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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Trafficking in Persons Interim Assessment (May - November 2008)


Report
January 27, 2009

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2008 Trafficking in Persons Report

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, passed by the Congress and signed into law by the President in December 2003, requires the Department of State to submit to the Congress an Interim Assessment of the progress made in combating trafficking in persons (TIP) by those countries placed on the Special Watch List in September 2008. The evaluation period covers the six months since the release of the June 2008 annual report.

This year, 45 countries are on the Special Watch List. These countries either (1) had moved up a tier in the 2008 TIP Report over the last year’s Report; or (2) were ranked on Tier 2 in the 2008 TIP Report, but (a) had a very significant or significantly increasing number of trafficking victims, (b) had failed to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat TIP from the previous year, or (c) were placed on Tier 2 because of commitments to carry out additional future actions over the coming year. Forty-two of the 45 countries on the Special Watch List are in the second category – ranked as Tier 2 Watch List, including two countries initially ranked as Tier 3 in the June 2008 TIP Report but reassessed as Tier 2 Watch List countries by the State Department in September 2008 (Moldova and Oman). Attached to this Interim Assessment is an overview of the tier process.

In most cases, the Interim Assessment is intended to serve as a tool by which to gauge the anti�'trafficking progress of countries which may be in danger of slipping a tier in the upcoming June 2009 TIP Report and to give them guidance on how to avoid a Tier 3 ranking. It is a tightly focused progress report, assessing the concrete actions a government has taken to address the key deficiencies highlighted in the June 2008 TIP Report. The Interim Assessment covers actions undertaken between the beginning of May – the cutoff for data covered in the June TIP Report – and November. Readers are requested to refer back to the annual TIP Report for an analysis of large�'scale efforts and a description of the trafficking problem in each particular country or territory.

Tier Process

The Department placed each of the countries or territories included on the 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report into one of the three lists, described here as tiers, mandated by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, as amended (TVPA). This placement reflects an evaluation of a government’s actions to combat trafficking. The Department first evaluates whether the government fully complies with the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Countries whose governments do so are placed in Tier 1. For other countries, the Department considers whether their governments made significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance. Countries whose governments are making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards are placed in Tier 2. Those countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so are placed in Tier 3. Finally, the Special Watch List criteria are considered and, if applicable, Tier 2 countries are placed on the Tier 2 Watch List.

The Tiers

Tier 1: Countries whose governments fully comply with the Act’s minimum standards.

Tier 2: Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Act’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

Tier 2 Watch List: Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Act’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards, and:

a) The absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is increasing significantly; or

b) There is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or

c) The determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year.

Tier 3: Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.


As required by the TVPA, in making tier determinations between Tiers 2 and 3, the Department considers the overall extent of human trafficking in the country; the extent of government noncompliance with the minimum standards, particularly the extent to which government officials have participated in, facilitated, condoned, or are otherwise complicit in trafficking; and what reasonable measures the government would have to take to come into compliance with the minimum standards within the government’s resources and capabilities.

AFRICA

Burundi

The Government of Burundi made modest progress in combating human trafficking since the release of the 2008 Report. Fighting between the government and Burundi’s last remaining rebel group, the Palipehutu-FNL (FNL), intensified in April, making negotiations for the release of child soldiers increasingly urgent yet difficult. The Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Demobilization, Reinsertion and Reintegration played a prominent role in the negotiations. As a result, 220 child soldiers were identified at the Randa “dissident” camp in May 2008 and released to officials from the United Nations, the African Union, and the Government of Burundi. With UNICEF funding, the commission’s staff provided medical check-ups for children suffering from physical and psychological trauma and conducted a search for their families; the former child soldiers were reunited during June and July after parents signed a discharge form. The government attempted to follow up on the status of demobilized children, but was stymied by a lack of resources to operate outside of Bujumbura, where the majority of these demobilized child soldiers now reside. The government did not, however, undertake programming to rehabilitate female child soldiers. There are currently no children at Randa or Buramata, but the existence of child combatants in the FNL assembly area was reported.

During the November 2008 legislative session, the National Assembly approved amendments to the criminal code that define acts of trafficking in persons and delineate methods of prosecution and punishment for such crimes. It transferred the amendments to the Senate, which was expected to vote on the measures in late November or early December 2008. In June, the government sent officials from the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Court, and the National Crime Bureau to Dar es Salaam for a meeting of regional security and judicial officials to draft a Regional Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking in Eastern Africa.

The National Police’s Brigade for the Protection of Women and Children provided training and counseling for girls detained for engaging in prostitution before releasing them to their parents. Additionally, after receiving citizen complaints, it investigated house-based brothels where children were allegedly exploited; there was no known punishment of brothel operators during the reporting period. There are approximately 3,000 street children in Burundi vulnerable to trafficking, many of them ex-child combatants. With the assistance of UNICEF, the government is also providing vocational skills training, including carpentry and masonry, to affected children.

