The government maintained insufficient victim identification and protection efforts, and victim identification decreased compared with the prior year. The government remained without an NRM and comprehensive, centralized, or sufficiently disaggregated data, making victim identification difficult to assess. The government did not adequately disaggregate data between trafficking and other forms of exploitation or between sex and labor trafficking. In 2020, police identified 197 trafficking victims, including at least five forced labor victims; a decrease compared with 235 in 2019 but more than 187 in 2018. In 2020, police also identified 786 victims of commercial sexual exploitation, some of whom may have been victims of sex trafficking; of these victims, 493 were French, and 217 were children. This compared with 785 victims of commercial sexual exploitation in 2019 (187 children) and 849 in 2018. Gaps in victim identification remained, and the government did not report the specific number of French nationals, children, asylum-seeking, or labor trafficking victims it identified in 2020; however, French nationals tended to be the majority of identified victims in prior years, and identified child victims continued to increase. Experts, NGOs, and GRETA expressed concerns regarding the government’s national statistics on victim identification and asserted the scale of human trafficking in France was likely much higher. Victim protection data included all French departments and territories, including those overseas. Pandemic lockdowns led to the decreased use of bars and nightclubs and the increased use of private locations and the internet as venues for exploitation, which exacerbated vulnerabilities for sex trafficking victims and decreased victim visibility to authorities. The pandemic also exacerbated vulnerabilities for labor trafficking victims through increased insolation of migrant and domestic workers, which complicated detection by officials and NGOs.
The government remained without an NRM to ensure uniform and equal treatment of victims; however, the government established an interdepartmental working group, which included NGOs, that submitted a draft mechanism for review in January 2022. In its 2013, 2017, and 2022 reports, GRETA urged the government to adopt an NRM. Most ministries and regions had formal procedures for identifying victims, including a new mechanism in Marseille in 2021, and authorities continued to use an NGO- run referral mechanism. GRETA noted the government remained without a formal identification process for victims who were nationals of France or a European Economic Area country. Experts, NGOs, and the national rapporteur reported gaps in authorities’ proactive victim identification efforts persisted; they called for improving victim identification as a top priority in the NAP. The government assumes the majority of individuals in commercial sex and all foreign adult individuals in commercial sex are trafficking victims, and the government systematically screens this population for trafficking indicators. However, this assumption could have led to a misunderstanding of sex trafficking amongst front-line officials and conflation with commercial sex. Authorities also often mischaracterized victims of forced criminality as delinquents or illegal workers and consequently excluded them from assistance. Victims of forced labor experienced difficulty in formal recognition as victims. Given the significant increase in children exploited in commercial sex in the past few years, which NGOs estimated to be between 10,000 and 15,000 predominantly French girls, in April 2021, the national rapporteur publicly urged the government to adopt a clear criminal policy against the sexual exploitation of children. The rapporteur recommended improving the identification of child trafficking victims by increasing training and data collection, targeting online platforms, and increasing national awareness campaigns.
The government provided funding for the Ac-Se system, an NGO- managed network of 88 partners, including 58 reception facilities, five NGOs that act as both reception facilities and specialized service providers, two combined reception and advice centers, one host family, and 22 specialized service providers assisting adult victims of sex and labor trafficking. The Ac-Se NGO network provided victims with shelter, legal, medical, and psychological services. However, GRETA reported that the network did not cover the entire country or overseas French Departments. Both police and NGOs referred victims to Ac-Se. However, only the police, gendarmerie, and judiciary could formally identify victims; formal identification required victims to cooperation with law enforcement. NGOs reported formal official recognition as a trafficking victim was difficult to achieve and such status offered additional protections and in practice was necessary to obtain asylum or a residence permit, residency papers, healthcare, and housing. While labor inspectors could refer potential cases of labor trafficking to law enforcement authorities, in its 2022 report, GRETA recommended authorizing labor inspectors to formally identify victims as well. The CNCDH urged the government to allow formal victim identification without a requirement to cooperate with law enforcement and also by entities other than law enforcement, including by civil society, healthcare workers, and social workers; however, the government did not report efforts to allow other entities to formally identify victims during the reporting period. The government provided Ac-Se with €523,000 ($592,970) in 2021, in addition to an unreported amount of funding it dispersed to individual NGOs supporting the Ac-Se network. This amount was a decrease compared with €797,000 ($903,630) in 2020. NGOs criticized the amount of funding generally provided by the government to all NGOs for victim assistance as insufficient and asserted the government often funded anti-trafficking efforts from the women’s rights budget with little transparency into how much it allocated specifically to human trafficking. NGOs also raised concerns pertaining to the lack of a dedicated budget allocation to NGOs providing victim assistance to trafficking victims, forcing NGOs to rely on donations from private entities. In its 2022 report, GRETA urged the government to increase funding and resources dedicated to combatting human trafficking. In addition to victims identified by the government, NGOs reported identifying at least 6,457 human trafficking victims and assisting 2,573 in 2020, but many of the NGOs did not receive government funding, and the government did not provide further details. While only partial data on victim assistance was available, government-funded NGOs reported assisting a total of 260 trafficking victims, including shelter for 48 victims and nine child dependents in 2020; this was similar to 264 in 2019, including shelter for 45 victims and 12 child dependents.
