GEORGIA: Tier 1
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 and United Arab Emirates. Georgia is also a transit country for women from Central Asia exploited in Turkey. Women from Azerbaijan and Central Asia are subjected to forced prostitution in the tourist areas of the Adjara region and 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, Egypt, Cyprus, and Iraq. Georgian, Romani, and Kurdish children are subjected to forced begging or coerced into criminality in Georgia. 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 particularly vulnerable to trafficking.
The Government of Georgia fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period, the government increased the anti-trafficking capacity of its law enforcement through funding an unprecedented number of trainings for police, prosecutors, judges, and shelter operators. The government adopted a more victim-centered approach through the inclusion of victim witness coordinators from the initial stages of investigations through the end of court proceedings. The government continued to provide comprehensive care for all identified victims and increased services available to victims, including child care for dependents of victims staying in two government-operated shelters. The government established a labor inspectorate, hired 50 full-time labor inspectors, and provided them with comprehensive training on how to identify potential cases of trafficking. However, authorities convicted fewer traffickers, identified fewer victims, and restricted labor inspectors’ ability to investigate workplaces. Victim identification of children in exploitative situations on the street, including forced begging and criminality, and Georgian and foreign workers in vulnerable labor sectors remained inadequate, and the government did not conduct a study on street children or devise a strategy to address the issue.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GEORGIA:
Increase efforts to identify trafficking victims; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute suspected traffickers and convict labor and sex traffickers; conduct a comprehensive study on children living and working on the street; create integrated, interagency strategies for reducing vulnerability and countering forced begging; train law enforcement officials on interview skills and long-term case development; encourage police and prosecutors to use money laundering investigations to develop evidence, and employ expert witnesses to explain victims’ behavior and experiences at trial; increase the use of plea-bargaining to motivate less serious offenders to testify and uncover larger criminal organizations, if detected; increase transparency of the inter-ministerial trafficking coordination council; and continue awareness-raising campaigns about the existence of human trafficking, legal recourse, and available protection services, targeted at vulnerable groups.
The government demonstrated mixed progress on law enforcement efforts. The Law on Combating Trafficking in Persons and article 143 of its criminal code prohibit all forms of trafficking and prescribe penalties ranging from seven to 20 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government maintained an anti-trafficking investigatory unit within the Tbilisi police, comprised of specifically trained investigators, and an anti-trafficking taskforce in Batumi. The government investigated 17 new cases under article 143, compared with 16 in 2014. Of these, 11 were for sex trafficking and six for labor trafficking, which included one minor, compared with 12 investigations for sex trafficking and four for labor trafficking in 2014. In addition, authorities conducted three trafficking investigations under article 171 for forced begging, compared with two investigations in 2014, and 11 cases under article 253 related to forced prostitution or pimping, compared with five in 2014. Authorities prosecuted two defendants for sex trafficking and one defendant for forced begging, compared with five for sex trafficking and none for forced begging in 2014. The government convicted three traffickers, compared with six in the previous reporting period. Two convicted traffickers received sentences of eight and 12 years’ imprisonment, and one perpetrator of forced labor received a suspended jail sentence.
In September 2015, the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MOIA) mandated the PGO’s Victim-Witness Coordinators (VWCs) to meet and counsel victims during the initial stage of trafficking investigations through the end of the court proceedings. Under this mandate, MOIA investigators must now contact VWCs and allow them to speak with victims, offering counseling and apprising them of government assistance programs prior to and after being interviewed by investigators. The PGO and MOIA co-sponsored a comprehensive training program where VWCs, prosecutors, and law enforcement learned best practices from foreign counterparts. The government funded seven additional trainings for law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges, several of which focused on investigating forced labor and forced begging. Authorities collaborated with at least three foreign governments on transnational investigations. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.