Cameroon

The Government of Cameroon demonstrated limited progress in its efforts to address human trafficking since the release of the 2008 Report. The government has failed to draft a law criminalizing the trafficking of adults, a much-needed reform that the government has pledged to undertake since 2005. Moreover, law enforcement authorities have not increased efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses. Specifically, the government failed to investigate traditional leaders in the Northern Provinces suspected of keeping hereditary servants in conditions of involuntary servitude.

In October 2008, the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms conducted a training seminar for law enforcement officers and magistrates on identifying and collecting data on trafficking crimes. The Ministry of Justice in November 2008 opened a pilot data center as part of its effort to develop a computerized system for the collection of trafficking crime data.

Central African Republic

The Government of the Central African Republic (CAR) demonstrated minimal progress to combat trafficking in persons since the release of the 2008 Report. The government failed to enact its 2006 draft law against trafficking. The government has not developed any procedures through which police and government social workers are able to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as street children, children who are abused or abandoned, domestic servants, females in prostitution, or Pygmies. Moreover, the CAR government has not improved its efforts to collaborate with NGOs and international organizations in providing care to trafficking victims.

The CAR government collaborated with the Central African Human Rights Observatory and a foreign donor to host a three-day seminar entitled “Raising Awareness of the New Forms of Slavery in the CAR.” By the close of the seminar, participants had developed the Bangui Declaration, a series of recommendations to the government, the CAR Human Rights Observatory, and other stakeholders to eradicate slavery in the country.

Chad

The Government of Chad demonstrated minimal progress to combat trafficking in persons since the release of the 2008 Report. The government has not yet enacted its draft law prohibiting child trafficking and has not increased efforts to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders. While reports indicate nine suspected traffickers were arrested in June 2008, all suspects were later released.

In response to a June 2008 visit from the UN Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict, the Chadian government pledged to release more than 60 children who had been unlawfully conscripted for service in armed groups and who were in detention, and agreed to inspections of its military camps and training areas to prevent future conscription of child combatants. However, there are no reports indicating that such reforms have yet been instituted.

Republic of Congo

The Government of the Republic of the Congo (ROC) demonstrated minimal progress in combating trafficking in persons since the release of the 2008 Report. The ROC government has not passed its draft child protection law containing provisions against child trafficking. In August 2008, the law was re-submitted to Parliament after it was amended.

The ROC government neither trained its police to better investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes nor reported any trafficking prosecutions or convictions. However, the government co-financed with UNICEF workshops in Point Noire on the proposed child trafficking law for personnel from the Departments of Public Security, Justice and Social Affairs, and the foreign consulates of Benin, Togo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The government has not yet developed formal procedures through which police and government social workers may identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations. However, the Ministry of Health conducted a workshop for local NGOs in Point Noire to educate them on child trafficking. The GROC, in collaboration with UNICEF, has developed and distributed human trafficking awareness publications and has posted anti-trafficking street banners.

Cote d’Ivoire

The Government of Cote d’Ivoire demonstrated minimal progress to combat trafficking in persons since the release of the 2008 Report. Law enforcement efforts remained stalled, with no reports of new trafficking prosecutions or convictions. However, the Ministry of Justice assisted the International Cocoa Initiative in organizing training on human trafficking for law enforcement officials to be held in February 2009.

The July 2008 interception in Ghana of 17 Togolese children being trafficked to Cote d’Ivoire for exploitation in Ivorian cocoa fields underscored the need for greater enforcement efforts against trafficking in this sector. Cote d’Ivoire reported no efforts to increase services for victims or to develop formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among women and girls in prostitution.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo made modest progress in combating human trafficking since the release of the 2008 Report, with improvements evident at both the national and provincial levels. To raise the awareness of child soldiering issues among Congolese military and political leaders, the National Demobilization Agency (UEPN-DDR) held events in Kinshasa, Goma, and Bukavu on June 16, 21, and 23, respectively, as part of a campaign of zero tolerance for child soldiers. For the general public residing in these same locations, UEPN-DDR produced sketches, public service announcements, and debates broadcasted by six radio and television stations in July and August. The agency also sent field teams on awareness raising missions to 23 sites throughout South Kivu, North Kivu, Katanga, and Equateur Provinces, as well as assisted with the demobilization of 540 children from various rebel groups.

