#minorsextrafficking | OSCE Releases Report on Human Trafficking in Georgia

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has released a report delivering a thorough assessment of the issue of trafficking in human beings in Georgia.

The report was compiled by OSCE Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings Valiant Richey drawing on his visit to Georgia on June 17-19, 2019.

The purpose of the visit was to hold consultations with government officials and experts from state institutions and civil society to discuss ways to support and advance ongoing efforts to prevent trafficking in human beings, assist trafficked persons and protect their rights, and bring perpetrators to justice in line with OSCE commitments and relevant international standards.

Women, Children, Migrant Labor – Most Vulnerable Groups

“The tourism and hospitality sector is among the high-risk sectors for trafficking in human beings and forced labor,” reads the report. The OSCE official said “the commercial sex industry” – closely related to the tourism industry – carried “perhaps the highest risk of human trafficking.”

“Georgia is also a country of destination, a status that has been contributed to by an increasing number of entertainment facilities in the Adjara region. Reportedly, a continuing demand for sexual services is one of the underlying factors contributing to trafficking of women primarily from Azerbaijan and Central Asia (especially Uzbekistan) for prostitution. These women are lured to Georgia with the false promise of jobs in the hospitality sector and often end up being trafficked for sexual exploitation in saunas, night bars, motels and private houses around the tourist areas in the Adjara region of Georgia and along the border with Turkey,” the special representative stressed, adding that Georgian women are allegedly trafficked to Turkey and the United Arab Emirates for sexual exploitation.

“Although there is no baseline data on child trafficking in Georgia, nor statistics provided by state agencies to reflect the scale of the issue, children are reportedly trafficked for various exploitative purposes in Georgia. Estimates suggest that 1,000 to 2,000 children earn a living by begging, primarily caused by poverty or domestic violence. 10 Referring to the results of its recently launched survey, UNICEF concludes that while 30% of these children are of Roma ethnicity and the Azerbaijani Kurds, 70% of children living and working in the streets are Georgians who are moved from one city to another with their families,” reads the report. 

“This is reportedly caused by an increasing poverty rate in Georgia, especially in the share of children living below the minimum subsistence level. According to the UNICEF survey, every fifth child lives in a household in which the basic needs of household members are not met.11 In addition to being exploited by their parents to beg in the streets, these children are also at high risk of trafficking for sexual exploitation, including for prostitution, by fellow street youths, caretakers, and other adults, however, prevalence estimates are not available.

To address the situation, Georgian authorities took various measures to assess the risks surrounding the phenomenon and empower agencies to tackle the issue.

These measures include establishing six Mobile Teams, each comprising of a psychologist, peer educator and logistics officer by the LEPL Social Service Agency (SSA), which mapped and identified areas where children live and/or work in the streets in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Rustavi.

“In 2014-2019 the state senior social workers of Social Service Agency have reached and identified 1837 children living or working in the streets and 1355 children used the serviced of daycare centers and shelters. In 2014, the Inter-agency Council established a Special Working Group composed of the representatives of all relevant ministries, international and civil society organizations to identify risks faced by this group of children and propose effective measures to address them. The work of the working group resulted in the amendment of ten legal acts, which among other things, provided identity documents to these children and strengthened the social workers’ role to separate minors from a family situation that is exploitative.12 Notwithstanding the efforts of Georgian authorities, according to numerous interlocutors met during the visit at-risk children living and working in the streets continues to be serious issue and requires further urgent action from the authorities including an enhanced regional co-operation to prevent children who are moved across borders between Azerbaijan and Georgia with the purpose to beg. In this regard, the Special Representative recommends that Georgian authorities enhance their efforts to prevent and address the issue of children living and working in the streets by urgently conducting country-wide research to identify the scale of the issue including by studying the push and pull factors that contribute to the phenomenon; mapping the areas where children are likely to be exploited in begging, and developing recommendations for improving its child protection system, including the identification and assistance to children trafficked for various exploitative purposes,” OSCE representative stressed. 

Although statistics provided by the Inter-Agency Coordination Council reflect low numbers of detected cases of trafficking for labor exploitation–primarily reported to consist of trafficking of Georgian men for labor exploitation in Turkey and Iraq– interlocutors met during the visit expressed their concern that there was an increasingly conducive environment for labor exploitation in Georgia involving migrant workers. Such an environment is reportedly fostered by the involvement of third-country nationals in rapidly increasing large-scale construction projects and the growing agricultural sector. Another major risk factor is connected to the widespread operation of private recruitment and/or employment agencies.

The Special Representative raised concerns over the “low” identification rate of trafficking victims, which, he said, reflected “a lack of outreach activities to identify trafficked persons, including online.”

In accordance with their mandate, the Special Representatives encourage governments of participating States to place combating all forms of human trafficking high on their political agenda. Country visits serve to establish a direct and constructive dialogue with participating States on anti-trafficking policy. During country visits, the Special Representative holds consultations with government authorities, parliamentarians, and representatives of the judiciary and NGOs on human trafficking issues and aims to share knowledge and good practices. After each visit, the Special Representative writes a country report, underlining promising practices of the country, as well as challenges discussed and areas where anti-trafficking policy could be enhanced. The report contains a few concrete and focused recommendations to support the country in enhancing the implementation of OSCE anti-trafficking commitments.

See the full report by OSCE here 

11 May 2020 13:08

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