LATVIA (Tier 2 Watch List)

Latvia is a source and destination country for women trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Latvian women are trafficked to Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, Greece, Ireland, and Japan for commercial sexual exploitation. Latvian teenage girls are trafficked within the country for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Latvia is a destination country for women trafficked from Belgium and Portugal for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation and for women from Thailand who may have been trafficked for the purpose of forced labor.

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. Despite these efforts, the government did not show evidence of progress in prosecuting and punishing trafficking offenders and assisting victims of trafficking; therefore, Latvia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. During the reporting period, the results of the government's efforts to investigate sex and labor trafficking crimes and prosecute those responsible declined. It also cancelled funding for one NGO that had been providing victim care and it deported three potential victims of labor trafficking before their claims were completely vetted.

Recommendations for Latvia: Provide government-funded assistance to a greater number of trafficking victims; increase efforts to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations, such as women and girls in prostitution, and refer these victims for assistance; ensure law enforcement, border guards, and labor inspectors receive labor trafficking training; ensure that a majority of convicted traffickers serve some time in prison; take steps to expand available victim services to areas outside of Riga; work with NGOs to improve services available to victims of trafficking; and increase efforts to raise awareness about both sex and labor trafficking.


The results of the Government of Latvia's law enforcement efforts decreased in 2008. Latvia prohibits all forms of trafficking through Section 154-1 and 154-2 of its Criminal Law, which prescribe penalties of from 3 to 15 years' imprisonment. These prescribed penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. The government also uses non-trafficking related laws to prosecute traffickers. Authorities initiated 17 trafficking investigations, including at least one case of forced labor, compared to 21 trafficking investigations in 2007. Authorities prosecuted 15 individuals and convicted 11 traffickers in 2008, a decrease from 28 convictions in 2007. Only 3 of the 11 trafficking offenders convicted in 2008 are serving time in prison; eight traffickers were given suspended sentences or fines and served no time in prison. One trafficker was sentenced to up to three years' imprisonment and two traffickers were sentenced to 5 to 10 years' imprisonment. In 2007, seven convicted traffickers served sentences ranging from 1 to 10 years' imprisonment and 21 traffickers served no time in prison. Despite several labor trafficking cases reported by police in 2008, the government did not try any suspected labor trafficking offenders.


The government demonstrated mixed efforts to assist victims during the reporting period. Although the government increased the total amount of money spent for victim assistance, the number of victims provided with government-funded assistance remained the same; the government discontinued funding for all but one anti-trafficking NGO operating in the country during the reporting period, reducing Latvia's overall ability to identify and assist victims of trafficking. The Government of Latvia spent $58,500 of $81,000 budgeted for victim assistance in 2008, an increase from $23,000 spent in 2007. However, only 12 of 28 identified victims of trafficking qualified for government-funded assistance due to a cumbersome application process; the remaining 16 victims received assistance from privately-funded NGOs. The government offered foreign victims temporary legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution; victims who agree to assist law enforcement may apply for temporary residency and work permits. No victims applied for or received the 30-day reflection period during the reporting period. The residency permits of three Thai women, initially identified as trafficking victims, were abruptly terminated after the victims' alleged traffickers requested that the government cancel their work permits. The victims were quickly deported and the police stopped their investigation into their allegations of forced labor. The government identified and referred 17 victims to NGOs for assistance in 2008, compared to 10 in 2007; however, the NGO community expressed concerns that victim-screening mechanisms used by law enforcement did not adequately identify victims of trafficking from vulnerable populations living in Latvia including street children, women in prostitution, and foreign migrant populations. Twenty-one out of 28 victims identified in 2008 were Latvian women trafficked abroad; seven of these identified victims were exploited in Latvia. The government encouraged victims to participate in investigations against their traffickers; in 2008, 14 victims assisted with law enforcement investigations. One trafficking victim benefited from the government's witness protection program. The government did not penalize victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked.


Latvia again demonstrated modest efforts to prevent trafficking in persons during the reporting period. The Ministry of Education placed human trafficking as an education topic in the human rights curriculum of all high schools in Latvia. The government funded and the Latvian State Tourism Agency distributed information sheets and travel guides for tourists that included information designed to discourage sex tourism in Latvia.


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