2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Georgia
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||19 June 2012|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Georgia, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30cc846.html [accessed 28 November 2014]|
GEORGIA (Tier 1)
Georgia is a source, transit, and destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking and men and women subjected to conditions of forced labor. Women and girls from Georgia are subjected to sex trafficking within the country and also in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. In recent years, Georgian women and girls have also been subjected to sex trafficking in Egypt and elsewhere. Women from Uzbekistan and possibly other countries are found in forced prostitution in the commercial sex industry in Georgia. Country experts report that foreign women in prostitution in saunas, strip clubs, hotels, and escort services are vulnerable to forced prostitution. Men and women are subjected to conditions of forced labor within Georgia, and Georgians are subjected to forced labor in Russia, Turkey, and elsewhere. In recent years, there have been cases of foreign nationals exploited in agriculture, construction, and domestic service within Georgia. In years past, Turkish men have been subjected to forced labor in the occupied territory of Abkhazia, which remains outside the central government's control. NGOs that work with street children from Georgia, Armenia, and Russia, as well as with Roma children, report that some children are exploited into begging or theft by third parties, including their parents, a form of trafficking. Although children are not commonly found working in agriculture in Georgia, except on family-owned farms, a labor trafficking expert in the country indicated that children working in agriculture and in the informal urban economy are highly vulnerable to forced labor.
The Government of Georgia fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period, the government increased the number of trafficking cases investigated and the percentage of prosecutions that resulted in convictions of trafficking offenders. The government also significantly increased funding for anti-trafficking training and prevention activities, including in the budgets of its shelters for victims. The government significantly increased the number of Georgian officials provided training on victim identification. During the year, however, local experts expressed serious concerns about the government's view of its trafficking problem and its lack of effective efforts in the first half of the reporting period to proactively identify victims of this serious crime.
Recommendation for Georgia: Employ more effective methods to detect and identify potential trafficking victims, especially those experiencing non-physical forms of coercion, the more common manifestation of trafficking in the country; ensure that NGOs continue to be funded and remain active partners in providing victim services and reintegration; ensure NGOs are provided with funding to assist potential trafficking victims before they receive official victim status and become eligible for state assistance; continue to expand formal partnerships with NGOs to help develop the trust of potential victims and achieve a more multi-disciplinary victim-centered approach to anti-trafficking efforts; systematically check for indicators among deported and returning Georgians at border points and involve NGOs in this process; consider appointing a victim-witness advocate or specialized NGO to help ensure the rights of victims are respected during legal proceedings and to ensure their participation is voluntary; given the absence of labor inspectors in Georgia, ensure proactive outreach to workers, including both documented and undocumented foreign migrants, who are vulnerable to trafficking; ensure that children who are subjected to forced begging and vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation are not inadvertently criminalized or punished for crimes committed as a direct result of their being trafficked; increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict labor and sex trafficking offenders; ensure children in prostitution are properly identified as trafficking victims; continue awareness campaigns for government officials and the general public about trafficking and its links to prostitution as well as forced labor; and continue the government's active information campaigns targeted at vulnerable groups.
The Government of Georgia demonstrated improvements in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Georgia prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through Article 143 of its criminal code, which prescribes penalties ranging from seven to 20 years' imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2011, the government initiated 16 trafficking investigations involving 18 individuals, compared with 11 investigations of 18 individuals in 2010. Authorities prosecuted and convicted five sex trafficking offenders in 2011, including one in absentia, an increase from one offender convicted in 2010. Sentences ranged from six to 19 years' imprisonment; one offender who received a 15.5 year prison sentence was convicted and sentenced within two months of his arrest. The government reported it recently reviewed certain criminal cases involving the use of fraudulent passports, illegal border crossings, and the bribery of border and customs officials for elements of possible official complicity in human trafficking. The government reported it found no indicia of complicity in these cases. The government did not report any prosecutions, convictions, or sentences of government officials complicit in trafficking crimes in 2011.
Country experts reported that a lack of labor inspectors and weaknesses in the government's labor code contributed to workers' vulnerability to abuse and forced labor. In September 2011, Georgian trade unionists reported indicators suggesting conditions of trafficking, including employers not returning passports to workers who complained about mistreatment, among 100 Indian nationals working at a steel plant in Kutaisi. In response to these allegations, the government opened a lengthy investigation into the case, interviewing over 200 persons, including Indian and Georgian workers at the plant, and inspecting salary records and living conditions. The government determined that none of the Indian workers were trafficking victims, all were free to travel inside Georgia and back to India without restriction, and all were paid the full amounts promised in their contracts. The government continued its institutionalized training for law enforcement and provided additional specialized training for prosecutors, judges, immigration officials, border police, and other front-line responders during the year, increasing the number of officials trained by 23 percent over the preceding year.
