The government decreased efforts in some areas of protection. In October 2019, Parliament did not pass 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. The police identified 262 victims in 2019, compared with 275 in 2018 and 349 in 2017; 145 victims were male, 107 female, and 10 children. Authorities approved 185 of 283 applications requesting official victim status, compared with 214 of 266 in 2018 and 195 of 273 in 2017. The majority of victims were Ukrainians exploited abroad; only one domestically identified victim was foreign. The government continued to use a simplified application process for potential victims incarcerated abroad, which included waiving the in-person interview requirement; the government granted official victim status to 40 individuals incarcerated abroad in 2019, compared with 28 in 2018. Civil society reported the government rejected more applications in 2019 due to stricter internal procedures to classify cases as trafficking crimes or prove exploitation under non-trafficking articles as well as large-scale personnel turnover within the office that approved the applications. Authorities did not approve 72 applications reportedly due to police not qualifying the crime as trafficking and returned 10 applications for additional information; the reason(s) for rejection of the other 16 applications remained unknown. 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. According to an international organization, the national referral mechanism did not formalize a process for NGOs to access state funding. An international organization in Ukraine assisted 1,345 victims, compared with 1,265 in 2018. International organizations reported the majority of their identified victims were exploited by labor traffickers; the government reported identifying an increased number of victims subjected to labor trafficking in 2019. 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 cooperated with NGOs on victim identification through the national referral mechanism. Changes in administration, personnel turnover, and ongoing decentralization reforms continued to obscure local communities’ chains of responsibility for decisions regarding provision of key social services, including identifying, referring, and assisting trafficking victims; however, NGOs continued to report the strengthening of local self-governance expanded local decision-making powers and secured more solid financing over the reporting period.
The government allocated 548,000 hryvnia ($23,130) to the national budget for anti-trafficking measures in 2019, compared with the same amount in 2018 and disbursements of 98,800 hryvnia ($4,170) in 2017. For the past four years, funding for local budgets remained the same at 219,220 ($9,250) hryvnia. The government increased financial assistance to each officially recognized victim in amounts already 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. The center received funding from international donors and was 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, 24 shelters for domestic violence opened to trafficking victims, as well as 692 social services centers. The government reported it implemented a family-based approach, opening services to victims’ families as needed; 157 families received psychological services, 114 received legal assistance, 34 received medical assistance, and 18 families received housing assistance. Despite a continued pledge, the government did not provide funding or resources to an international organization’s victim rehabilitation center. Observers reported the provision of assistance was problematic due to funding shortfalls and a lack of coordination between state bodies at the regional level. 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 one Ukrainian victim from Thailand.
The Witness Protection Law provided protections for victims, but courts rarely utilized any protection measures in practice. 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 2019.
Officials reported screening illegal migrants for indicators of trafficking and identified one foreign victim in 2019; international organizations did not report identifying any foreign victims in 2019. Foreign victims were entitled to the same benefits as Ukrainian citizens and had additional access to interpretation services, temporary legal stay, and voluntary repatriation. There was no legal way for foreign victims who remained in Ukraine less than three years to extend their stay, change legal residency, secure employment rights, or seek protection from deportation to countries where they would face hardship or retribution.