The government maintained protection efforts; while it identified fewer victims, the government increased their access to care. Authorities identified 439 potential trafficking victims, of which 352 identified as female, 78 identified as male, and nine LGBTQI+, compared with 678 in 2019, 371 in 2018, 316 in 2017, and 484 in 2016. SVET, in close coordination with members of the Inter-institutional Commission Against Trafficking-in-Persons (CIT), continued to use a national database to track trafficking victim information. Of the 439 potential victims identified, SVET referred 170 to NGO and government-funded shelters and services, compared with 217 in 2019 and 238 in 2018. Of those referred, 113 were victims of sexual exploitation, 41 victims of forced labor, four victims of forced criminality, two victims of domestic servitude, two victims of sex and labor exploitation, and two individuals in forced marriage. The remaining eight individuals did not appear to be victims of trafficking crimes as defined by international law. There were two government-run shelters and four main NGO-run shelters that could house trafficking victims. Shelters provided differentiated and specialized services and treatment plans for trafficking victims as compared with those of sexual exploitation. In 2020, authorities reported difficulty placing victims in shelters, as there was a reduced number of spaces available in government facilities due to social distancing protocols implemented to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In addition, according to sources, some judges were hesitant to mandate shelter placement for victims given the pressing need to mitigate the spread of the virus by maintaining social distancing protocols. The government housed 83 victims (80 females and three males) in government-run shelters, compared with 77 victims (74 females and three males) in 2018, and 89 victims (82 females and seven males) in 2017. In cooperation with other government agencies and NGOs, the government provided services to victims such as food, housing, psychological care, health care, education, and apprenticeships. Foreign victims had the same access to care as domestic trafficking victims. Shelters could also provide services and housing to victims with disabilities.
While authorities made progress to improve specialized victim protection, some challenges remained. There were limited options for adult victims of trafficking and no services for non-transgender adult men. There were limited options for adult victims of trafficking and no services—government of NGO-run—for adult men. In addition, the government did not provide sufficient long-term care and reintegration support to victims, and case follow-up was inadequate. The government provided 8.9 million quetzals ($1.15 million) in funding in 2020 for government-run shelters and specialized services, compared with 7.04 million quetzals ($904,880) in 2019, 19.4 million quetzals ($2.49 million) in 2018, and 17.6 million quetzals ($2.26 million) in 2017. The PDH’s office focused on ensuring the rights of trafficking victims were not violated. In 2020, ongoing political disputes and congressional attempts to replace the ombudsman put its capacity and anti-trafficking activities at risk. Officials had an inter-institutional protocol for the screening, protection, and referral of trafficking victims. SVET also had a protocol for its Immediate Response Team, which had a formal process for identifying, referring, and protecting victims in the short-term. In 2019, SVET created new protocols for victims of sexual violence, including trafficking: Integral First Response Model of Attention for Adult Victims of Violence, Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking; Protocol of Action in Temporary Specialized Shelter for the Care of Adult Women Migrants Victims of the Crime of Trafficking in Persons; and Updated Social Assistance Directory containing information about shelters and other social welfare organizations in the country. In 2020, SVET and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs updated the protocols to regulate the safe repatriation of victims during the pandemic. However, authorities did not take steps to familiarize the interagency on the existence of these protocols or train officials on the implementation of these tools. In addition, officials did not update the protocols to include thorough screening of vulnerable populations. The courts referred child trafficking victims to shelters. Officials from the Solicitor General’s Office and National Police accompanied child victims to the shelters. The Ministry of Development had a care program to support victims, including trafficking victims, of sexual violence under 14 years old. In the past, some observers noted instances of interagency competition and lack of coordination between SVET and the Secretariat of Social Welfare (SBS) affected shelter functioning and complicated victim care processes. In addition to its help with processing trafficking crimes involving children, the Public Ministry’s facility (MAINA) could provide specialized services, including medical, psychological, socioeconomic, and legal assistance, for child victims of crime, including trafficking, sexual violence, and abuse. However, Authorities did not report how many victims of trafficking officials assisted at the MAINA facility. SVET operated a repurposed and renovated shelter in Coban for adult trafficking victims, which included transgender women, but the number of victims assisted was unknown. An NGO maintained a specialized shelter for unaccompanied migrant children that assisted with repatriation, discouraged irregular migration, and screened for trafficking.
Although Guatemalan law required judges to make all referrals to public or private shelters, in practice, judges often did not make timely referrals, delaying access to needed assistance. Judges at times referred child victims to their families, leaving some vulnerable to re-trafficking, as family members often were involved in their exploitation. Experts noted there was a shortage of shelters for child trafficking victims. The government screened returning unaccompanied migrant children for trafficking indicators using SBS protocols for the attention and reception of such children in two government shelters. Authorities reported shelter locations were not disclosed and the shelters had basic security protocols to protect victims; however, some observers noted some government and private shelters lacked basic security features, such as sufficient security cameras and/or security guard presence on the shelter compound. The government made efforts to improve operations at its shelters, but overall monitoring and oversight, especially for facilities serving children, remained weak. The government still had not implemented structural changes to overhaul the system in the aftermath of the March 2017 fire in an overcrowded government-managed shelter, which resulted in the deaths of 41 girls and injuries to others. The shelter had previously faced allegations of corruption and sexual exploitation and was the subject of a UN investigation into the shelter’s management. In 2019, the Ministry of Labor, National Police, and the MP signed an agreement for expanded inter-institutional coordination focused on identification and referrals for victims of labor exploitation and forced labor but did not report implementing the agreement.
Authorities encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers and made options available for victim testimony either via video, in a Gesell Chamber, or from behind a partition in the courtroom to protect the victim’s identity and privacy; victims could also participate in a witness protection program. The two new specialized first instance courts had specialized psychological services for victims and procedures to ensure confidentiality for victim-witnesses who might be traumatized and/or intimidated to testify. The MP employed social workers and psychologists to serve as liaisons between the office and victims, accompany victims through the proceedings against their traffickers, and assist victims in accessing medical services. For the second year in a row, authorities did not report how many victims it assisted with these services, compared with 270 in 2018. The law required judges to order restitution when sentencing traffickers. The government, however, did not report any victims as having received restitution from 2017-2020, compared to seven victims who received restitution in 2016. The judiciary reported judges consistently ordered restitution, but observers reported a gap in enforcement of ordered for payments and the inability of those convicted to pay restitution. Guatemalan law provided legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims who may face hardship or retribution upon return to their home countries. In 2020, authorities updated the inter-institutional protocol for the repatriation of trafficking victims to incorporate the safe repatriation of victims during the pandemic. Although officials reported repatriating some victims to countries not considered to be at high risk for COVID-19, it did not indicate how many were repatriated or to where they were repatriated. Finding legal employment remained a problem for victims, with no specific system or program in place to help victims find employment. Civil society expressed concern some adult foreign victims chose to leave shelters and return to their home countries due to the lengthy investigation processes.