Victims were entitled to 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. Although formal victim identification required law enforcement cooperation, victims who chose not to cooperate could still receive free medical attention. Not all trafficking victims were eligible for admittance into Ac-Se’s shelter program, unless they were in immediate danger or in a highly vulnerable situation that required geographic relocation; NGOs observed that migrants without legal status often struggled to find housing, which increased their risk of exploitation. The central and municipal governments continued to partially fund the operation of a shelter in Paris that could accommodate 12 victims, as well as a small number of emergency apartments external to the Ac-Se system. There were no accommodation centers dedicated to adult male trafficking victims, but communal homes or homeless shelters were sometimes used; however, these accommodations did not take into account the specific needs of trafficking victims. Police referred child trafficking victims to the Child Welfare Services (ASE) system, which provided the children with shelter. In October 2021, the government funded an NGO-run shelter for up to 12 children, which could include trafficking victims; the shelter offered health, psychological, and judicial support. Authorities noted a significant increase in children exploited in commercial sex over the past five years, with traffickers targeting girls in government children’s shelters. GRETA and the national rapporteur reported a lack of adequate resources for the special assistance needs of child trafficking victims, especially considering the increase in victims in recent years. GRETA noted reports that unaccompanied children at airports or immigration reception centers sometimes disappear or are picked up by traffickers. While GRETA noted improved assistance to victims in recent years, it expressed concern regarding the persistent insufficient number of shelters and funding for NGOs who provided victims with care.
The law entitled trafficking victims to free legal aid, subject to meeting a number of requirements, and victims who did not meet the requirements for legal aid could receive assistance from NGOs; however, in its 2022 report, GRETA asserted lawyers were often unfamiliar with trafficking and urged the government to ensure all victims, regardless of the victim’s immigration status, had systematic early access to legal assistance. GRETA expressed concern legal aid was unavailable for undocumented migrants and may have restricted the rights of some victims to access justice. 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 national employment agency provided some foreign victims with an initial stipend of €350 ($397) a month but did not report the number of victims that received this stipend during the reporting period; civil society organizations reported the conditions for being granted a stipend were not uniform and varied by region. Judges heard criminal trials for trafficking in private at the victim’s request, and remote testimony, including by video, was also available. Although NGOs sometimes provided psychological support to victims, the government did not fund this service, and NGOs and GRETA asserted psychological counseling to victims was insufficient. However, victims usually had access to a psychologist during court proceedings, which was a legal requirement for children. The government took additional precautions to prevent re-traumatizing children: the law limited the interview of child victims to one time, law enforcement used child-friendly procedures, and the government had specialized law enforcement officials and courts for child victims. The government had specialized private victim interview rooms for children, but GRETA and NGOs reported law enforcement was often unaware of them or did not use them. NGOs and GRETA noted, despite the legal entitlement, the government did not consistently provide interpreters to victims during trials or information in a language they understood, the responsibility of which would then pass to NGOs, often without available government funding. In its 2022 report, GRETA noted front line officials were not adequately trained on human trafficking and could not inform trafficking victims of their rights or trafficking procedures, despite the availability of a standard form on victim rights; GRETA urged the government to address these gaps. Law enforcement did not have a witness protection program that trafficking victims could use, which may have decreased the willingness of some victims to cooperate with law enforcement. The CNCDH urged the government to improve assistance provided to victims during their trials, but the government did not report making efforts to do so. In its 2022 report, GRETA urged the government to ensure trafficking victims could access the witness protection program and increase their usage of audio-visual equipment to interview victims and specialized interview rooms, especially for children.