On April 7, the Bukavu Military Court sentenced FARDC Major Bwasolo Misaba to five years in prison for recruiting children between 10- and 14-years old and illegally using them in military ranks. This is the second conviction of a national army officer for illegally recruiting children. The trial of Kynugu Mutanga (a.k.a. Gédéon) by the Lubumbashi Military Court for illegal child recruitment has been indefinitely postponed because of a lack of lawyers resulting from the Lubumbashi Bar Association’s ongoing strike. Bedi Mubuli Engangela (a.k.a. Colonel 106) remains in detention at Malaka Prison in Kinshasa; a trial date has not been set.

In August, the Ministry of Labor established the National Committee Against the Worst Forms of Child Labor. The committee elected a permanent Secretariat in September and held a three-day capacity-building workshop in October 2008 funded by international NGOs. It awaits approval of the 2009 national budget before taking any action. Although the national government did not address debt bondage and child labor in the mining sector, provincial Ministry of Education offices in Mbuji Mayi, Bunia, and Lubumbashi are coordinating with NGOs to reintegrate children working in mines into the formal education system. Government officials recognize the growing problem of child prostitution in the DRC, though authorities have yet to take concrete action against it.

Equatorial Guinea

The Government of Equatorial Guinea demonstrated limited progress in combating trafficking in persons since the release of the 2008 Report. While controls remained in place to limit possible trafficking in markets and bars, no cases of government efforts to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders were reported. Although the government has not reported any rescues of trafficking victims, in May 2008 it committed $2.5 million to a joint child rights project with UNICEF that will include programs to combat child trafficking. The government did not designate a focal point responsible for coordinating government anti-trafficking efforts. Though it has expressed willingness to increase efforts to raise public awareness about trafficking, but has not done so to date.

Gabon

The Government of Gabon demonstrated minimal progress to combat trafficking in persons since the release of the 2008 Report. Law enforcement efforts improved slightly, but there was still a lack of any trafficking convictions. The government did not report any efforts to train law enforcement officials to better address trafficking crimes.

Gabon’s Inter-ministerial Committee to Combat Child Trafficking began disseminating to all relevant ministries guidelines for the identification, rescue, care, and repatriation of victims. The national police, the gendarmerie, and customs agents in Libreville in November 2008 collaborated in a joint operation to combat, among other crimes, child exploitation and child trafficking; data on the results of these efforts has yet to be released.

Gabon did not report progress on investigating claims that Pygmies are employed under slavery-like conditions, a continuing concern.

The governments of Gabon and Benin, in collaboration with UNICEF, are finalizing the terms of a bilateral cooperation agreement on the repatriation of child trafficking victims.

The Gambia

The Government of The Gambia demonstrated minimal progress in its efforts to address human trafficking since the release of the 2008 Report. The government’s law enforcement efforts against trafficking remained weak, with only one reported prosecution. In November 2008, police arrested a Gambian national for trafficking a child for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation by a New Zealand national in Banjul. The Gambian is being prosecuted under a procurement statute. In May and November 2008, the government collaborated with UNICEF to conduct two training events for law enforcement officers, magistrates, judges, immigration officials, and NGOs. In June, the government hosted an ECOWAS workshop on trafficking in which members of the National TIP Taskforce participated; the government contributed $4,000 towards the funding of the seminar.

In a joint program with UNICEF and an international NGO, the government provided salaries for two social workers at a drop-in center for children subjected to forced begging and street children vulnerable to being trafficked. In December 2008, The Gambia’s anti-trafficking task force finalized the national action plan to combat trafficking. The government has not developed formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among females in prostitution. The Gambia has not yet developed a system for collecting victim care data.

Guinea

The Government of Guinea demonstrated minimal progress toward combating trafficking in persons since the release of the 2008 Report. The Guinean government’s efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking crimes remained stalled. Although Guinea’s laws prohibited all forms of child trafficking through separate statutes prior to 2008, in August 2008, the Guinean government passed a new code of laws that criminalizes all forms of child trafficking within a single legal code and which specifically outlaws child domestic servitude. The government did not, however, take steps to develop a strategy for collecting trafficking crime data.

The Guinean government did not develop a system through which officials identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations. Moreover, the government did not refer an increased number of trafficking victims to NGOs or international organizations for care.

Guinea-Bissau

The Government of Guinea-Bissau demonstrated minimal progress in its efforts to address human trafficking since the release of the 2008 Report. The government failed to draft a law criminalizing all forms of trafficking and has not reported any new trafficking prosecutions or convictions under trafficking-related laws. Because the country was led from August to November 2008 by an interim government in advance of legislative elections and then suffered an attempted coup d’etat, efforts to establish an inter-ministerial committee to combat trafficking or draft a national anti-trafficking action plan stalled. Such initiatives are expected to be addressed by the incoming administration.

