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, as well as in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and, to a lesser extent, Egypt, Greece, Russia, Germany, and Austria. Women from Uzbekistan and possibly other countries are subjected to forced prostitution in Georgia’s commercial sex trade in the tourist areas of Batumi and Gonio. Experts report that foreign women engaged in prostitution in saunas, strip clubs, hotels, and escort services are vulnerable to forced prostitution. Georgian men and women are subjected to forced labor within Georgia, and in Turkey, Russia, and other countries. In recent years, foreign nationals have been exploited in agriculture, construction, and domestic service within Georgia. Some street children may be subjected to forced begging or coerced into criminality. 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. There is no information about the presence of human trafficking in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In 2012, one Georgian labor trafficking victim was identified in the United States.
The Government of Georgia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. While the government trained its officials on human trafficking and funded two anti-trafficking shelters, law enforcement efforts decreased, with fewer suspected trafficking offenders being investigated and prosecuted than in the previous year. Moreover, victim identification remained a challenge, with slightly fewer trafficking victims officially recognized by the government compared with the previous reporting period, and only limited efforts undertaken to identify victims proactively among vulnerable populations.
Recommendations for Georgia: Employ more effective, proactive methods to detect and identify potential trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute suspected trafficking cases, including by assessing non-physical forms of coercion, and convict labor and sex trafficking offenders; ensure that NGOs are 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; 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; ensure children in prostitution are properly identified as trafficking victims; continue to permit civil society groups to systematically check for trafficking indicators among deported and returning Georgians at border points; consider appointing a victim-witness advocate to help ensure the rights of Georgian and foreign victims are respected during legal proceedings; continue to raise awareness among government officials and the general public about all forms of human trafficking; and continue awareness-raising campaigns about the existence of human trafficking, legal recourse, and available protection services, targeted at vulnerable groups.
The Government of Georgia reported fewer trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions during the reporting period. Georgia prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through the Law on Combating Trafficking in Persons and Article 143 of its criminal code, which prescribe 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. Investigations fell from 16 in 2011 to seven in 2012. Authorities prosecuted two defendants for sex trafficking under Article 143 in the reporting period but convicted none, a decrease from five sex trafficking offenders prosecuted and convicted in the previous year. Due to lack of convictions under the anti-trafficking law, no sentencing data could be examined; in September 2012, a trafficking sentence credited in the previous TIP Report was reduced by an appellate court from 15 to five years’ imprisonment. The government convicted and sentenced two defendants with punishments of two and four years’ imprisonment and fines of the equivalent of approximately $3,000 and $12,000 under Article 171(3) for facilitating the prostitution of a minor. The government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of public officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during the reporting period, though there were no reports of such alleged trafficking complicity. The absence of a labor inspectorate in Georgia contributed to workers’ vulnerability to forced labor. The government continued its extensive training programs for law enforcement as well as additional specialized training for prosecutors, judges, immigration officials, border police, and other front-line responders during the year.
The Government of Georgia decreased its efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims in the reporting period. The government did not employ systematic procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups; three of the 18 government-certified victims were identified by government officials, while the other victims self-identified. During the reporting period, three Uzbek women, two Georgian men, and 13 Georgian women were certified by the government as trafficking victims, a slight decrease from the previous year. Eight of these 18 victims were subjected to forced prostitution, and 10 were forced into labor. Using an established formal referral system, the government referred all the victims to care facilities. 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 and foreign women in the commercial sex sector, and Georgian and foreign workers in vulnerable labor sectors. In July 2012, Georgian diplomats alerted Turkish authorities to the plight of 22 Georgian forced laborers in Turkey. These men were subsequently returned to Georgia, but the government did not officially certify them as trafficking victims; consequently the men were not offered victim protection services. Georgian labor trafficking victims returning from Turkey sometimes believed that self-identification would prevent them from re-entering Turkey, which may have complicated efforts to identify and assist these victims. Despite indicators of sex trafficking in the Gonio area, law enforcement officers did not identify any sex trafficking victim during December 2012 brothel raids. A governmental body comprised of civil society groups—the “Permanent Group”—is tasked with granting official victim status to trafficking victims. The Ministry of Internal Affairs permitted an international organization to conduct screenings and interviews of deported Georgian migrants from Turkey from April to September 2012; the organization identified one trafficking victim, but the Permanent Group rejected the organization’s request that the group provide that individual with victim status.
In April 2012, the government amended the Law on Combating Trafficking in Persons to codify existing assistance policies with regard to child victims. During the year, the government continued to fund and operate two shelters, but adult victims were not permitted to leave the shelters unchaperoned. Two other shelters are run by NGOs; these were used infrequently, largely as a short-term, interim solution when a victim could immediately be housed in a state-run shelter. The government’s shelters provided extensive medical aid, psychological counseling, and legal assistance to 17 trafficking victims in the reporting period. Five trafficking victims received financial assistance from the government in 2012, consisting of a one-time payment in an amount equivalent to approximately $650 each, compared with six victims who received such support in 2011. The government reported that foreign victims were eligible for temporary residence permits, but no foreign victims requested them during the reporting period. The government reported that victims were encouraged to assist law enforcement with trafficking investigations and prosecutions; three of the 15 identified victims assisted law enforcement in the reporting period, a decrease compared to the assistance of all victims’ participation during the previous year. Children who were begging and had been coerced into criminal activities occasionally were arrested, as opposed to being identified and assisted as trafficking victims.
The Government of Georgia continued its anti-trafficking prevention activities during the reporting period. The new Minister of Justice publicly reaffirmed her commitment to fight human trafficking, and the Justice Ministry oversaw the finalization of Georgia’s anti-trafficking action plan for 2013-2014, which the president signed in March 2013. The government did not provide any new anti-trafficking public awareness grants to NGOs during the reporting period. During the year, the government continued to conduct multiple information campaigns utilizing a broad array of media, including public service announcements, billboards, seminars, and television broadcasts throughout the country. The government continued to fund an anti-trafficking hotline. The Interagency Coordinating Council—chaired by the Minister of Justice—continued to serve as the government’s coordinating body on anti-trafficking efforts. The government conducted public awareness campaigns to reduce the demand for child sex tourism, but did not take steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.