In addition to basic in-service anti-trafficking training for police and prosecutors, the Georgian government provided at least 40 specialized training sessions on the law, interview and investigative techniques, identification of victims, and working with victim services, often in collaboration with NGOs and international organizations.
The Government of Georgia maintained protections for identified trafficking victims in 2011. Government efforts to identify victims during the first half of the reporting period were not effective. According to government data, no victims were identified during the first half of 2011. Further, no potential victims were referred to the government's Permanent Group, an alternative mechanism for identification, between December 2010 and September 2011. Most victims were identified by government authorities late in the reporting period, with a total of 18 victims identified. This compares with 19 victims identified in 2010 and 48 victims identified in 2009. During the first half of the year, local experts noted concerns that lack of attention to identification was an impediment to achieving further needed improvements. Specifically, country experts reported concerns with the low level of victim identification and overall lack of success in locating trafficking victims, including children in exploitative situations on the street, children in the sex trade, foreign women in the commercial sex sector, and Georgian and foreign workers in vulnerable labor sectors. Authorities identified two Uzbek victims of forced prostitution in February 2012; one such victim declined the government's offer of residency and, at the victim's request, was repatriated by IOM.
Although one expert reported that government officials' understanding of the nature of trafficking is increasing, some NGOs, trade unions, and other regional experts – including a labor trafficking expert – reported little awareness among Georgian authorities about forced labor. During the reporting period, half of all identified victims took the initiative to report themselves to authorities or to seek assistance themselves, and the other half were identified by Georgian authorities as the result of investigations. According to some country experts, border officials do not systematically look for trafficking victims; few returning trafficking victims are detected at the border. A significant number of Georgian trafficking victims, however, were identified in Turkey during the reporting period.
During the year, the government increased funding for state-provided victim services by nearly 50 percent, including by allocating the equivalent of $302,000 to two government-run shelters for trafficking victims, an increase from the $127,000 allotted in the previous year. Two other shelters are run by NGOs; these are used infrequently, largely as a short-term, interim solution when a victim cannot immediately be housed in a state-run shelter. The government prefers to provide rehabilitation services and shelter directly to victims, although in cases where the government is unable to provide rehabilitation services, it will reimburse an NGO providing such services. During the reporting period, the government reimbursed NGOs an amount equivalent to approximately $1,700 for rehabilitation services provided to victims. According to a government official, victims were required to have a chaperone – for their own protection – when leaving the shelters during the investigation and prosecution of their cases. The government's state shelters provided medical aid, psychological counseling, and legal assistance to 20 victims of trafficking in 2011, compared with nine in 2010. Six trafficking victims received financial assistance from the government in 2011, consisting of a one-time payment in an amount equivalent to $650. The government reported it provided foreign victims with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they would face hardship or retribution; foreign victims were eligible for temporary residence permits, although no foreign victims requested a residence permit in 2011. The government reported that victims were encouraged to assist law enforcement with trafficking investigations and prosecutions; all 18 victims identified by the government assisted law enforcement during the reporting period. There were no reports that victims were penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; however, NGOs reported that children occasionally were arrested for begging and coerced into criminality, as opposed to being identified and assisted as trafficking victims.
The Government of Georgia improved its anti-trafficking prevention activities in 2011 and significantly increased cooperation with NGOs to conduct prevention campaigns. The government enacted legislation in December 2011 authorizing the executive branch for the first time to make grants to NGOs. Pursuant to this legislation, the government provided small grants to two NGOs in early 2012 to work on projects related to public awareness of trafficking and information pertaining to victim identification. It also entered into memoranda of understanding with leading NGOs to expand and coordinate cooperation in addressing trafficking.
During the year the government conducted multiple information campaigns utilizing a broad array of media, including public service announcements, seminars, and television broadcasts throughout the country. The Civil Registry Agency continued its practice of distributing anti-trafficking related pamphlets when it issued new passports to citizens. The government also conducted numerous outreach events including some focused on specific segments of the population, such as university and high schools students, internally displaced persons, and ethnic minorities living in the regions. Events included numerous panel discussions, a film screening, a peer education campaign, and an essay contest. The government distributed 10,000 donor-funded trafficking indicator cards to front-line responders, including law enforcement and border officials. In coordination with NGOs, the government posted anti-trafficking posters on cross-border buses and distributed multilingual leaflets to cross-border truck drivers and others. In November 2011, authorities created a high-level, interagency steering committee to oversee the implementation of an EU-funded project to address street children. In March 2011, the government approved its new anti-trafficking National Action Plan for 2011-2012, produced with extensive collaboration with the NGO community. During the reporting period, the government did not initiate any campaigns to reduce demand for commercial sex acts.