Madagascar

The Government of Madagascar made modest progress in combating human trafficking since the release of the 2008 Report. The government has yet to use its January 2008 comprehensive anti-trafficking law successfully to punish traffickers; a lack of case precedent, poor coordination among ministries, and the lack of a presidential decree mandating and codifying its use may be hindering implementation of the law in practice. However, the Ministry of Justice disseminated the law to all 22 regions and magistrates received training in its use. Several possible sex trafficking cases came to trial in 2008, but only two reportedly made use of the anti-trafficking law, and neither has yet reached a resolution. Other cases continue to be tried under previously existing laws, all of which were either dismissed or punished with suspended sentences.

In September 2008, a foreign government-funded program concluded the development of a centralized database for documenting and tracking trafficking cases nationwide. Training on the use of this database was conducted in the capital and regions at high risk for trafficking. While this program is a positive example of increased anti-trafficking cooperation between the gendarmerie and the police, financial and legal issues threaten to derail this project; although operational for several months, the center still lacks a presidential decree giving its work legal standing and financing for future operations remains uncertain.

Malagasy law enforcement officials began working with UNICEF to develop and implement a formal process through which to refer victims for assistance. The country’s 14 “protection networks” in existence at the beginning of 2008 expanded to 65, bringing together government and NGO entities to assist victims. The centers’ effectiveness depends largely on the extent to which NGOs and international organizations proactively engage local law enforcement and health agencies, but increased coordination among ministries has had a positive impact.

Although some officials were punished in 2007 for colluding with traffickers or accepting bribes to overlook trafficking crimes, the Ministry of Justice did not report any such cases in 2008.

Mozambique

The Government of Mozambique made progress in combating trafficking since the release of the 2008 Report. In April 2008, the National Assembly passed the final version of a comprehensive human trafficking law, including seven amendments suggested for inclusion at the law’s initial passing two weeks prior. In June, the president signed the bill into law. The law provides for penalties of 16 to 20 years’ imprisonment for those recruiting or facilitating exploitation of a person for purposes of prostitution, forced labor, slavery, or involuntary debt servitude. Following the passage of the law, the Mozambican Police created an anti-trafficking unit to deal specifically with apprehensions of traffickers, investigations of cases, and reintegration of victims. This unit began developing procedures for interviewing potential victims and transferring them to the care of other organizations. In addition, training on human trafficking was institutionalized as a standard part of the mandatory training program for new border guard and police cadets.

The Ministry of Interior’s Office for Assistance to Women and Vulnerable Children began implementing its plan to augment trafficking awareness training for police officers and the availability of victim support services in each of the country’s police stations, with the eventual goal, once funding is allocated, of ensuring the presence of police officers and psychologists in every police station who are specifically trained to handle child trafficking cases.

In July 2008, a Maputo court sentenced two Turkish citizens to a year in prison and fined each $3,100 for physically and sexually abusing 17 children they brought to the capital under pretense of providing an Islamic education, but instead used for domestic servitude at their private residence in Maputo. The government also provided accommodation and medical care for two Mozambican girls rescued from sex trafficking in South Africa in March 2008; the trial of their Mozambican trafficker is ongoing.

The Mozambican police force reportedly rescued more than 200 Mozambican children being trafficked to South Africa in the first half of 2008. The government’s Office of Women and Vulnerable Children continued working with a network of anti-trafficking NGOs to respond quickly to tips on potential trafficking cases, and provide care and protection to victims.

Since October 2008, there have been a number of abductions and attempted abductions of children from school playgrounds in Maputo and Matola which raised public awareness about child trafficking, and resulted in the publication of regular articles in national newspapers about the subject.

Niger

The Government of Niger demonstrated limited progress to combat trafficking in persons since the release of the 2008 Report. Law enforcement efforts remained weak, while protection and prevention efforts were steady.

The Nigerien government has yet to enact its 2006 draft law against trafficking. In two cases, in which a total of 30 children were rescued, the suspected traffickers were released without being charged for lack of adequate anti-trafficking legislation. The government announced that it would comply with an October 2008 ruling of the ECOWAS Court of Justice holding the Government of Niger responsible for failing to protect a woman sold into slavery. However, Niger has yet to pay the former slave the fine mandated by the ruling.

In March 2008, local government officials and a local NGO rescued 40 slaves and assisted them with the purchase of land and animals to assist in their reintegration into society. In cooperation with UNICEF, the Nigerien government helped to establish regional committees to combat child trafficking. Nigerien officials collaborated with UNICEF and local NGOs to rescue over 90 suspected child trafficking victims, 36 of whom were returned to their families.

State television broadcast a donor-funded anti-trafficking skit repeatedly in French and local languages. Niger’s First Lady and the Minister of Justice made public appearances denouncing traditional slavery and child trafficking.

