Georgia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically the forced prostitution of women and the forced labor of men, women, and children. Women and girls from Georgia are subjected to sex trafficking within the country, as well as in Turkey, and, to a lesser extent, the United Arab Emirates and Russia. Women from Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and other countries are subjected to forced prostitution in Georgia’s commercial sex trade in the tourist areas of Batumi and Gonio in Adjara province. In May 2013, an Uzbek sex trafficking victim was murdered in western Georgia by a man believed to be acting on behalf of her trafficker. Experts report that women are subjected to sex trafficking in saunas, strip clubs, casinos, and hotels. Georgian men and women are subjected to forced labor within Georgia, and in Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Italy, Qatar, Sweden, and other countries. Georgian migrants pursuing employment in agriculture and other low-skilled jobs contact employers or agents directly, only later becoming victims in their destination country. 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. Georgia is a transit country for trafficking victims from Central Asia to Turkey. No information was available about the presence of human trafficking in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
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. Georgia’s anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts remained low, but improved compared with the previous reporting period: the five convictions under Article 143 are an improvement compared with none in 2012 and one conviction in 2010, but still are lower than previous years. Some experts cited a decline of political will since 2010, although serious efforts have been made to update trafficking statutes to address changes in trafficking techniques. Arrests of brothel owners seldom led to prosecutions, with brothels continuing to operate. The absence of a functioning Labor Inspectorate for the identification of cases of labor trafficking continued to be an issue of concern.
Recommendations for Georgia:
Assign police with specialized training in trafficking to participate in raids of suspected brothels, and allow victim assistance service providers to participate in Adjara province; investigate and, when sufficient evidence exists, prosecute suspected traffickers, including brothel owners; create a functioning Labor Inspectorate for the identification of cases of labor trafficking; 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; employ more effective, proactive methods to detect and identify potential trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; ensure children in prostitution are properly identified as trafficking victims; 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; 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 public awareness and outreach campaigns; 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 increased its law enforcement efforts over the previous reporting period, but efforts remained low. Georgia prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through the Law on Combating Trafficking in Persons and Article 143 of its criminal code, which prescribes 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 were approximately the equivalent to the previous reporting period, with 11 investigations—seven for sex trafficking, three for labor trafficking, and one still to be determined; seven were conducted in the prior reporting period. Three defendants were prosecuted for sex trafficking of an adult under Article 143(1), and there were three convictions, more than the two sex trafficking offenders prosecuted and none convicted in the previous reporting period. In July 2013, one offender was sentenced to six years and eight months’ imprisonment for subjecting two Georgian women to sex trafficking. In November 2013, another offender was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment for subjecting an Uzbek woman to sex trafficking. In March 2014, one woman was convicted in absentia for sex trafficking and sentenced to life imprisonment for trafficking and ordering the murder of her trafficking victim. The government prosecuted and convicted two defendants under Article 143(2) for sex trafficking of a minor during the reporting period. In January 2014, one offender in that case was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment and the other offender was sentenced in absentia to 11 years and six months’ imprisonment. An official expressed concern about a lack of political will to combat trafficking, as evidenced by the reduction in staffing in the prosecutor’s trafficking unit from 2009-2012. Brothel owners who may have subjected women to sex trafficking were not properly investigated. The government continued its 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. Experts noted police lacked enhanced interview techniques for questioning victim-witnesses, who can experience further trauma during this process. Police arrested large numbers of women in prostitution, many of whom who were not screened for human trafficking, and potential victims may have been compelled to testify against pimps and brothel owners. The Government of Georgia did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.
The Government of Georgia sustained efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims, but there were deficiencies in the protection of children subjected to forced begging, and women and girls subjected to sex trafficking. The government identified 42 sex trafficking victims during the reporting period; this was an increase from 18 victims identified the previous reporting period. No victims of forced labor were identified within Georgia. The low level of victim identification of children in exploitative situations on the street, foreign women in the commercial sex trade, and Georgian and foreign workers in vulnerable labor sectors concerned experts. The government continued to lack a Labor Inspectorate to monitor suspected cases of forced labor. Without the participation of victim assistance service providers, some of the police raids on brothels involved police lacking human trafficking training and without proper screening of victims. Experts observed some gaps during part of the reporting period in the government’s interagency efforts to coordinate counter trafficking actions. During the reporting period, the government funded and operated two shelters, but adult victims were not permitted to leave the shelters unchaperoned. Two other shelters were run by NGOs; these were used infrequently, largely as a short-term, interim solution when a victim could not immediately be housed in a state-run shelter. The government’s shelters provided extensive medical aid, psychological counseling, and legal assistance to 15 trafficking victims in the reporting period. Twenty-nine trafficking victims received financial assistance from the government during the reporting period, consisting of a one-time payment in an amount equivalent of approximately $650 each, an increase from five victims who received such support in the previous reporting period. The government reported that foreign trafficking victims were eligible for temporary residence permits, but no foreign victims requested them during the reporting period. In May 2013, the government signed a cooperation agreement with an international organization on providing employment and other assistance to foreign victims, including repatriation. The government reported that victims were encouraged to assist law enforcement with trafficking investigations and prosecutions, although their assistance is not required in order to receive government protection or shelter services; five of the 42 identified victims assisted law enforcement in the reporting period, an increase compared to the assistance of three victims’ participation during the previous reporting period. The government provided psychological services to 35 victims; 41 received legal assistance; 29 received financial compensation; six received shelter; and 11 received medical assistance. Victims of all ages, genders, and nationalities had access to services on an equal basis. Deportation of trafficking victims was not permitted by law. Georgian embassies abroad identified and provided support to labor trafficking victims in Italy and Qatar. The government referred all identified victims to care facilities.
The Georgian government continued its anti-trafficking prevention activities, implementing a broad public information campaign. Government officials participated in several television shows to discuss the dangers of trafficking. The government, in cooperation with an international organization, produced and distributed brochures at border crossings and consular sections abroad in Georgian, Russian, and English with information on consular assistance available and about the risks of human trafficking. The government, in cooperation with an international organization, distributed flyers about sex trafficking to truck drivers and casino visitors to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, but did not report efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. The government also held a series of information seminars in cooperation with a local NGO for potential migrants in Georgia’s three largest cities—Tbilisi, Rustavi, and Kutaisi—in April 2013. The government disseminated anti-trafficking materials to orphanages, at-risk youth groups, and adolescent organizations. The government continued to fund an anti-trafficking hotline. The government provided trafficking awareness training to 1,400 nationals prior to deployment on peacekeeping missions.