The government demonstrated mixed protection efforts; while it revised SOPs to improve victim identification efforts, during the reporting year it identified far fewer victims. The National Police and Border Guard identified 82 potential victims (221 in 2019 and 162 in 2018) and referred 39 to care facilities (104 in 2019 and 47 in 2018); the government reported all victims were offered services, but some chose not to accept them. Observers reported pandemic-related restrictions were largely to blame for this decrease, and an NGO stated police capabilities were reduced during the year. The Office for Foreigners identified two asylum applicants as potential trafficking victims—one forced begging victim from Moldova and one sex trafficking victim from Ukraine. The National Intervention-Consultation Center for Victims of Trafficking (KCIK), run by two government-funded NGOs, provided assistance to 166 potential victims (226 in 2019 and 168 in 2018), including 40 victims of sex trafficking, 70 victims of forced labor (including three for forced criminality, one for domestic service, and one for forced begging), and 56 victims of other types of exploitation; 102 were female and 64 were male and 109 were foreign victims. Police reported regularly conducting investigations at escort agencies to proactively identify potential sex trafficking victims. The government maintained SOPs for the identification, referral, and support of trafficking victims, including standardized indicators and specific indicators to identify child victims. The government revised the SOPs for the National Police and Border Guard in 2020 to improve identification and referral efforts, and the Ministry of Interior (MOI) designed a poster with a list of trafficking indicators to assist police and border guards with identifying potential trafficking victims. However, police and prosecutors acknowledged authorities lacked the expertise to identify forced labor and child victims, particularly among unaccompanied children. As in the previous two years, labor inspectors did not identify any victims in 2020 and noted challenges in determining whether an offense constituted a violation of workers’ rights or forced labor. Law enforcement used indicators with sample questions focused on freedom of movement but did not take psychological coercion or subtle forms of force into consideration. The Ministry of Family and Social Policy conducted a training session for 30 social workers focused on victim identification, crisis intervention, and cooperation with other institutions on victim protection. Civil society representatives reported effective cooperation with the national police and border guard on victim referral procedures during the reporting period.
KCIK provided adult and minor victims with medical and psychological care, shelter, legal counseling, welfare support, reintegration services, and referrals to orphanages and foster care for child victims. KCIK operated two shelters for adult female victims, a small shelter for men with capacity to accommodate three adult male victims, and rented apartments for victims who did not prefer shelters. The government allowed victims to seek employment and work while receiving assistance and leave the shelters unchaperoned and at will; shelters and housing were available for victims with disabilities. The government provided specialized shelter and housing to 42 victims in 2020 (58 in 2019). Victims also could receive general assistance (social, medical, psychological, legal) in 168 crisis intervention centers operated and funded by local governments, 20 of which maintained staff trained on assisting trafficking victims; KCIK arranged accommodations for 23 victims using crisis centers and other locations (54 in 2019).
Funding for victim services remained stagnant for the sixth year following a 10 percent increase in 2015. In 2020, the government allocated 1.1 million zloty ($296,260) to two NGOs that run KCIK, the same amount as in 2019 and 2018. The government also allocated 80,000 zloty ($21,550) to train welfare assistance personnel on identification of victims and provision of assistance to trafficking victims and witnesses, the same amount as in 2019. Experts said limited government funding for victim assistance constrained service provision, particularly outside of Warsaw and Katowice. Shelter capacity for male victims was insufficient given the increasing number of male labor trafficking victims. Observers expressed concern the national system for child victim assistance did not properly address the needs of unaccompanied children and noted the government placed unaccompanied child victims in foster families or orphanages unprepared to assist child victims. All foreign victims from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) formally identified by law enforcement were entitled to social welfare benefits, including crisis intervention assistance, shelter, meals, necessary clothing, and financial assistance; in the first six months of 2020, 16 non-EEA national victims received assistance, compared with 20 in the first six months of 2019 (32 total in 2019). Victims from the EEA had access to the full scope of welfare benefits offered to Polish citizens if they could prove habitual residency, but NGOs reported some victims, particularly from Romania and Bulgaria, were unable to prove this through the required documentation; in 2020, KCIK provided assistance to six EEA nationals (four Bulgarians and two Romanians).
Authorities reported screening individuals in vulnerable populations, including individuals in commercial sex and migrants, when detaining and arresting. Foreign victims were entitled to a three-month reflection period, during which they could stay legally in Poland to decide whether to assist in the criminal process;11 victims used this benefit during the reporting period (120 in 2019). Foreign victims were eligible for a residence permit valid for up to three years, which entitled them to work, and could apply for permanent residency; authorities granted residence permits to 15 foreign victims in 2020, including nine from Uganda, two each from Colombia and the Philippines, and one each from India and Ukraine. The government coordinated with an international organization to repatriate two foreign victims (three in 2019), one to Bulgaria and one to Colombia. Polish law permitted victims to provide testimony via video or written statements; audio-video recording of testimony was obligatory for victims younger than 15 years of age and for victims of sexual crimes, including sex trafficking. The government reported the majority of victims identified by prosecutors agreed to cooperate in investigations of their traffickers. However, experts noted law enforcement and prosecutorial interview techniques lacked a trauma-informed approach, hindering opportunities to build rapport with traumatized victims, who then were less likely to provide reliable testimony. NGOs reported judges interviewed children and did not receive training on child-friendly, victim-centered, or trauma-informed interviewing techniques, which re-traumatized victims. Prosecutors rarely requested restitution in criminal proceedings but a court awarded 1,000 zloty ($269) in compensation to each of six victims (eight in 2019). Victims also could receive compensation in civil suits; the government did not report if any victims filed such suits during the reporting year.