South Africa 

The Government of South Africa made modest progress since the release of the 2008 Report. Comprehensive anti-TIP legislation, drafted several years ago, has not been passed or enacted, though the South African Law Reform Commission submitted it to the newly appointed Minister of Justice in late November. The first trafficking-related prosecution using the country’s Sexual Offences Act, with its interim provisions against sex trafficking, commenced in May 2008. Draft regulations for the Children's Act of 2005 were opened to public comment in June 2008.

A significant increase in the level of anti-trafficking training for South African government social workers, police, prosecutors, and border officials – funded by foreign donors – has led to improved recognition of trafficking victims, a greater number of cases referred to authorities, and improved care for victims. In prior years, NGOs identified the vast majority of foreign trafficking victims, while police tended to arrest and charge them with crimes such as prostitution, before deporting them. Improved training of social workers, police, and border officials have led to a greater number of victim referrals from these government sources.

Zambia

The Government of Zambia demonstrated limited progress in its efforts to address human trafficking since the release of the 2008 Report. In November 2008, President Banda signed a comprehensive anti-trafficking law that bans all forms of trafficking. The government provided training and workshops, through which awareness of trafficking has increased among law enforcement officials, though its efforts to formalize and implement victim identification and referral procedures remained stalled. The lack of a comprehensive anti-trafficking law with provisions for victims’ assistance had meant that authorities had continued to send both foreign and domestic trafficking victims back to their home countries or communities without providing them with appropriate aid; the new law, however, requires the government to provide protection and compensation to victims of human trafficking and updates immigration law to permit victims to remain in Zambia.

A national anti-trafficking policy and implementation plan are pending final Cabinet approval, and in November 2008, the government supported the launch of an anti-trafficking song by a group of high-profile Zambian musicians.

Zimbabwe

The Government of Zimbabwe made minimal progress in combating trafficking since the release of the 2008 Report. As the country’s political stalemate continues, much of the government’s basic operations have suffered; the government’s anti-trafficking efforts have been neglected as the government has failed to address any of Zimbabwe’s economic and social problems. Efforts to deter trafficking will likely be undertaken by non-governmental organizations until after a new government takes shape.

The Zimbabwean parliament in 2008 made no progress in drafting or implementing anti-trafficking legislation. Likewise, there were no new investigations or prosecutions of traffickers since the release of the 2008 Report. IOM provided anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officials and social service providers.

EUROPE

Albania

The Government of Albania made demonstrable progress in its efforts to combat human trafficking in persons since the release of the 2008 Report. Most notably, it demonstrated dramatic improvement in its efforts to identify victims of trafficking.

The Albanian government also increased trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and sentences imposed on convicted trafficking offenders were appropriately severe. Throughout the first half of 2008, the government intensified its efforts to provide anti-trafficking training for officials, including a course developed and taught by the Albanian State Police. In addition, the government assigned approximately 20 female anti-trafficking police officers to organized crime units throughout the country.

Officials worked to improve the functioning of the national victim referral mechanism, identifying at least five times more victims than the previous year, and launched an official database gathering information on the management of individual victims’ cases. The government increased funding to its shelter by 16 percent. The government has not provided financial support to the country’s four NGO shelters and has denied their request for a police security presence. In July, the government approved a new national strategy for combating trafficking, which is available in Albanian on the Ministry of Interior website.

Armenia

The Government of Armenia made modest progress in combating trafficking in persons since the release of the June 2008 Report. The government allocated funding in its 2009 budget to combat trafficking, an unprecedented commitment. The government made efforts to seek adequate jail sentences for convicted traffickers and made notable progress by adopting a National Referral Mechanism to assist with victim assistance. Although there were no official reports of trafficking-related complicity among government officials, concerns remain that none of the officials involved in a well-documented 2006 trafficking corruption case have been prosecuted. Concerns also remain about the credibility of the government’s previous investigation into the case, the inadequacy of the administrative penalties imposed on several of the involved officials, and the possibility that additional government officials involved in the case have not yet been identified. Notably, however, the government in late December decided to reopen an investigation into this 2006 case.

In November 2008, the Armenian government formally adopted its National Victim Referral Mechanism, following a six-month nationwide pilot testing period. From April through November 2008, the Armenian government increased the number of victims identified and referred to organizations providing protective services. Although law enforcement officials acknowledged victim identification deficiencies -- particularly a lack of expertise to adequately detect, investigate, and prosecute trafficking cases -- the government provided no anti-trafficking and victim identification training for police and border guards during the assessment period.

The Armenian government demonstrated progress in obtaining adequate jail sentences for convicted traffickers. During the assessment period, the government reported four trafficking convictions with sentences ranging from 2 to 7.5 years’ imprisonment. However, the number of trafficking investigations started since April 2008 declined from the same period in 2007.

