Latvia (Tier 2)
Latvia is a source and transit country for women and an increasing number of girls trafficked to Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Spain, Germany, and Portugal for the purpose of sexual exploitation. There has also been an increase in boys trafficked to Spain for both labor and sexual exploitation. Internal trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation also occurs within Latvia, from rural areas of high unemployment to the capital.
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. Improvements from the previous year are limited and include only a few new efforts.
The government addresses trafficking through the national plan on organized crime, resulting in limited government resources for trafficking-specific programs. The roles and responsibilities of different ministries and law enforcement agencies are still undefined and central government coordination is lacking. The Ministry of Labor offers some free training for unemployed women and very often, local municipalities assist the government to fund trafficking prevention programs, sometimes with foreign funding, such as small prevention campaigns.
The Government of Latvia has legislation in place to prosecute trafficking crimes, impose stiff penalties and seize assets of traffickers. Trafficking in minors brings a prison sentence with a maximum of fifteen years. The government acknowledges that trafficking is a problem and has tasked the Latvian National Police Vice Squad, Border Guards of the Ministry of Interior, Department of Social Policy Development of the Ministry of Welfare, and Consular Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to prepare annual reports on their progress with combating trafficking in persons. The professionalism of the Vice Squad of the Latvia State Police, the principal anti-trafficking law enforcement institution, improved and the number of investigations increased. Eight people were convicted for trafficking related crimes, and six of them were sentenced to four years in prison and one sentenced to seven years. The most important trafficking case in Latvia was the conviction and sentencing of a trafficker to thirteen years in prison. However, some prosecutors and judges still do not view human trafficking as a serious crime and have reduced some of the sentences on appeal to higher courts. Cooperation between the Border Guards, Latvian Police and NGOs increased and contributes to the effective control of the border areas. International cooperation in investigations and prosecutions is well established with Denmark and Germany, but continues to be difficult with Spain. The Border Guard Service manages an information database used to reveal several trafficking trends in Latvia.
Law enforcement improved its relationship with NGOs, publicly recognizing and cooperating with specialists in witness protection and rehabilitation programs. Law enforcement officials do not treat victims as criminals, although some officials continue to blame the victim. The government provides a witness protection center, managed by the Latvia Criminal Authorities in cooperation with NGOs and encourages trafficking victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. Most victims, however, do not cooperate due to fears of retribution and social stigma. The government also mandates training for consular officers from NGOs on victim identification, while Latvian missions abroad provide travel documents for trafficking victims.