The government made mixed protection efforts. The government identified and referred fewer potential trafficking victims to care, and it did not effectively screen or assist victims among underserved communities. The government identified 110 trafficking victims (39 for sex trafficking, 67 for labor trafficking, and four for unspecified exploitation) during the reporting period, compared with 131 victims identified in the previous reporting period. Officials referred one sex trafficking victim to government and NGO shelters for assistance, compared with 48 victims referred in the previous reporting period. The government was beginning to implement procedures from the new National Action Plan (NAP) related to victim identification and referral at the end of the reporting period. NGOs raised concerns that there was a need for gender-specific identification protocols and guidance on how to collect evidence for use in prosecuting cases. Additionally, NGOs reported a lack of proactive screening measures for identifying and referring potential trafficking victims from underserved communities to protected services. Observers also reported fluctuating staffing throughout the pandemic made it more difficult to coordinate among agencies to identify and refer potential trafficking victims to care, which reduced capacity to track those who received services. Additionally, the government in collaboration with an international organization trained protection actors and counselors at government-run Isange One Stop Centers on the identification of trafficking victims and how to refer them for services.
The government decreased funding for victim care due to pandemic- related budget constraints; it dedicated 181.3 million Rwandan francs ($181,300) compared with 206 million Rwandan francs ($206,000) for victim care in 2020 and 233 million Rwandan francs ($233,000) in 2019. The government continued to operate its network of 44 one-stop centers to assist GBV and trafficking victims. Observers reported four shelters affiliated with NGOs and 17 government-affiliated safe houses also offered services. The government opened its first child-friendly space in coordination with an international organization in September 2021, which offered services for juvenile suspects, victims, and witnesses, including victims and witnesses of trafficking crimes. Observers reported the government planned to establish several more of these spaces, funding permitting. 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 government did not report how many trafficking victims it assisted at the one-stop centers during the reporting period. NGOs reported the one-stop centers primarily focused on the needs of female victims, while assistance for male victims remained insufficient. The government reported victims generally stayed at Isange One-Stop Centers for three days, after which victims could choose between longer-term shelter or independent living options, depending on their situations. The long-term government shelters provided up to six months of shelter services for human trafficking and GBV 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 and NGOs reported adult victims residing at shelters had freedom of movement and could participate in support programs on their own accord. The government reported having available temporary shelter services if victims were unwilling to return to their places of origin. NGOs reported foreign victims had the same access to services as Rwandan victims. The government reported providing and funding counseling services, medical care, literacy and numeracy education, and vocational training for the reintegration of identified former child soldiers—both boys and girls. NGO service providers offered general assistance and support in refugee camps, but a lack of capacity and resources inhibited the implementation of effective procedures, screening, and assistance to trafficking victims in refugee camps.
The 2018 anti-trafficking law stated that trafficking victims should not be detained, charged, or prosecuted for their involvement in any unlawful activity that was a direct consequence of being exploited. However, due to a lack of formal identification procedures through most of the reporting period, authorities sometimes penalized victims for forced begging and other unlawful acts their traffickers compelled them to commit. The government continued operating transit centers that advocacy groups and NGOs reported detained vulnerable persons and potential trafficking victims—including those in commercial sex, adults and children experiencing homelessness, members of the LGBTQI+ community, foreign nationals, and children in street vending and forced begging—and did not adequately screen for trafficking indicators among them. The government held many potential victims of trafficking in these centers, which functioned as de facto detention facilities, for up to six months. Observers further noted that authorities often released detainees back on the streets abruptly and without notice, thereby exposing them to possible revictimization. While some centers provided detainees and identified victims with psychological counseling, education, vocational training, and reintegration services, not all transit centers offered the same services. NGOs reported officials did not effectively use identification and screening mechanisms to screen for trafficking indicators among underserved communities such as those engaged in commercial sex, adults and children experiencing homelessness, and children in street vending and forced begging who were also denied access to protection measures. Observers reported officials did not follow victim referral procedures with respect to the LGBTQI+ community and individuals in commercial sex due to widespread cultural prejudice. Officials were less likely to refer members of the LGBTQI+ community for services, if at all.
The government supported the repatriation of one Rwandan victim from Oman. The government identified two trafficking victims in Uganda. The anti-trafficking law also required the government to provide support to identified trafficking victims abroad by covering the cost of transportation and repatriation to Rwanda. In July 2021, the government approved two ministerial orders to clarify responsibilities for interagency coordination to support the repatriation of victims and coordination of efforts to identify and assist internal victims. NGOs applauded this action, which explained clear policies and provided a budget to support their anti-trafficking efforts. The government reported having a dedicated budget to repatriate Rwandan nationals from trafficking situations overseas, and diplomats and immigration officials worked to facilitate repatriations, especially from Gulf states. However, observers noted Rwanda’s relatively limited diplomatic footprint often made it difficult for Rwandan officials abroad to provide first-hand assistance to trafficking victims overseas. Media and NGOs reported victims continued to receive support packages of 250,000 Rwandan francs ($250) upon reintegration into their home communities. 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 provided such assistance. The anti-trafficking law also protected the identity of victims by allowing court proceedings to be conducted by 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 permitted trafficking victims to obtain employment and remain in Rwanda (or leave Rwanda) pending trial proceedings. The government did not report whether it granted this immigration relief to any victims during the reporting period. The anti-trafficking law continued to allow victims to file civil suits against traffickers for restitution and civil damages and stated that victims were exempt from paying any associated filing fees, but the government did not report any suits filed or courts ordering restitution for trafficking victims during the reporting period.