Azerbaijan

The Government of Azerbaijan demonstrated limited progress in combating trafficking in persons since the release of the June 2008 Report. During the assessment period, the government sustained its trafficking investigation and prosecution efforts and notably sentenced all of the 34 traffickers convicted to spend some time in prison, ensuring that no sentences were suspended. Although there were unconfirmed reports in 2007 of low-level civil servants, local law enforcement officers, and border guards accepting bribes to facilitate trafficking, the government did not report efforts to investigate or prosecute government officials for trafficking-related complicity since June 2008. In December 2008, a regional deputy police chief was involved in the kidnapping and trafficking of two girls for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation within Azerbaijan.

The government continued the process of drafting a national victim referral mechanism, but has yet to implement a national mechanism for victim identification and assistance referral. Some victims were referred by government officials informally for assistance.

Croatia

The Government of Croatia sustained its overall efforts to combat trafficking since the release of the June 2008 Report. The government, however, identified very few trafficking victims during the reporting period.

The government continued its aggressive anti-trafficking training for a wide range of officials and sustained its proactive efforts to raise general public awareness about trafficking. In June 2008 the government completed a one-year anti-trafficking awareness program co-funded with the EU for social workers, health care workers, police officials and government lawyers. In preparation for the June 2008 Euro Cup soccer championship, the government produced and aired a nation-wide television campaign alerting the Croatian public of the increased risk of trafficking at such events, warning that individuals they see in prostitution and child labor may be victims of trafficking. The campaign’s slogan was “Open your eyes, you can help, and possibly save a human life.” In June 2008, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare signed an agreement with two NGOs which assigned primary assistance roles to the NGOs and delineated the responsibility of each signatory. The government reported convictions of five traffickers since March 2008, with sentences ranging from one year to 20 months. While the government made proactive identification of trafficking victims a central element of an October 2008 training co-sponsored with IOM for diplomatic and consular personnel, Croatian officials have identified only six trafficking victims since March 2008.

Cyprus

The Government of Cyprus made significant progress in addressing human trafficking since the release of the June 2008 Report, most notably by abolishing the “artiste” work permit – a primary conduit for sex trafficking to Cyprus. The government has not yet, however, had the opportunity to fully implement this new policy, nor has it achieved key needed improvements in law enforcement and victim protection.

In October 2008, the Council of Ministers adopted a policy to abolish the use of the “artiste” category work permit for women from non-EU countries working in the cabaret industry. Individuals who wish to work as “artistes” in Cyprus will need to apply for work permits following the same procedures and terms of employment as other foreign workers. However, the government still needs to develop accompanying regulations in order to implement the new policy and ensure adequate safeguards to prevent trafficking in the cabaret industry. During the reporting period, the anti-trafficking unit investigated 24 cases of trafficking. Prosecutions for trafficking, however, continue to be ineffective. The government increased funding to raise public awareness of trafficking, but has yet to implement a long-promised awareness campaign focusing on demand.

Since March 2008, out of 27 pending prosecutions, the government obtained the conviction of only one trafficker – who was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. In April 2008, the government appointed 20 law enforcement officers to partner with its anti-trafficking unit; however, their turnover rate is high and these officers are not exclusively dedicated to trafficking. In November 2008, the government added one officer to its three-person anti-trafficking police unit. Throughout the reporting period, police carried out anti-trafficking inspections, raids, and undercover operations in cabarets, identifying 35 victims of trafficking. Nevertheless, standardized procedures for the referral and protection of trafficking victims require further development to be implemented more consistently throughout Cyprus.

Macedonia

The Government of Macedonia made tangible but uneven progress since the release of the 2008 Report. However, the government has yet to implement certain important improvements in the areas of victim protection and trafficking related corruption needed to demonstrate appreciable progress in its anti-trafficking efforts.

The Macedonian government strengthened its punishments for convicted traffickers by increasing the average sentence imposed on convicted trafficking offenders. During the reporting period the government convicted 11 traffickers under its trafficking laws, sentencing them to an average sentence of 6.5 years. New legislation mandating harsher sentences for trafficking crimes involving minors has increased the minimum sentences for many of these crimes from 6 months to 8 years. The government continued to assume responsibility for some of the services provided in the foreign victim shelter. The government recently added eight new police and security officers and positions for a social worker and a psychologist to the migrant shelter that houses irregular migrants and foreign trafficking victims. The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy currently provides direct assistance to the victims through all of the 27 social welfare day centers in Macedonia. The government has yet to provide direct funding or resources for victim assistance to the current domestic victims’ shelter. It has drafted legislation that will allow it to create a new government-funded/NGO-run domestic shelter, but some NGOs have expressed concerns over how this plan will ultimately affect protection and assistance for victims.

