Russia (Tier 3*) is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Labor trafficking remains the predominant human trafficking problem within Russia; the Migration Research Center estimates that one million people in Russia are exposed to “exploitative” labor conditions characteristic of trafficking cases, such as withholding of documents, nonpayment for services, physical abuse, or extremely poor living conditions. During the year, workers from Russia and other countries in Europe, Central Asia, and Asia, including Vietnam and North Korea, were subjected to conditions of forced labor in Russia. Instances of labor trafficking have been reported in the construction, manufacturing, agriculture, repair shop, grocery store, and domestic service industries, as well as forced begging and narcotics cultivation; there were a number of cases discovered during the last year in textile or garment factories. In some of the labor trafficking cases throughout the country, foreign workers died while locked in factories or employer-provided housing. In a factory in the Moscow suburbs, textile workers were beaten, poorly fed, refused medical care, and prohibited from leaving the factory. Human Rights Watch reports that construction of facilities for major events drew estimated tens of thousands of migrant laborers to Russia; Human Rights Watch also documented that employers of construction projects related to the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi withheld pay, disregarded contracts, and seized passports and work permits to keep workers in conditions of exploitation. There is anecdotal evidence of Russian police officers allegedly facilitating trafficking, including by returning trafficking victims to their exploiters, and of employers bribing Russian officials to avoid enforcement of penalties for engaging illegal workers. North Korean citizens imported under Russian government arrangements with the North Korea government for work in the logging industry in Russia’s far east reportedly are subjected to conditions of forced labor. There were also reports of Russian citizens facing conditions of forced labor abroad.
Reports of Russian women and children subjected to sex trafficking both in Russia and abroad continued in 2012. Russian citizens are reportedly victims of sex trafficking in many countries, including in Northeast Asia, Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East. There were also reports of citizens of European, African, and Central Asian countries being forced into prostitution in Russia.
The Government of Russia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and has been placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the last nine consecutive years. In the 2011 and 2012 TIP Reports, Russia was granted consecutive waivers from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 on the basis of a written plan to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) authorizes a maximum of two consecutive waivers; a waiver is no longer available to Russia, which is therefore deemed not to be making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards and is placed on Tier 3.
Prosecutions in Russia during the reporting period remained low compared to estimates of Russia’s trafficking problem. While the government issued a brochure to raise awareness on trafficking, no other efforts were made to fund a national awareness campaign. An interagency committee was established to address human trafficking issues, but it has not yet met. The city of St. Petersburg allocated a building and signed a memorandum of understanding with the Russian Red Cross to open and operate an eight-bed shelter for the care of trafficking victims in St. Petersburg. When implemented, these efforts have the potential to achieve significant progress in combating human trafficking. During the reporting period, the government had not established any concrete system for the identification or care of trafficking victims, lacking any formal victim identification and referral mechanism, though there were reports of victims being identified and cared for through ad hoc efforts. In 2012, the government deported hundreds of labor trafficking victims found in squalid conditions in a Moscow garment factory and levied criminal charges against other trafficking victims allegedly held in servitude for a decade. The government reported minimal efforts to identify or care for the large number of migrant workers vulnerable to labor exploitation, include those preparing for international events.
Recommendations for Russia: Develop formal national procedures to guide law enforcement and other government officials, including labor inspectors and health officials, in identification of trafficking victims and referral of victims to service providers; allocate funding to state bodies and anti-trafficking NGOs to provide specialized trafficking victim assistance and rehabilitative care; increase efforts to identify and assist both sex and labor trafficking victims, particularly among exploited labor migrants in Russia; implement a formal policy to ensure identified victims of trafficking are not punished or detained in deportation centers for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; ensure that victims have access to legal alternatives to deportation to countries where they face hardship or retribution; increase the number of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for trafficking offenses, and investigate and criminally punish government officials complicit in trafficking; create a central repository for investigation, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing data for trafficking cases; increase efforts to raise public awareness of both sex and labor trafficking; and take steps to investigate allegations and prevent the use of forced labor in construction projects and also North Korean-operated labor camps.
The Government of the Russia demonstrated law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Articles 127.1 and 127.2 of the Russian criminal code prohibit both sex trafficking and forced labor, although they also cover non-trafficking offenses. Other criminal statutes were also used to prosecute trafficking offenders, such as Articles 240 and 241 for involvement in or organizing prostitution. Article 127 prescribes punishments of up to ten years’ imprisonment. These penalties are commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government investigated an increased number of cases as compared to 2011: 70 sex trafficking cases under Article 127.1, and 17 labor trafficking cases under Article 127.2 in 2012, up from 46 sex trafficking investigations and an unknown number of labor trafficking cases in the first 10 months of 2011. The government prosecuted 22 cases of sex trafficking and 10 cases of forced labor in 2012, compared with reports of at least 17 sex trafficking prosecutions in the first 10 months of 2011 and at least two labor trafficking prosecutions in 2011. Russian authorities report they often charge sex trafficking cases under Article 241 (organization of prostitution), as the elements of that crime are often easier to prove, although there is no public information on how many such cases involved forced as opposed to voluntary prostitution. In 2012, 29 trafficking offenders were convicted under Article 127.1, the article typically used for sex trafficking crimes, and five traffickers were convicted of the use of slave labor under Article 127.2, compared with a total of 32 people convicted under Article 127.1 and 11 convicted under Article 127.2 in 2011. The government reported 26 trafficking offenders were sentenced to imprisonment, seven were given suspended sentences, and two were sentenced to other dispositions. Unofficial reports confirmed sentences of a few months’ to 12 years’ imprisonment, the same range of sentences reported in the last reporting period.
