against Human Trafficking (MIPROF) and the National Supervisory Body on Crime and Punishment released the results of a large-scale victim survey completed by 53 NGOs. It found that, in 2018, 74 percent were victims of sex trafficking, 17 percent forced labor, five percent forced criminality, three percent forced begging. Forty-eight percent of victims surveyed came from Nigeria, followed in frequency by victims from North Africa and Eastern Europe. The government did not have a national identification and referral mechanism to ensure uniform and equal treatment of victims; however, most ministries and regions had formal procedures for identifying victims, and use of an NGO-run referral mechanism continued. The government assumes the majority of individuals in commercial sex are trafficking victims, and the government systematically screens this population for trafficking indicators. The Ministry of Solidarity and Health and the City of Paris provided funding for the Ac-Se system, an NGO-managed network of 50 NGO-run shelters and specialized NGOs assisting adult victims of sex and labor trafficking. Both police and NGOs referred victims to Ac-Se. While only partial data on victim assistance was available, Ac-Se reported assisting 64 trafficking victims in 2019, a decrease compared to 86 in 2018 and 79 in 2017. Ac-Se provided victims with shelter, legal, medical, and psychological services; in 2019, 57 victims, including 12 children, received shelter, and seven were assisted with voluntary repatriation. The government identified similar numbers of victims as in 2018; however, civil society did not interpret this trend as a decrease in trafficking prevalence and reported an increase in victims over recent years. The government provided Ac-Se with €240,000 ($269,660) in 2019, in addition to an unreported amount of funding to NGOs supporting the Ac-Se network. This amount compared to €234,000 ($262,920) in 2018.
Local governments provided French language classes to victims, and some victims could qualify for subsidized housing and job training programs, but the government did not report the number of victims provided with these benefits. The government, through the national employment agency, provided some foreign victims with an initial stipend of €350 ($390) a month; civil society reported the conditions for being granted a stipend were not uniform and varied by region. The central and municipal governments also partially funded the operation of a shelter in Paris and a small number of emergency apartments external to the Ac-Se system. There were limited accommodation options for male victims. Police referred child trafficking victims to the Child Welfare Services (ASE) system. GRETA and the French independent rapporteur on trafficking reported a lack of adequate resources for the special assistance needs of child trafficking victims. The MOI reported conducting five training sessions during the reporting period on access to asylum for unaccompanied minors for the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA). Training for victim identification and assistance protocols for social workers, staff, senior protection officers, interpreters, and new refugee protection officers in the OFPRA continued during the reporting period and training for protection officers increased from 71 in 2018 to 146 in 2019. The government also continued to distribute pocket-sized victim identification cards to police and NGOs.
The government had an NGO-run referral program to transfer victims detained, arrested, or placed in protective custody by law enforcement authorities to institutions that provided short-term care. Judges heard criminal trials for trafficking or aggravated pimping in private at the victim’s request. To limit re-traumatization, victims usually had access to a psychologist during court proceedings. Victims were entitled to receive a 30-day reflection period during which they could decide whether to lodge a complaint or participate in criminal proceedings against a trafficker; however, some authorities were not familiar with the reflection period and did not offer it in practice. The government did not report the number of temporary residence permits granted to trafficking victims; such permits were only issued when victims cooperated with police investigations or enrolled in the government’s reintegration program, which required ceasing engagement in commercial sex. Trafficking victims were also eligible for international protection under refugee status or subsidiary protection status in cases where victims had a credible fear of retaliation, including from public authorities in their country of origin, if returned; however, the government did not report the number of victims granted such status during the reporting period. The government offered a specialized support program for asylum-seekers who are also victims of violence or trafficking in persons; the program provided secure lodging, psychological treatment, and a path to request asylum, but the government did not report how many asylum-seekers utilized this program during the reporting period. In May 2019, OFPRA internally published guidelines to evaluate and process asylum claims on the basis on labor trafficking. A large collective of anti-trafficking NGOs believed the new law on asylum and immigration, which eased restrictions on migrant deportation, limited victims’ ability to receive temporary residence due to new time-bound restrictions on permit applications and more stringent approval criteria. GRETA reported police arrested and prosecuted child victims of forced begging and forced criminality without screening for trafficking indicators. Criminal courts could order traffickers to pay restitution to victims who were citizens of France or when the act was committed on French territory, the European Economic Community (EEC), or had legal immigration status; however, authorities did not report ordering such restitution. Victims who were citizens of France, the EEC, or had legal immigration status could also bring a civil suit against a trafficker for damages. Victims lacking legal status were ineligible for restitution and damages. GRETA and NGOs reported victim compensation payments were rare.