LATVIA (Tier 2)

Latvia is a source country for women subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution, and for men and women in conditions of forced labor. Latvian women are forced into prostitution in Italy, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Germany. Latvian men and women are subjected to conditions of forced labor in the United Kingdom. There are unofficial reports that some Latvian teenage girls are trafficked within the country for the purpose of forced prostitution.

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. During the reporting period, the government demonstrated modest progress in prosecuting and convicting trafficking offenders and made efforts to improve victim access to assistance. The government also increased the amount spent on victim assistance. In March 2010, the Ministry of Interior established a new inter-agency working group tasked with implementing the 2009-2013 National Anti-Trafficking Program – which was adopted in August 2009 – and coordinating efforts among state agencies, municipal governments, and NGOs. Despite these important efforts, more should be done to identify and certify victims, ensuring them access to necessary care.

Recommendations for Latvia: Increase the number of victims certified to receive government-funded assistance; increase efforts to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations, such as women and girls in prostitution, and refer these victims for assistance; increase use of Section 154-1 to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders; impose sufficient criminal penalties on persons convicted of human trafficking offenses; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute domestic and labor trafficking offenses; ensure law enforcement, border guards, and labor inspectors receive labor trafficking training; provide law enforcement with proactive victim identification training; fully implement the 2009-2013 National Anti-Trafficking Program; and increase efforts to raise awareness about both forced prostitution and labor trafficking.


The Government of Latvia demonstrated increased law enforcement efforts in 2009, though the number of convicted trafficking offenders sentenced to time in prison remained low. Latvia prohibits all forms of trafficking through Sections 154-1, 154-2, and 164 of its Criminal Law, which prescribe penalties ranging from a fine up to 15 years' imprisonment. These prescribed penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government used Section 165-1 – a non-trafficking law – to investigate, prosecute, and convict most trafficking cases during the reporting period. Use of this statute allowed prosecutors more flexibility to pursue cases in which the victim's volition was more difficult to establish. Authorities initiated 34 trafficking investigations, a significant increase from 17 trafficking investigations in 2008. During the reporting period, authorities prosecuted 26 suspected trafficking offenders, up from 14 individuals in 2008. Fifteen trafficking offenders were convicted during the reporting period, compared with 11 offenders in 2008. Proportionally, roughly the same percentage of convicted offenders received jail sentences in 2008 and 2009: four of the 15 trafficking offenders convicted in 2009 were sentenced to serve some time in prison compared with three of 11 convicted offenders in 2008. In 2009, 11 trafficking offenders were given suspended sentences or fines and served no time in prison, compared with eight in 2008. Three convicted sex trafficking offenders were sentenced to one to five years' imprisonment and one offender was sentenced to five to 10 years' imprisonment during the reporting period. The government did not provide state labor inspectors with specialized training on forced labor cases, and it postponed anticipated anti-trafficking training for judges and prosecutors until sometime in 2010.


The government demonstrated improved efforts to assist victims during the reporting period and the number of victims provided with access to government-funded assistance increased. The Ministry of Welfare authorized increased funding for victim services to $78,000, upon discovering that seven additional victims had been identified than originally projected in the assistance budget; the government provided $58,000 in such funding in 2008. In 2009, 10 new victims were certified by the government and provided with government-funded assistance including medical aid, shelter, and rehabilitative care; seven other victims certified in 2008 continued receiving government funded services in 2009. A total of 12 victims were provided with government-funded assistance in 2008. However, local NGOs continued to report difficulties with certifying victims of trafficking as eligible for government-funded assistance pursuant to the Law on Social Services and Social Assistance. NGOs and the government identified 34 potential trafficking victims during the reporting period, compared with 28 potential victims from the previous year. Government authorities identified and referred seven victims to NGO service-providers for assistance, down from 17 victims identified and referred in 2008. In October 2009, the government amended its Law on Social Services and Social Assistance to allow all Latvian and foreign victims of trafficking, including victims from European Union member states, access to government-funded victim assistance. The government offered foreign victims temporary legal alternatives to deportation 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. Although the police have mechanisms to screen for victims of trafficking, concerns remained regarding the general understanding of trafficking by law enforcement; NGOs reported that some victims of trafficking may be unwilling to self-identify themselves as trafficking victims to police officials. Law enforcement officials reported increased efforts to screen for victims of trafficking in vulnerable populations living in Latvia, including street children, women in prostitution, and foreign migrant populations, though no victims were identified as a result of these efforts during the reporting period. The government encouraged victims to participate in investigations against their traffickers; in 2009, 21 victims assisted with law enforcement investigations. The government did not penalize victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked.


The Latvian government sustained its efforts to prevent trafficking in persons during the reporting period. The Ministry of Education provided trafficking awareness training for 296 teachers in 2009; the training enabled teachers to communicate with students about the existence and realities of human trafficking. The government sponsored a crime prevention campaign, including trafficking prevention activities, in 697 schools throughout the country titled "Safe Days at School." The Latvian State Tourism Agency partnered with Air Baltic to distribute information to air travelers entering Latvia about the Agency's hotline and e-mail address, which can be used to report potential instances of sex tourism and trafficking. The government did not conduct a campaign to reduce the demand for commercial sex.


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.