GEORGIA: Tier 2
Georgia is a source, transit, and destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking and men, women, and children subjected to forced labor. Women and girls from Georgia are subjected to sex trafficking within the country, in Turkey, and, to a lesser extent, in China, Egypt, Greece, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia. Women from Azerbaijan and Central Asian countries are subjected to forced prostitution in Georgia’s commercial sex trade in the tourist areas of Batumi and Gonio in Adjara province. Experts report women are subjected to sex trafficking in saunas, strip clubs, casinos, and hotels. The majority of identified trafficking victims are young, foreign women seeking employment. Georgian men and women are subjected to forced labor within Georgia and in Turkey, Iraq, Russia, Azerbaijan 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. Georgian, Romani, and Kurdish children are subjected to forced begging or coerced into criminality. No information was available about the presence of human trafficking in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia; however, the government and NGOs consider internally displaced persons from these occupied territories to be particularly vulnerable to trafficking.
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. Investigations, prosecutions, and convictions increased during the reporting period. The prime minister signed a decree establishing a labor inspectorate with authority to enforce preventative measures related to labor trafficking. The government increased the number of anti-trafficking mobile units from three to four, providing law enforcement more resources and personnel to conduct trafficking investigations. However, law enforcement’s limited investigative capabilities hampered trafficking investigations. Experts reported investigators focused on interrogating victims for evidence gathering, rather than interviewing them to determine whether or not they were potential victims. The government did not outline a strategy to systematically combat street begging; experts reported the police refused to investigate several cases of forced begging, claiming street begging is not a violation of child’s rights under current legislation.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GEORGIA:
Increase investigative capacity of law enforcement officers through specialized training and assign police with specialized training in trafficking to participate in trafficking investigations; continue to incorporate victim-witness advocates during the investigative phase; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute suspected traffickers and convict labor and sex traffickers; enable and train the labor inspectorate to investigate potential labor trafficking; employ more effective, proactive methods to detect and identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; and continue awareness-raising campaigns about the existence of human trafficking, legal recourse, and available protection services, targeted at vulnerable groups.
The government increased law enforcement efforts over the previous reporting period, but a lack of law enforcement capacity led to missed investigations. Georgia prohibits all forms of trafficking 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 commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government investigated 16 new cases—12 for sex trafficking and four for labor trafficking—compared with 11 investigations in the previous reporting period. Twelve investigations were ongoing. Authorities prosecuted five defendants for sex trafficking, compared with three in 2013. The government convicted six traffickers, compared with three in the previous reporting period. Of the six traffickers convicted, three received 12-year prison sentences and the remaining three received seven-, 13-, and 14-year prison sentences.
Law enforcement’s limited investigative capabilities continued to hamper its capacity to investigate suspected traffickers. Some members assigned to anti-trafficking units in Tbilisi and Batumi continued to lack basic investigative skills. Experts reported investigators focused on interrogating victims for evidence gathering, rather than interviewing them for the purpose of determining whether they were potential victims. The government lacked sufficient well-trained female investigators to interview sex trafficking victims, who are predominantly female. Brothel owners, dance club owners, and taxi drivers involved in sex trafficking were investigated by law enforcement to acquire more information. Experts noted police failed to provide available resources to victim-witnesses, who experienced further trauma during the investigative process. Police fined 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 did not outline a strategy to systematically address street begging; experts report the police refused to investigate several cases of forced begging, claiming street begging is not a violation of child’s rights under current legislation. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.
The government increased victim identification efforts and sustained efforts to protect trafficking victims. The government identified 17 trafficking victims; 10 females, including one minor, were sex trafficking victims, and seven males were victims of labor trafficking. There was a low level of victim identification of children in exploitative situations on the street and Georgian and foreign workers in vulnerable labor sectors. In February 2015, the prime minister signed a decree establishing a labor inspectorate, which aimed to increase the government’s capacity to identify victims of forced labor. Without the participation of victim assistance service providers, some police raids on brothels did not involve proper screening of potential victims.
The government funded and operated two shelters that provided medical aid, psychological counseling, and legal assistance to 16 trafficking victims in the reporting period, all of whom also received financial assistance from the government. The government reported foreign trafficking victims were eligible for temporary residence permits, but no foreign victims requested them during the reporting period. The government reported victims were encouraged to assist law enforcement with investigations and prosecutions, although their assistance is not required in order to receive government protection or shelter services; ten of the 17 identified victims assisted law enforcement. In one case, information obtained from a victim helped law enforcement identify and assist another victim, as the second victim was discovered while searching the house of the alleged trafficker. Victims of all ages, genders, and nationalities had access to services on an equal basis. Deportation of trafficking victims was not permitted by law. The government referred all identified victims to care facilities; however, assistance was not always offered at the investigative stage. Investigators often focused on interrogating women for evidence gathering, rather than interviewing them for purposes of determining whether they could be potential trafficking victims.
The government sustained trafficking prevention efforts. Government officials participated in television, radio, and print media programs to raise awareness. In August 2014, the government funded a local NGO to discuss the risks of labor trafficking in Turkey in the border town of Adjara. Officials supported an initiative to develop a government-funded system to support the rehabilitation of children living on the street, a demographic vulnerable to trafficking. During the reporting period, the government provided services to 535 vulnerable children via three mobile teams, three care facilities, and two shelters. The government, in partnership with an international organization, produced video clips on trafficking, assistance available for victims, and contact information for law enforcement, which were broadcast on the public broadcasting system. The government, in partnership with an international organization, developed and disseminated 40,000 anti-trafficking flyers in five languages throughout Georgia’s Tourism Information Centers located in large metro centers as well as the Tbilisi, Kutaisi, and Batumi airports. The government continued to fund an anti-trafficking hotline operated by police within the government’s anti-trafficking division, as well as another hotline operated by the state fund that received calls from trafficking victims. During the year the anti-trafficking hotline received calls from 100 persons and the state fund hotline received 171 calls. The government demonstrated efforts to reduce the demand for sex trafficking or forced labor by distributing 40,000 flyers in five languages that warned the public of trafficking and discouraged the use of services of trafficking victims, including a reference to Article 143 of the criminal code. The government provided anti-trafficking training and guidance for its diplomatic personnel.