The government appointed legal guardians to protect the rights of child trafficking victims in cases where parents were complicit in their trafficking or where parents refused to cooperate in an investigation. The government has not prosecuted any cases involving trafficking related complicity during the reporting period, although anecdotal reports of trafficking related law enforcement corruption persist.

The government made important progress on the implementation of the new standard operating procedures on victim referral; however, additional work is needed to ensure they are implemented fully and consistently throughout Macedonia. The government conducted three seminars with social welfare centers and other key municipal and national level officials to increase and broaden implementation of these procedures. Recent reforms to Macedonian law allow for a 60-day reflection period for foreign trafficking victims; however, the Ministry of Interior reported that no victims applied for such a permit. From May through August 2008, the government conducted a nation-wide survey to better tailor its trafficking prevention activities, and as a result it delivered victim identification trainings in high-risk communities identified through this survey.

Moldova

The Government of Moldova made limited progress in its efforts to combat trafficking in persons since the release of the 2008 Report. The government in June 2008 acknowledged a lack of adequate efforts to prosecute officials reportedly complicit in trafficking, and at that time re-opened high profile cases involving allegations of trafficking-related corruption that had been previously dismissed without transparency. The government also opened several new investigations of alleged trafficking complicity of law enforcement officials. The government has not, however, reported any progress on these or any other investigations involving complicit officials since July 2008. Moreover, there has been no reported improvement in the number of prosecutions or convictions of officials complicit in human trafficking. The government of Moldova’s data collection on trafficking prosecutions, convictions and sentences remains a concern.

In October 2008, the government began disbursing pledged funds to cover 25 percent of the ongoing operating costs of the IOM trafficking victim shelter in Chisinau. The national trafficking victim referral mechanism continues to develop with the assistance of foreign donors and some local government funding.

In October the government publicized an existing law enforcement hotline as a resource to report information about human trafficking, corruption, and migration issues.

Montenegro

The Government of Montenegro made some progress in its efforts to combat trafficking in persons since the release of the 2008 Report. One convicted trafficker is serving jail time, but victim identification remained weak.

Police conducted numerous anti-trafficking raids on bars, clubs, and illegal construction sites suspected of exploiting trafficking victims, and carried out extensive actions to remove people begging in public areas (including 75 minors allegedly involved in family begging). However, the government referred only two potential trafficking victims to the government-sponsored shelter for assistance. The government reported several new trafficking prosecutions since April 2008, and one convicted trafficker is serving a six-year sentence; other convicted traffickers were at-large pending appeal or a new trial. The Montenegrin government’s national trafficking coordinator resumed holding meetings of the anti-trafficking working group, held an anti-trafficking public awareness event in October 2008, and organized and funded several workshops with NGOs to train teachers and judges on anti-trafficking principles.

Russia

The Government of Russia demonstrated limited progress in combating trafficking in persons since the release of the June 2008 Report. Although Russian law enforcement authorities continued to investigate cases of human trafficking, the national government demonstrated no progress in committing funding for trafficking-specific victim assistance or establishing a national strategy to address long-standing deficiencies in victim assistance.

Russia continues to lack a specific national plan of action on human trafficking; such an anti-trafficking strategy, coupled with a national coordinating committee and designated funding, would ensure increased access and uniformity of assistance and protection for victims of trafficking as well as focus national efforts to eradicate human trafficking.

Russia continues to lack formal procedures to identify and refer victims of trafficking to NGOs and international organizations for assistance; however, the IOM reported that law enforcement continued to refer trafficking victims to IOM’s Moscow shelter and rehabilitation center.

The majority of shelter and assistance costs continue to be funded by international organizations and NGOs receiving support from abroad, rather than by the Russian government. However, a local government in the Russian Far East provided facility space to a new foreign-funded shelter scheduled to open in Vladivostok in Spring 2009. After the first year of operation, the regional government has pledged that it will assume responsibility for all funding for the operation of the shelter in early 2010.

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

China

The Government of China made modest progress in its efforts to combat trafficking in persons since the release of the 2008 Report. Law enforcement authorities arrested and punished some traffickers, but a lack of transparency and due process, as well as the disaggregated nature of information about China’s judicial system inhibits an accurate assessment of these efforts. The government did not report any significant efforts to investigate, prosecute, and punish government officials complicit in human trafficking. Forced labor remains a significant problem throughout the country, though government efforts described as addressing human trafficking were aimed only at sex trafficking.

China’s domestic laws do not prohibit all forms of trafficking. China’s definition of trafficking does not include non-physical forms of coercion, fraud, debt bondage, forced labor, or offenses committed against male victims, although some aspects of these crimes are addressed in other articles of China's criminal law.