The government investigated sex and labor trafficking cases throughout the country, including a case involving 30 victims of sex trafficking; however, it did not pursue trafficking charges in at least two high profile cases despite indicators of coerced work and large numbers of trafficking victims. In a case involving approximately 170 Vietnamese labor trafficking victims held in a garment factory, the government did not initiate charges. During the reporting period, the interior ministry (MVD) issued a roadmap for its reform, which included the formation of an interagency anti-trafficking commission with representation of the prosecutor general’s office, the ministry of foreign affairs, the federal migration service, the federal security service, the investigative committee, and other agencies. Although the interagency commission had not met during the reporting period, this commission has the potential once implemented to achieve significant progress in combating human trafficking.
The government did not report specific progress on any of the alleged cases of official complicity in human trafficking from the 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 TIP Reports. During the reporting period, a court in the Chuvash Republic tried the case of a former criminal investigation unit police chief who provided cover for a criminal group, the members of which were charged with inducing to prostitution, organization of prostitution, trafficking in persons, and use of slave labor. In the Samara region, a former senior investigator was charged with refusing to initiate a criminal case of deprivation of liberty of two women by a criminal group who were charged in a separate case of trafficking in persons and related crimes. In Moscow, the investigative committee initiated a criminal case against a police officer who allegedly forced two women into prostitution. The North Korean government continued to export workers for bilateral contracts with Russia and other foreign governments. Despite media allegations of slave-like conditions in North Korean-operated timber camps in Russia, the Russian government did not report any investigations into this situation. There were also no reported investigations of media reports of North Korean forced labor in the Moscow region.
The Russian authorities reportedly collaborated with some foreign law enforcement bodies on the investigation of transnational trafficking cases and sharing best practices. There were, however, reports that Russian law enforcement was not always cooperative or responsive to investigative requests from foreign governments. The government extradited an alleged trafficking offender to Uzbekistan during the reporting period. The ministry of internal affairs, the lead law enforcement agency in the majority of trafficking cases, conducted regular training during the reporting period designed to guide its officers in handling trafficking cases. According to government officials, the general procuracy, the investigative committee, the Russian Academy for Justice, the Russian Academy of Advocacy, the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Advanced Training Institutes, and the Federal Security Service provided periodic training as well.
The Russian government demonstrated minimal progress in efforts to protect and assist trafficking victims during the reporting period; a majority of foreign labor trafficking victims remained outside of the scope of victim protection. The government did not develop or employ a formal system to guide officials in proactive identification of trafficking victims or referral of victims to available services, and there continued to be no available official statistics on the number of trafficking victims identified or assisted by the government or NGOs. The government did not publicly report any funding or programs for specific assistance to trafficking victims, and the government did not verify how many trafficking victims benefitted from funding or programs intended for other general purposes, such as witness protection, child protection, or government crisis centers, which were unlikely to accept victims who were not registered in the district in which the center is located. Foreign trafficking victims, the largest group of victims in Russia, were not entitled to access state-provided rehabilitative services. During the reporting period, the St. Petersburg municipal government granted the Russian Red Cross the space to open an eight-bed trafficking shelter. The shelter was not yet open during the reporting period. An NGO that assisted victims of labor trafficking in a high-profile case received office space from the city of Moscow in June 2012.
The government reported that it encouraged victims to participate in anti-trafficking investigations by offering witness protection provisions on a case-by-case basis to those who cooperate with officials. There were no formal legal alternatives to deportation for foreign victims. Russian authorities did not demonstrate a systematic approach to preventing trafficking victims from being punished for crimes committed as a direct result of their trafficking experience. There were reports of Russian authorities charging some suspected trafficking victims with residing illegally on the territory of Russia without the proper papers and reportedly deporting trafficking victims without offering assistance.
Russia’s national government demonstrated limited efforts to prevent trafficking over the reporting period. During the reporting period, there were no efforts to develop public awareness of possible forced labor. During the reporting period, the MVD published and distributed an informational brochure warning on the dangers of becoming a victim of trafficking. In some parts of the country, the MVD partnered with community councils to distribute the pamphlets in public places, such as educational centers. The Commonwealth of Independent States anti-trafficking plan remained the Government of Russia’s sole anti-trafficking plan.
The government did not have a body to monitor its anti-trafficking activities and make periodic assessments measuring its performance. The MVD cooperated with U.S. authorities on the investigation of seven child sex tourism cases and one exploitation case, which resulted in 88 arrests worldwide. The government did not report any specific measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or to ensure that its military personnel, when deployed abroad as part of peacekeeping or other similar missions, did not engage in or facilitate human trafficking.
* Auto downgrade from Tier 2 Watch List