TBILISI, DFWatch – After the U.S. State Department published a report on human trafficking which indicated Georgia as a site of the illicit business, the Georgian Ministry of Justice responded by claiming to be a first tier country along with developed states as Germany.
When evaluating the global effort against trafficking, State Department employs a four-tier system for how countries are performing. Since 2007, Georgia is among the first tier, hence one of the best performers, which roughly means that the government is fully complying with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards.
In 2011, Georgian law enforcement agencies prosecuted five sex trafficking offenders and further conducted specialized trainings in collaboration with NGO’s and international organizations, on identification of victims, interview and investigative techniques. Overall, the situation with regards to combating trafficking has improved in Georgia and the country is moving up on the ranking list, which proves that even though some problems remain, they are being addressed.
The government tries to cooperate with NGOs that work on the trafficking issue, although before December 2011, the government did not finance anti trafficking NGOs. The role of the NGOs is important, as sometimes victims are afraid of law enforcement agencies and prefer to have contacts with NGOs. The reason why they are afraid of them is rooted in not being familiar with the law and fear of prosecution for possible crimes committed during the period of being a trafficking victim.
Aside from forced labor and sex trafficking, one more problem, which exists in Georgia, is the existence of street kids who are subjects of trafficking however often they are treated as criminals and sometimes even prosecuted if forced to steal or beg by parents or third parties. The Trafficking is the fastest growing industry in the criminal world and follows the drug trafficking as the most profitable illegal activity.
According to the State Departement report, 18 individuals were under investigation for such crimes. But local media reported that in Gonio, in the Adjara region bordering Turkey, there are 500 women from Uzbekistan employed in the sex industry. There are three trafficking criminal cases launched to protect Uzbekistani citizens who are victim of trafficking. The last person prosecuted for this was a Turkey citizen who were sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Nana Nazarova, the People’s Harmonious Development Society, says Georgian press is identifying the victims of this trade, which hampers the work of law enforcers.
“The girl whose testimony was the main reason why this case was solved feels terrible because of her cooperation with the investigative agencies, because her damaged passport was removed by law by the agencies and did not return it till today, even though the consul of Uzbekistan officially sent a plea to the government. She returned to Uzbekistan with the temporary document and is unable to work. Moreover, she has been identified in the Georgian press, though only in Georgian language. This is one of the reasons why victims don’t address law enforcing agencies,” Nazarova, says.