The government issued permits only when victims cooperated with police investigations or enrolled in the government’s reintegration program, which required ceasing engagement in commercial sex and often required paperwork victims could not obtain. Authorities generally offered permanent residency to trafficking victims following a successful conviction of their trafficker. The government reported issuing or renewing 293 temporary residence permits (313 in 2019) and 25 permanent residence permits (41 in 2019) to trafficking victims in 2020, the most recent year data was available. In its 2022 report, GRETA noted that while trafficking survivors with residence permits were permitted to work, they often faced language barriers, lacked necessary training, and were in need of further psychological assistance due to trauma suffered; GRETA urged the government to address these issues. 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. The government offered a specialized support program for asylum-seekers who were also victims of violence or human trafficking, but it required the victims to be formally recognized; the program provided secure lodging, psychological support, and a path to request asylum, but the government did not report how many asylum-seekers utilized this program during the reporting period. The government had internal guidelines to evaluate and process asylum claims on the basis of labor trafficking. GRETA and 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. In its 2022 report, GRETA cited instances where trafficking victims in the asylum system had numerous interactions with law enforcement but were never identified as a victim, as well as where NGOs had identified trafficking victims but law enforcement disagreed or deported the victim, despite the victim having lodged a complaint against the trafficker; GRETA recommended increased training on human trafficking for front-line officials.
In its 2017 and 2022 reports, GRETA expressed concern that police continued to arrest and prosecute child victims of forced begging and forced criminality without screening for trafficking indicators. In 2021, the government did not report uniformly screening undocumented migrants, who were vulnerable to trafficking, in Mayotte for trafficking indicators prior to their deportation, which could have left some trafficking victims unidentified. Of the 3,000-4,000 unaccompanied Comorian children at risk for sex and labor trafficking in the French department of Mayotte, the government reportedly provided approximately 40 children per year with accommodation and education, though it did not report taking effective steps to address the protection needs, including medical care, shelter, or education, of the remaining 3,000 to 4,000 children.
The government continued to lack comprehensive statistics on compensation, restitution, and damages awarded to trafficking victims. Trafficking victims could obtain compensation for personal injuries from the government through the commission for the compensation of victims of criminal offences (CIVI). GRETA reported that the CIVI often waited to make decisions until prosecutors made official indictments; with regard to labor trafficking, if prosecutors charged the perpetrator for a less severe labor law violation vice trafficking, victims would receive less compensation. The government did not report granting compensation to any trafficking victims for 2021, compared with seven victims from 2020 who received between €5,000 ($5,670) and €10,000 ($11,340) each. While not systematic or mandatory, 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 (ECC), or had legal immigration status; the government did not report awarding restitution to any victims in 2021, compared with three in 2020. Victims who were citizens of France, the ECC, or had legal immigration status could also bring a civil suit against a trafficker for damages; however, authorities did not report any victims filing suits or awarding damages to any victims during the reporting period. GRETA and NGOs reported victim restitution was rare and amounts for compensation, restitution, and damages were small. GRETA reported in 2022 that even when traffickers were ordered to pay restitution or damages, victims often did not receive payment because enforcement was difficult, and traffickers often declared bankruptcy. Victims of sex trafficking may have had difficulty in claiming restitution or damages because they did not have a legal form of employment. Victims lacking legal status were ineligible for restitution or damages, potentially increasing their vulnerability to exploitation. The government did not report the amount of assets confiscated from convicted traffickers in 2020 or 2021 or whether any was awarded to victims for restitution or damages; however, in its 2022 report, GRETA highlighted that between 2017 and 2019, authorities seized €26 million ($29.48 million) from traffickers. Victims could also receive backpay from the Labor Court, as one such victim did in 2021. In its 2022 report, GRETA urged the government to better guarantee effective access to compensation, restitution, and damages, increase training for frontline officials, and use the confiscated assets from traffickers for victims. GRETA reported that the lack of a specific provision in French law protecting victims from prosecution for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit could leave victims vulnerable to penalization, especially child victims of forced criminality and forced begging. In February 2021, the Minister of Justice requested prosecutors avoid prosecuting children for forced criminality, but this continued to leave adult victims vulnerable, and this request was not codified in the law. GRETA and NGOs expressed concern that the convictions for formally recognized trafficking victims could not be expunged, which could prevent some victims from accessing employment.