U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - Belarus

Belarus (Tier 2)

Belarus is a country of origin for women and children trafficked to Western, Central, and Southern Europe, Russia, the Baltic states, Japan, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Officials and experts estimate that thousands of Belarusian women are trafficked each year.

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. The government has recognized that trafficking is a serious problem in Belarus and has increased investigative efforts and overall awareness, despite resource constraints. Although more remains to be done, particularly in the area of protection and assistance to victims, the government of Belarus has demonstrated its political will to combat trafficking in persons.


The Belarusian criminal code provides specific penalties for trafficking for the purposes of sexual or other kinds of exploitation, though many prosecutors pursue trafficking crimes under sexual assault, abduction, or recruitment for sexual exploitation statutes. The government convicted 45 individuals for trafficking or trafficking-related abuses, with a majority of sentences ranging from two to five years. The Interior Ministry reported 191 investigations of alleged trafficking, including the trafficking of women abroad for sexual exploitation, the recruitment of women for the purpose of sexual exploitation abroad, and the abduction and recruitment of minors for prostitution. In April 2003, the Interior Ministry dismantled a criminal organization that had trafficked over 400 Belarusian women to Western Europe and the Middle East since 1997. In addition, it broke up 17 organized criminal groups connected to trafficking crimes. In an effort to improve police anti-trafficking operations, the government in 2003 collaborated with an international organization to produce a counter-trafficking operations handbook. Attention to trafficking at the borders has increased, but segments of the border remain largely uncontrolled. Corruption among government officials continues. The government uncovered a trafficking scheme in April 2003 involving two Belarusian officials, who are now under investigation. The Belarusian Government commendably collaborated with foreign governments to pursue trafficking investigations. For example, it assisted law enforcement agencies in Germany, England, Lithuania, Austria, and Poland on nine trafficking cases.


The Government of Belarus cooperates with NGOs to provide limited assistance to trafficking victims, although it does not directly fund such assistance programs. Belarus authorities did not arrest, fine, or charge victims with prostitution or immigration violations. NGOs reported a sharp increase in victim protection referrals from law enforcement officials, due in part to better awareness and to an increase in the number of trafficking investigations. The criminal code contains procedures for witness protection, but government officials contend that financial restraints limited the government's capacity to implement those procedures.


The government's recognition of the trafficking problem in Belarus and its efforts to address the issue have increased trafficking awareness among government agencies. The government did not conduct an independent anti-trafficking information campaign during 2003, but state-controlled media outlets have increased news coverage of the issue. Labor and Education Ministry officials coordinated spot checks on organizations that arrange student exchanges and work-abroad programs. The Labor Ministry also continued to monitor and license activities of employment agencies offering Belarusian citizens labor contracts in foreign countries.


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