Turkey is a source, destination, and transit country for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Trafficking victims identified in Turkey are from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bulgaria, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Syria, and Morocco. In previous years, Georgian men and women have been subjected to forced labor. Foreign victims are offered cleaning and childcare jobs in Turkey and, upon arrival, traffickers confiscate their passports and force them into prostitution in hotels, discos, and homes. Turkish women are subjected to sex trafficking within the country and in Western Europe, including Germany and Belgium. Traffickers increasingly use psychological coercion, threats, and debt bondage to compel victims into sex trafficking. Lack of protection by authorities and allegations of police violence against transgender persons in prostitution leave this group vulnerable to sex trafficking. Ethnic Roma children, and increasingly children of refugee populations, are subjected to forced begging on the street. Displaced Syrian, Afghan, and Iraqi nationals are increasingly vulnerable to trafficking in Turkey.
The Government of Turkey does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Following government restructuring of its anti-trafficking program and a shift in leadership’s priorities, the Turkish government’s efforts to fight trafficking dropped precipitously. As the government worked to rehouse anti-trafficking authority under a new directorate, victim identification dropped by approximately 50 percent over two years, referrals to services faltered, and the government reported extremely limited law enforcement efforts. The Turkish interagency national taskforce on combating human trafficking has not met since 2012, and a draft comprehensive framework was again not enacted. The government denied that children are trafficking victims in Turkey, and denied the existence of forced labor in the country.
Recommendations for Turkey:
Reinvigorate the government’s anti-trafficking program, including victim identification, law enforcement efforts, data collection, and interagency coordination; vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenders, including complicit officials and labor trafficking offenders; provide comprehensive investigation, prosecution, and conviction statistics to demonstrate law enforcement efforts against trafficking; significantly increase victim identification efforts and implement specialized care for child and male victims of trafficking; increase screening of vulnerable populations for signs of trafficking; ensure that the interagency anti-trafficking committee meets and provides effective implementation of policy; re-evaluate and update the referral mechanism to increase victim identification; train first-line responders, including law enforcement and public defenders, on victim identification and assistance; ratify comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation; increase coordination with NGOs, international organizations, and civil society groups for the referral of victims to assistance; establish a comprehensive multidisciplinary victim-centered framework for victim identification and assistance with stable funding and institutionalized partnerships with NGOs; provide victims unhindered access to assistance, support, and protection, including through the funding of NGO-led shelters; increase incentives for victims to voluntarily assist in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers, including the use of victim advocates; ensure victims are provided adequate time to recover before having to decide whether to assist law enforcement; and increase the focus on training law enforcement to recognize signs of psychological coercion, document control, threats, and other non-physical methods of control employed by traffickers.
The Government of Turkey demonstrated negligible anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Article 80 of Turkey’s penal code prohibits both sex trafficking and forced labor by use of force, threats, or abuse of power, and prescribes penalties of eight to 12 years’ imprisonment. Article 227(1) prohibits the facilitation of child prostitution and prescribes penalties of four to 10 years’ imprisonment. Penalties under both articles are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In April 2013, the government passed the “Foreigners and International Protection Act,” which provided a legal definition of trafficking and established trafficking victims’ eligibility for a special type of residency permit that can be renewed for up to three years; it also established the Department of Protection of Trafficked Persons responsible for all anti-trafficking efforts, including victim identification. The government did not report investigating new trafficking offenders. The government reported that Turkish authorities prosecuted at least 196 defendants in 32 new cases under Article 80 over the first half of the year, and did not report any law enforcement data for the second half of the year. This represents a decline from 2012, when the government prosecuted 550 defendants in 88 cases, and from 2011 when the government prosecuted 626 defendants in 78 cases. These defendants were being tried on charges related to trafficking, but the government did not provide any information on whether these were charged under trafficking statutes or what sort of trafficking was involved. The government reported convicting 17 traffickers under Article 80 in the first half of the year. Despite corruption allegations in other sectors, the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking. It did not provide updates concerning official complicity that it reported in the 2013 TIP Report involving the arrest and prosecution of a military officer, a police sergeant, and a police officer for alleged complicity in human trafficking. In January 2014, media reported that eight soldiers were arrested during a police operation against child prostitution, among other crimes. In early 2014, law enforcement capacity was disrupted as judges, police officers, and detectives, who were previously trained in victim identification, were shifted into new positions as part of the government’s response to corruption allegations.