The government increased efforts to protect trafficking victims but identified fewer victims. The government identified nine adult trafficking victims in 2015, compared with 17 in 2014; six victims were female sex trafficking victims, three from Uzbekistan and three from Georgia, and three were Georgian labor trafficking victims, including two males and one female. The State Fund, the central government’s social welfare agency, provided all nine identified victims with protective services as well as services for one additional victim identified in the previous year. Victim identification of children in exploitative situations on the street and Georgian and foreign workers in vulnerable labor sectors remained inadequate. Civil society reported the victim referral process was well-established, demonstrating strong cooperation between law enforcement bodies and victim assistance agencies. During the reporting period, the government launched the Labor Monitoring Department and hired 25 full-time labor inspectors and another 25 labor inspector reservists to conduct unannounced inspections and look for signs of trafficking at business locations throughout Georgia. All 50 full-time inspectors and reservists received comprehensive five-day training on indicators of labor trafficking.
The government funded and operated two shelters that provided medical aid, psychological counseling, legal assistance, and financial compensation to nine trafficking victims in the reporting period. In August, shelters began offering free daycare and child care services for trafficking victims’ children. The government spent at least 271,000 lari ($114,300) on the operation of the anti-trafficking shelters in Tbilisi and Batumi and other victim assistance programs. The government reported foreign trafficking victims were eligible for temporary, one-year residence permits; the government proactively sought and issued three residence permits for victims during the reporting period. The government reported it encouraged victims to assist law enforcement with investigations and prosecutions, although their assistance was not required to receive government protection or shelter services; three of the nine identified victims assisted law enforcement. Deportation of trafficking victims is not permitted by law.
The government increased trafficking prevention efforts. Government officials funded and participated in an increased number of television, radio, and print media programs to raise awareness of trafficking. The government organized anti-trafficking information meetings in villages and towns in nearly every region of Georgia, presenting to more than 2,500 audience members from different target groups, including primary school and university students, minorities, internally displaced persons, and journalists. In August 2015, the government funded two local NGOs 5,000 lari ($2,100) to help raise public awareness on trafficking and the government assistance available. The government also disseminated approximately 62,000 leaflets and 5,000 brochures on various trafficking issues at border crossings, tourism information centers, metro stations, and public service halls throughout the country. The government produced a documentary on human trafficking, which was aired on the public broadcasting system. The government continued to fund an anti-trafficking hotline operated by police from the 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 138 persons and the State Fund hotline received 192 calls, which led to the identification of one victim.
The government continued to fund and partner with the EU to develop a system to support the rehabilitation and re-socialization of children living and working on the street. The government coordinated with three NGOs to operate mobile street teams comprised of social workers, psychologists, and mentors who were formerly street children. The government also partially covered operational costs for daycare facilities, 24-hour crisis intervention facilities, and long-term transition centers to assist this vulnerable population. In January 2016, the government approved legislation authorizing social workers to act as guardians when applying for identity cards on behalf of street children. This will expedite the issuance of identity cards for such children, allowing them to receive government services and assistance, including health and education services for minors, who are undocumented foreign citizens.
In April 2015, the government adopted the Law on Labor Migration, regulating the operation of labor recruitment agencies. In August 2015, the government adopted Resolution 417, which defines labor conditions for employment, including payment, and requires domestic employers hiring a foreign worker in Georgia to submit information to the Social Services Authority within 30 calendar days of hiring. In December 2015, the State Commission for Migration Issues adopted a 2010-2016 Migration Strategy and Action Plan to address human trafficking, as well as illegal migration by effectively identifying trafficking and human smuggling cases, improving criminal prosecution mechanisms, detecting and preventing potential trafficking cases in connection with illegal border crossings or visa overstays, and regularly monitoring and evaluating victim protection and rehabilitation programs. During the reporting period, law enforcement, in cooperation with third-country law enforcement, investigated 27 organizations that offered employment abroad to Georgian citizens and interviewed 105 Georgians employed outside of the country to screen for potential trafficking indicators.
The government demonstrated efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex and forced labor. An inter-ministerial trafficking coordination council led development of new legislation and policy, including consulting NGOs, and monitored national efforts, although the council rarely made its assessments public and one international organization noted the council’s lack of transparency. A number of teenage girls alleged they were sexually abused by Georgian peacekeepers in the Central African Republic; it is unclear whether trafficking crimes may have occurred. The government was investigating the allegations at the close of the reporting period. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel and its armed forces prior to deployment as peacekeepers.