U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - Latvia
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons|
|Publication Date||14 June 2004|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - Latvia, 14 June 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4680d80ec.html [accessed 20 September 2014]|
Latvia (Tier 2)
Latvia is a source country for women and children trafficked to England, Poland, Ireland, Israel, Spain, Germany, and Italy for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Organized crime groups from Poland, Ukraine, and Israel reportedly control the main trafficking networks in cooperation with Latvian criminal groups, who recruit the victims. Victims are also trafficked internally, from rural areas of high unemployment to Riga and other urban centers.
The Government of Latvia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Although much remains to be done, Latvia made noticeable improvement in its efforts to enforce laws against trafficking. On March 2, 2004, Latvia's cabinet of ministers approved a national action plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which assigns roles and provides for coordination among agencies, NGOs, and international organizations. The national action plan also requires the government to submit an annual report on anti-trafficking efforts and to fund anti-trafficking programs beginning in fiscal year 2005.
The Government of Latvia has laws that criminalize international trafficking with sufficiently severe penalties. The Interior Ministry has proposed to amend these laws to also criminalize internal trafficking within Latvia's borders. Currently, domestic trafficking cases are prosecuted under laws outlawing pimping. In 2003, the government convicted 23 individuals of trafficking-related crimes, compared to eight individuals convicted in 2002. Sentences in these cases ranged from a six-month suspended sentence to four years in prison; most sentences ranged from two to three years. The Latvian police's small anti-trafficking squad needs additional training, staffing, and improved cooperation with the Prosecutor's Office. In 2003, the Latvian anti-trafficking unit cooperated with German, Danish, Swedish, Lithuanian, Estonian, and Finnish law enforcement agencies on five international trafficking investigations, all of which are ongoing. Control of Latvian borders is adequate, but could be improved. Latvia has established an anti-corruption bureau and continues to fight official corruption.
Latvia's protection of trafficking victims regressed during the reporting period. Due to insufficient funding, two government shelters in Riga and Jelgava closed. Trafficking victims now must use an alternate center shared with asylum seekers. The government funds no rehabilitation facilities specifically for trafficking victims, nor does it provide direct funding to foreign or domestic NGOs for services to victims. Law enforcement officials do not criminally punish victims, but rather refer them to NGOs for assistance. According to victims, police interviewing techniques need improvement. The Latvian Government continues to provide annual training to consular officers assigned abroad on how to recognize trafficking and assist victims in obtaining the necessary travel documents to return to Latvia.
In part due to resource constraints and competing priorities, the Government of Latvia does not conduct independent anti-trafficking campaigns, but supports the efforts of NGOs. The Ministries of Education and Welfare arranged for students to attend free showings of the Swedish anti-trafficking film, "Lilya 4-Ever." More than 10,000 students between the ages of 16 and 18 attended the free showings. The government has incorporated the video and an informative booklet into the high school curriculum. While prevention efforts need improvement, Latvia's new national action plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons is an important step forward.