During the reporting period, the government organized a workshop for 70 judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers on trafficking crimes and relevant laws. Reportedly, some first-line responders and police officers were not trained in victim identification and assistance and did not coordinate with NGO experts to provide victim assistance.
The Government of Turkey steeply reduced efforts to protect trafficking victims by identifying significantly fewer victims. Protection efforts were inconsistent and sharply reduced. The government identified only 15 adult female victims of sex trafficking in 2013, compared with 51 victims in 2011, the last year for which the government provided data. Of the 15 victims identified, only three requested and received shelter and services in 2013; 12 victims were voluntarily repatriated. In 2012, 22 female victims received shelter care. The government did not report identifying child victims of sex trafficking, even though there were press reports of child victims exploited by a sex trafficking ring. The government funded three NGO shelters that provided assistance to victims, including psychological and medical care, social activities, counseling on humanitarian visa and residency permit issuance, and counseling on their rights to return to home. Some shelters were closed during part of the reporting period due to the government not providing funding until September 2013. The government did not report the overall amount of funding allocated to the NGO shelters, though they had previously done so by providing the equivalent of approximately $570,000 in 2012. Victims in shelters faced restrictions in freedom of movement; they could leave only if accompanied. The government did not have specialized facilities for child trafficking victims, but reported that the care, protection, and rehabilitation services for child victims of domestic violence would be used if a child trafficking victim were identified; no child trafficking victims accessed such services during the reporting period. The government reported that domestic and foreign victims would be given the same assistance. Foreign victims identified by Turkish authorities were able to apply for humanitarian visas valid for up to six months and could obtain permission to work, with the option to extend their visas for additional six-month periods up to three years. No victims requested or received humanitarian visas during the reporting period.
The government reported that it utilized its formal national referral mechanism (NRM) for victim identification and assistance, which included law enforcement, civil society groups, embassies, and international organizations. During the reporting period, the government transferred the responsibility for coordinating the NRM from law enforcement entities to a new specialized civilian institution, the Department of Protection of Trafficked Persons. NGOs reported that training for first-line officers on victim identification and the referral mechanism remained a challenge, given the regularity with which officers were transferred or promoted. Experts reported that front-line police officers regularly misidentified trafficking victims and immediately deported them without offering victim services. The government provided 12 victims with identification documents that were an equivalent substitution for residence permits and covered a 30-day reflection period; the 12 victims were voluntarily repatriated by the Turkish National Police. Reportedly, victims were not referred to the international organization repatriation program, signifying a possible breakdown of the established NRM.
The government demonstrated weakened prevention efforts; its interagency committee did not meet during the reporting period, and the government did not conduct awareness campaigns. The government had, in theory, an interagency national taskforce on combating human trafficking, but the taskforce has not met since 2012 and did not produce reports in 2013. In April 2013, the government passed the “Foreigners and International Protection Act,” establishing the Department of Protection of Trafficked Persons as one of the main departments of the General Directorate of Migration Management; this department assumed responsibility in April 2014 for the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. During the reporting period, the Department of Protection of Trafficked Persons hired staff and worked with NGOs and international organizations to draft legislation that would create an improved anti-trafficking infrastructure, including a “rapporteur system” and a replacement for the inactive National Task Force. The rapporteur office would act as a quality control office for anti-trafficking efforts, reporting on the government’s success in combating trafficking and in providing assistance to victims. The government has not updated its National Action Plan since 2009. The government collaborated with an international organization under an EU-funded project to develop a software program that will enable better tracking of cases. The government continued to fund an international organization-run hotline for trafficking victims and law enforcement tips and publicized the phone number on pamphlets and posters in airports and at other ports of entry around the country. The government did not report the amount of funds allocated to the hotline; the government allocated the equivalent of approximately $150,000 to the hotline in 2012. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor, nor did it demonstrate efforts to prevent child sex tourism by Turkish nationals traveling abroad. Turkish armed forces participated in anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.