2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Belarus
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||19 June 2012|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Belarus, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30ce23c.html [accessed 28 February 2015]|
BELARUS (Tier 2 Watch List)
Belarus is a source and transit country for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Belarusian women and children are subjected to sex trafficking in Russia, Germany, Poland, Cyprus, Italy, Egypt, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and within Belarus. Reports continued of women from low-income families in Belarus being subjected to forced prostitution in Minsk. Belarusian men, women, and children are found in forced labor, including forced begging in foreign countries, such as Sweden, as well as in forced labor in the construction industry and other sectors in Russia and Belarus. Belarusian single, unemployed females between the ages of 16 and 30 and without higher education are at the greatest risk of becoming victims of human trafficking. Belarusian children aged 16 and 17 are found in sex trafficking within Belarus and in Russia. Belarusian men seeking work abroad are increasingly subjected to forced labor. Traffickers often used informal social networks to approach potential victims.
The Government of Belarus does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these efforts, the government did not demonstrate evidence of increasing anti-trafficking efforts over the previous reporting period; therefore, Belarus is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year. During the reporting period, the government's emphasis on anti-trafficking efforts shifted from prosecution and protection efforts to prevention. Over the same period, there was a continued steep decline in victim identification, trafficking investigations, prosecutions and convictions. The decline in victim identification, vigorous investigation, and prosecution of trafficking cases left trafficking victims unprotected. Although over 100 Belarusian victims were reported repatriated after being trafficking abroad, the Belarusian government did not report investigations commensurate with the extent of those victims identified, nor did it report government-funded services provided to more than three victims. The government did improve its prevention activities, making efforts to oppose child sex tourism and to raise public awareness; however, many of these campaigns blurred trafficking and illegal migration.
Recommendations for Belarus: Improve victim identification, including of teenagers in prostitution inside Belarus and forced labor victims ; certify individuals as trafficking victims in cases in which a criminal case has not been opened in order to ensure that victims receive appropriate victim assistance; increase investigation, prosecution, and conviction of trafficking cases; increase use of Article 181 of the criminal code to prosecute trafficking cases, even in cases also charged under other statutes; increase resources devoted to victim assistance and protection within Belarus; ensure all victims, including children, are provided with appropriate assistance and protection; establish a program to ensure that repatriated victims are given care; cultivate a climate of cooperation with NGO partners providing critical victim protection services; distinguish prevention activities focused on curbing forced labor and forced prostitution from those focused on illegal migration, and increase the former; adopt and implement victim protection action plans; implement the new counter-trafficking law.
The Government of Belarus demonstrated decreased law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Belarusian law prohibits both sex and labor trafficking through Article 181 of its criminal code, which prescribes penalties ranging from five to 15 years' imprisonment in addition to asset forfeiture. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and are commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes. The Government of Belarus reported nine sex trafficking investigations in 2011, a 77 percent decrease compared with 39 human trafficking investigations reported in 2010. Belarusian authorities prosecuted 14 trafficking cases in 2011, but did not disaggregate the prosecutions between sex and labor trafficking. Belarusian authorities convicted seven trafficking offenders under Article 181 in 2011, in contrast to 12 trafficking offenders convicted in 2010. Six offenders were given sentences of imprisonment; one was given "restriction of freedom." The government did not provide data on specific sentences imposed on any of the convicted offenders; other sources reported that imposed sentences ranged from four to 11 years in prison. According to international experts, the government's efforts against trafficking focused more on sex trafficking than on labor trafficking. There were no reports of government officials' complicity in trafficking in persons during the reporting period; however, a trafficking-related complicity investigation initiated in 2010 remained pending in 2011. The government did not otherwise report the investigation, conviction, or sentencing of any official for complicity in trafficking in persons. The government reported that, with the collaboration of NGOs and international organizations, its international anti-trafficking training center trained over 200 Belarusian officials from the Ministry of Interior and officials from the prosecutor's office and the state border committee. The training center also conducted anti-trafficking trainings for Belarusian and foreign government law enforcement officials. Law enforcement authorities reported jointly investigating several trafficking cases with counterparts from the United Kingdom, Turkey, Poland, and Italy.
The government demonstrated decreased efforts to protect trafficking victims during the reporting period, identifying and providing care to fewer victims of trafficking. The government's victim identification efforts continued to decrease significantly. In 2011, the Belarusian government identified 14 victims of trafficking under article 181, compared with 64 victims of trafficking in 2010, and 147 victims in 2009. The continual decline corresponded with the decrease in trafficking investigations and demonstrated a reduced capacity to ensure that human trafficking offenses were recognized and victims were appropriately referred to care. Experts observed that the number of trafficking victims identified by the government was not commensurate with the number of Belarusian victims identified by NGOs and other sources outside of the country, particularly with regard to the increase in labor migration to Russia. The government does not have trafficking-specific facilities available to care for victims, but its anti-trafficking law indicates that the following assistance would be available to trafficking victims: temporary shelter, legal aid, medical care, psychological assistance, employment assistance, and financial support. The Government of Belarus operated 41 non-trafficking-specific "crisis rooms," for emergency assistance of victims. Corresponding with the government's decline in proactive victim identification, however, the government's efforts to care for trafficking victims were modest. One female trafficking victim received seven days of shelter in a "crisis room" in 2011. The Belarusian government reported that an oblast-level health facility offered medical care and psychological assistance to two victims of trafficking in 2011. In 2011, as in 2010, most trafficking victims declined assistance from government sources. Experts observe that actual provision of services to victims is limited. The government reported that NGOs assisted 142 victims of trafficking during the reporting period, in contrast to 159 in 2011. The government did not provide financial assistance to these NGOs that provided care, although it did give limited in-kind assistance to some anti-trafficking programs. Although the government reported that it had the regulatory structure necessary for foreign victims to receive temporary residence permits, it did not grant any such permits in 2011, stating that it had not identified any foreign trafficking victims. The government reported that it had measures available to encourage victims to participate in the prosecution of the trafficking offenders, including witness protection methods such as closed hearings; the government did not report applying these measures in any trafficking cases. The government did note that all trafficking victims cooperated with investigations and prosecutions in 2011. An NGO reported that at least 13 trafficking victims participated in the prosecutions of the trafficking offenders. There were no reports of identified victims penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
The Government of Belarus emphasized anti-trafficking prevention activities over protection and prosecution activities during the reporting period. The government reported that it broadcast over 200 television advertisements, over 300 radio spots, and over 900 print advertisements against trafficking. The Ministry of Education conducted a survey of high school students to study the extent of their awareness of trafficking in persons and addressed trafficking issues and illegal migration in publications to students. It was difficult to discern whether many of the Belarusian government public awareness campaigns emphasized illegal migration or human trafficking. The Government of Belarus provided a "911 style" number for two NGO-operated anti-trafficking hotlines in different regions. The government reported that, in 2011, it conducted research to discern the best policy responses to address the demand for sexual services. The Belarusian government made efforts to oppose sex tourism in the reporting period. After liaising with Interpol and a foreign government to gather law enforcement information, the government denied a visa to an individual with a history of sex tourism. The government reported that it had adopted an interagency plan of actions on granting assistance to victims of trafficking for 2011-2012. The government enhanced transparency by analyzing anti-trafficking data and publishing information about its anti-trafficking efforts on the Ministry of Interior website. In January 2012, the Belarusian government adopted a new law to address human trafficking which reorganized government responsibilities on trafficking, addressed the provision of victim services, and established a national rapporteur on trafficking in persons; the law will come into effect in summer 2012.