The government maintained mixed protection efforts; the government identified more victims but referred fewer to care and neglected to conduct adequate screening of potential victims detained at government transit and rehabilitation centers. The government identified 96 trafficking victims in 2019, compared with 33 victims in 2018. Officials referred 30 victims for assistance to shelters, compared to 33 during the previous reporting period. The government did not report the number of transnational victims identified and referred to care in 2019, compared to 33 transnational victims in 2018. The government collaborated with an international organization to develop a national referral mechanism to standardize victim referral procedures; however, the government did not validate and implement the mechanism during the reporting period. Law enforcement, immigration officials, and social workers in one-stop centers had victim identification guidelines, but implementation remained limited. Officials also reported lacking knowledge to screen specifically for trafficking among GBV victims who received assistance at government centers. In addition, sources reported challenges distinguishing trafficking from other crimes such as GBV, forced marriage, abduction, commercial sex, migrant smuggling, and rape. The government reported immigration officials screened children crossing the border for trafficking indicators and verified if they were traveling with the permission of their parents.
The government continued to operate its network of 44 one-stop centers to assist GBV and trafficking victims. The government’s one-stop centers—located in hospitals and district capitals—provided short-term shelter and psycho-social, medical, and legal services to victims. The extent and quality of services varied between locations, particularly regarding the provision of adequate psycho-social counseling, and social workers did not always screen and identify trafficking victims as distinct from GBV victims. The government did not report the number of trafficking victims who received assistance at the one-stop centers. NGOs reported the one-stop centers primarily focused on the needs of female victims; assistance for male victims and victims with disabilities remained insufficient; and service providers lacked knowledge on how to prevent further trauma and re-victimization. The government collaborated with an international organization to develop a directory of service providers for trafficking victims and distributed it to all relevant stakeholders, including the one-stop centers. The government and NGOs reported adult victims were free to leave support programs on their own accord. The government generally did not have long-term care facilities for the vast majority of trafficking victims. NGOs reported foreign victims had the same access to services as domestic victims. The government reported providing counseling and funding for the reintegration of identified former child soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during the reporting period; however, the government did not report the number of former child combatants who received assistance. NGO service providers offered general assistance and support in refugee camps, but a lack of capacity and resources inhibited the development and implementation of effective procedures, screening, and assistance to victims of trafficking in refugee camps. NGOs reported a lack of coordination and collaboration between the government and civil society inhibited their ability to provide assistance for trafficking victims.
The 2018 anti-trafficking law stated trafficking victims should not be detained, charged, or prosecuted for their involvement in any unlawful activity that was a direct consequence of being exploited. The government continued operating transit centers with the purpose of reintegrating people with “deviant behaviors,” including but not limited to commercial sex, drug use, begging, vagrancy, and informal street vending. Government officials stated these centers provided detainees with psychological counseling, education, vocational training, and reintegration services. However, advocacy groups and NGOs reported authorities continued to detain thousands of vulnerable persons, including adults and children in commercial sex, children experiencing homelessness, and children exploited in forced begging at these centers. In addition, authorities did not conduct proactive, adequate screening for trafficking indicators or refer potential victims to care. Observers reported the government held many potential victims of trafficking for up to six months in these centers before abruptly releasing them back on the streets, and that this practice exposed them to possible re-victimization. Former detainees often reported being detained and moving through the transit centers a few times a year. NGOs also reported that due to uneven training, law enforcement officials may have arrested potential foreign national trafficking victims on immigration charges and deported them without first conducting adequate screening.
The government repatriated Rwandan victims identified abroad; however, the government lacked capacity and support to reintegrate trafficking victims into their respective communities. Rwanda’s anti-trafficking law requires the government to provide support to Rwandan trafficking victims abroad by covering the cost of transportation and repatriation to Rwanda. The 2018 anti-trafficking law states that ministerial orders would provide victims with other particular means of support. The government collaborated with an international organization to draft SOPs that would serve as the basis for these ministerial orders; however, the SOPs had yet to be adopted at the end of the reporting period. Local media reported that victims received 250,000 Rwandan francs ($270) upon their return to their home districts; however, the government did not report the number of victims who received these funds. The government’s diplomatic staff occasionally offered assistance to Rwandan trafficking victims overseas. Officials assisted a 40-year-old Rwandan victim who was exploited in Kuwait and escaped to Dubai, where the embassy offered her shelter in a private home and processed her travel documents for repatriation. The 2018 anti-trafficking law called for the government to provide legal assistance and information to victims in a language they understood; however, the government did not report the number of potential victims to whom it disseminated this information. The National Public Prosecution Authority continued to operate two safe houses for witnesses in criminal cases, which were available to trafficking victims; however, the government did not report the number of trafficking victims who used safe houses during the reporting period, compared to six during the previous reporting period. RIB reported 100 victims assisted in investigations during the reporting period. An NGO previously reported that seven of the one-stop centers were equipped with video recording equipment to allow victims the ability to testify via video testimony; however, the government did not report using this option during the reporting period. The anti-trafficking law also protected the identity of victims by allowing court proceedings to be conducted in camera and permitting the use of a video link, but the government did not report providing any victims with these protections during the reporting period. The anti-trafficking law continued to permit foreign victims to remain in Rwanda for a minimum of six months or until legal proceedings concluded. The government did not report whether it granted this immigration relief to any victims during the reporting period; however, the government did report efforts not to deport foreign victims who faced retribution in their home countries. The anti-trafficking law continued to allow victims to file civil suits against traffickers and stated that victims are exempt from paying any associated filing fees, but the government did not report any suits filed during the reporting period.