ESTONIA: Tier 2
Estonia is a source, transit, and destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking and for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor. Estonian women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking within Estonia and in other European countries. Men and women from Estonia are subjected to conditions of forced labor within Estonia, elsewhere in Europe, and in Australia, particularly in the construction, cleaning, and social welfare sectors, as well as in seasonal jobs. Estonian children are forced to commit crimes, such as theft, to benefit their exploiters. Men from Ukraine and Poland are subjected to labor exploitation within Estonia, particularly in the construction sector. Vietnamese nationals subjected to forced labor transit Estonia en route to other EU countries.
The Government of Estonia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Estonian authorities increased the available funding for victim services and identified a broader range of victims, including foreign citizen and child sex trafficking victims. The government, however, continued to require a police report be filed for presumed victims to receive government-funded assistance, and it ceased any such funding when criminal charges were not pursued in a given case. This requirement discouraged victims to come forward and limited the publicly funded services available to trafficking victims.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ESTONIA:
Amend the Victim Support Act to remove barriers to victim identification and government-funded assistance; increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders under section 133 of the penal code; increase specialized training for investigators and prosecutors on applying section 133 and working with victims serving as witnesses; encourage police and the labor inspectorate to investigate labor trafficking, including labor recruiters engaging in fraudulent practices; increase training for judges to ensure the judiciary understands the severity of the crime when issuing sentences; encourage more victims to assist prosecutions by facilitating access to effective legal counsel; and inform victims of the option to pursue court-ordered compensation from their traffickers.
The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Estonia prohibits all forms of both sex and labor trafficking through sections 133 and 175 of the penal code, which prescribe a maximum penalty of up to 15 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In addition to criminalizing child sex trafficking, section 175 criminalizes influencing a child to appear as a model in the manufacture of pornographic work. Estonian police investigated four new section 133 cases in 2015, compared with five in 2014; two of these cases involved labor trafficking. Authorities also registered 63 crimes under section 175, the majority of which involved influencing children to send naked images of themselves. The government initiated one new prosecution in 2015, the same as in 2014 and 2013. Authorities also began prosecutions in 20 cases under section 175. Estonian courts convicted four traffickers under section 133 in 2015, compared to four in 2014. All four traffickers received prison sentences, which ranged from four to 10 years’ imprisonment, and three were ordered to pay restitution to the victim. Estonian courts also convicted 11 individuals under section 175. The government provided a training session for 20 law enforcement officials to facilitate cooperation on forced labor cases. Authorities did not provide training to the judiciary. Estonian authorities cooperated in two transnational investigations. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government maintained protection efforts. Per the Victim Support Act, a police report must be filed for presumed victims of trafficking to be eligible for government-funded services. This requires victims to divulge personal, traumatizing information early in their recovery, which serves as a disincentive for victims to come forward. Once a police report is filed, the police have 10 days to meet with the prosecutor’s office; if authorities decide not to pursue a criminal case, the government ceases funding the victims’ care. Fewer victims have received government-sponsored assistance in the two years since this requirement was imposed in 2013. From 2012 to 2013, 43 victims received government-sponsored assistance, compared with 20 in 2014-2015. In 2015, 16 victims, 13 of whom were newly identified during the year, received government assistance; this marked an increase from the four victims receiving government assistance in 2014. Authorities identified two foreign child victims in 2015 and provided them with temporary residence permits, accommodation, and education; authorities did not identify any foreign victims in 2014. Also in 2015, authorities identified nine victims of child sex trafficking, both boys and girls.
In 2015, the social security board made approximately 86,000 euros ($93,600) available to fund assistance to officially identified trafficking victims, an increase from 50,000 euros ($54,400) in 2014. In addition, the Ministry of Social Affairs provided approximately 100,100 euros ($108,900) to an NGO providing counseling services to women in prostitution, some of whom may have been sex trafficking victims. The ministry also co-financed an NGO-run project to provide rehabilitation services to women exploited in or vulnerable to sex trafficking There were no specialized shelters for children, although child victims could reportedly stay at women’s domestic violence shelters or be placed in foster care. Adult male victims had access to legal counseling and other services. Estonia’s witness protection law allows trafficking victims to provide their testimony anonymously, but it was unknown whether this has ever been applied in a trafficking case or whether victims had ever served as witnesses in criminal trials. An Estonian court ordered a restitution payment of 150,000 euros ($163,200) to a trafficking victim.
The government maintained prevention efforts. Authorities ran multiple awareness campaigns targeting schoolchildren, prospective migrant workers, and social workers, and co-sponsored a trafficking-themed regional hackathon to develop innovative technology solutions to combat trafficking. In April 2015, the government approved a 2015-2020 plan for reducing violence, which included trafficking. One objective of the plan is to amend the Victim Support Act to provide trafficking victims with easier access to services. The anti-trafficking working group, with 35 government agencies and NGOs, continued to meet regularly and published an annual public report of its activities. The government provided an NGO with 63,888 euros ($69,500) to operate an anti-trafficking hotline; the hotline received 399 calls from individuals vulnerable to trafficking during the reporting period. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. The government demonstrated efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts and forced labor.