U.S. Department of State 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report - Latvia
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons|
|Publication Date||3 June 2005|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report - Latvia, 3 June 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4680d84f23.html [accessed 6 May 2015]|
Latvia (Tier 2)
Latvia is a source and transit country for primarily women and minors trafficked to Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, Cyprus, Switzerland, and the Nordic countries for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Victims are also trafficked internally, from rural areas to urban centers, for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
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. The government appears politically committed to its March 2004 National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons, but is struggling to adequately fund and implement it. While the Latvian Government significantly enlarged its anti-trafficking police squad, its victim support services remained lacking and the Latvian court system imposed weak sentences on traffickers.
Latvia specifically criminalizes trafficking in persons for sexual and non-sexual exploitation purposes. In December 2004, Latvia amended its criminal law to cover internal trafficking as well as trafficking across international borders. Although Latvian legislation allows for sufficiently severe penalties under the section of the law against trafficking in persons, the courts in all cases in 2004 only applied those sections of the law that criminalize pimping and alien smuggling for sexual exploitation. While the law was amended in 2004 to provide greater penalties for alien smuggling for sexual exploitation, making it a felony, penalties under this section remain significantly less than those under the trafficking statute. The number of trafficking-related investigations increased, from 12 in 2003 up to 30 in 2004 (with four of those cases initiated under the trafficking section of the criminal law), but Latvian court delays made for fewer convictions in 2004. Of the 21 trafficking-related convictions, down from 40 in 2003, only one trafficker was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, while the rest received conditional sentences. In nine of those cases, the courts confiscated traffickers' property. The staff of the anti-trafficking police squad was increased in 2004 from eight full-time officers to 13. In 2004, the Latvian anti-trafficking unit continued close cooperation with German, Danish, Estonian, and Finnish law enforcement agencies. Latvia has established an anti-corruption bureau and continues to fight official corruption.
Latvia's efforts to assist and protect trafficking victims remained deficient. The government continued to provide no direct funding for foreign or domestic NGOs for services to victims. Some local municipalities provide ad hoc funds to victim assistance projects. The Riga city municipality granted limited funding to the Skalbes Crisis Center and to the Dardedze Center for abused children, NGOs that identified and assisted trafficking victims in 2004. Trafficking victims continue to be housed in a facility shared by a small number of asylum seekers, although the two groups are separated from one another within the facility. Law enforcement officials do not criminally punish victims, but rather refer them to NGOs for assistance. The process for applying for witness protection is complicated, perhaps explaining police reports that no trafficking victims requested protection in 2004. Latvian embassies abroad identified and assisted three victims during the reporting period, and helped repatriate the remains of two probable Latvian trafficking victims. In 2004, the Ministry of Education trained municipal social workers on trafficking issues, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in April sponsored an annual training for consular officers on trafficking-related issues, and the state police organized three training sessions in all regions of Latvia on how to identify and develop trafficking cases.
The Government of Latvia does not conduct independent anti-trafficking campaigns, but supports the efforts of NGOs. The Ministries of Education and Welfare continued to use the Swedish anti-trafficking film, "Lilya 4-Ever," to raise awareness among students through videos and associated materials in secondary schools. Also, the Ministry of Education, in cooperation with a local NGO, has developed a guide on crime prevention, including trafficking in persons, for distribution in high schools. The Ministry of Interior leads an inter-ministerial working group that meets on a regular basis to implement Latvia's National Anti-Trafficking Action Plan adopted in March 2004. The Ministry of Interior in early 2005 released Latvia's first annual trafficking in persons report, which noted significant progress in modifying Latvian legislation to conform to international standards and problems with adequately funding the government's anti-trafficking efforts.