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US report reveals human trafficking, forced labor problem in Georgia

By Ernest Petrosyan
Thursday, June 21
Georgia is a source for, a transit point, and destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking and men and women subjected to conditions of forced labor, says the US Department of State report on human trafficking. The report contains data about 186 countries, including Georgia.

“Women and girls from Georgia are subjected to sex trafficking within the country and also in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. In recent years, Georgian women and girls have also been subjected to sex trafficking in Egypt and elsewhere,” the report reveals.

According to the report, women form Uzbekistan and possibly other countries are found to be in forced prostitution in the commercial sex industry in Georgia. Country experts report that the foreign women in prostitution found in saunas, strip clubs, hotels, and escort services are vulnerable to the forced sex trade. Men and women are also subjected to conditions of forced labor within Georgia, and Georgians are subjected to forced labor in Russia, Turkey, and elsewhere.

The report reads that recently, there have been cases of foreign nationals exploited in agriculture, construction, and domestic services within Georgia.

The report also included the situation in the occupied regions of Abkhazia. According to the data, Turkish men have been subjected to forced labor in the occupied territory of Abkhazia, which remains outside the central government’s control.

NGOs that work with street children from Georgia, Armenia, and Russia, as well as with Roma children, report that some children are exploited into begging or theft by third parties, including their parents, which is also considered a form of trafficking. Although children are not commonly found working in agriculture in Georgia, except on family-owned farms, a labor trafficking expert in the country indicated that children working in agriculture and in the informal urban economy are highly vulnerable to forced labor, the report reads.

The report notes that the Georgia government fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period, the government increased the number of trafficking cases investigated and the percentage of prosecutions that resulted in convictions of trafficking offenses. The government also significantly increased funding for anti-trafficking training and prevention activities, including in the budgets of its shelters for victims. The government significantly increased the number of Georgian officials that were provided training on victim identification. During the year, however, local experts expressed serious concerns about the government’s view of its trafficking problem and its lack of effective efforts in the first half of the reporting period to proactively identify victims of this serious crime, the report says.

The report also states that the government of Georgia demonstrated improvements in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Georgia prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons according to 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. In 2011, the government initiated 16 trafficking investigations involving 18 individuals, compared with 11 investigations of 18 individuals in 2010.

The document reveals that the Georgian government maintained protection for identified trafficking victims in 2011. Government efforts to identify victims during the first half of the reporting period were not effective however. According to government data, no victims were identified during the first half of 2011. Further, no potential victims were referred to the government’s Permanent Group, an alternative mechanism for identification, between December 2010 and September 2011. Most victims were identified by government authorities late in the reporting period, with a total of 18 victims identified. This compares with 19 victims identified in 2010 and 48 victims identified.