Chinese law prohibits forced and compulsory labor, but such practices are known to occur, and the Chinese government acknowledges that child labor, including forced child labor, is prevalent in certain industries. In July 2008, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security established a bureau for labor protection, which is charged with investigating allegations of illegal employment practices; however, as noted above, trafficking for labor exploitation is not covered under Chinese law, and therefore not adequately addressed or reported.

The Chinese government has yet to institute systematic procedures to identify trafficking victims, including victims of sex trafficking, among those it arrests for prostitution, in order to refer them to organizations providing services and to ensure that they are not inappropriately penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.  China continues to lack comprehensive victim protection services throughout the country.  China does not have enough shelters to house victims, and regularly returns trafficking victims to their homes without access to counseling or psychological care.  The Ministry of Civil Affairs began working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on an IOM-funded training module for the identification, protection, recovery and reintegration of trafficking victims.

Although temporary shelter is sometimes made available to foreign victims of trafficking, there remain no legal alternatives to repatriation for many, who are returned to their country of origin upon identification. Some victims of trafficking are punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. For example, 200 Burmese women were arrested and jailed in China in October 2008 for immigration violations; they had allegedly been smuggled into the country under the pretext of finding work and were reportedly sold and forced to marry Chinese men. Twenty-four of the women were deported to Burma, and the others were expected to serve three-month prison sentences for violating Chinese immigration laws.

In the year leading up to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games, Chinese authorities stepped up efforts to locate and forcibly repatriate North Korean refugees in China, including trafficking victims. China continues to classify all North Koreans as “economic migrants” rather than refugees or trafficking victims, and routinely deports them back to horrendous conditions in North Korea. Chinese authorities continue to limit the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) access to North Korean refugees in China. The lack of access to UNHCR assistance and constant fear of forced repatriation by Chinese authorities leave North Korean refugees more vulnerable to human traffickers.

China continued efforts to increase public awareness of the trafficking issue.  Hotlines for victims of trafficking and trafficking-related crimes were set up across the country in various provinces, cities and counties, and are maintained by the government agencies, associations or youth organizations.  Targeted public awareness campaigns, run by the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF), continue to disseminate information on trafficking prevention and safe employment to young female migrant workers during the spring migration season across five provinces.

Malaysia

The Government of Malaysia made some progress in addressing Malaysia’s multi-faceted trafficking in persons problem since the release of the June 2008 Report. The government began implementing its 2007 trafficking in persons law and it established an inter-agency council and secretariat to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts. It also increased investigations of sex trafficking crimes, commenced prosecution of seven suspected sex traffickers, and opened a third shelter (in Kota Kinabalu) for trafficking victims. In December, the government convicted its first trafficker under the 2007 law, sentencing a sex trafficker to eight years in prison. The government has not, however, initiated any forced labor prosecutions. The government has not developed or implemented proactive procedures to identify victims of trafficking among the large migrant worker population.

Malaysian government authorities rescued 79 suspected foreign victims of sex trafficking since the new anti-trafficking law went into full effect in February 2008; court rulings confirmed at least 20 of them as legally-recognized trafficking victims and placed them in two government shelters pending their repatriation. All of the potential and confirmed victims were legal migrants. The Malaysian police and Attorney General's Office conducted anti-trafficking training workshops and seminars in October and November 2008.

Since the release of the June 2008 TIP Report, there were credible reports of Malaysian immigrant authorities’ involvement in the trafficking of Burmese refugees in Malaysia. In July 2008, the government arrested and indicted the Director-General of Immigration and his Deputy Director-General for graft and corruption involving the acceptance of bribes for issuance of visas to migrant workers; some speculate this corruption could have facilitated trafficking. The Malaysian government has not yet reconciled its new anti-trafficking law with pre-existing laws and regulations that allow or even require Malaysian employers to confiscate foreign workers passports and travel documents – often a contributor to trafficking. Employers confiscating passports remained common practice. While the Immigration Department in mid-2008 began issuing legal identification documents to migrant workers to carry in lieu of their passports, it is not yet clear whether the new identity cards will protect migrant workers from being vulnerable to human trafficking.

NEAR EAST

Bahrain

The Government of Bahrain made modest progress in addressing the recommendations of the June 2008 Report. In October 2008, the government arrested and initiated a prosecution against one Thai woman for trafficking three other Thai women into commercial sexual exploitation in Bahrain. In addition, the Ministry of Social Development established a committee for the protection of trafficking victims in August 2008. This committee initiated a new policy allowing trafficking victims to remain in Bahrain pending their traffickers’ prosecution; in the case described above, the victims were offered the option of remaining in Bahrain to work, but all three chose to repatriate to Thailand instead. The Ministry of Interior’s Human Trafficking Unit also produced and distributed a flier describing Bahrain’s anti-trafficking law and soliciting complaints to its hotline for investigations.

To address vulnerabilities to trafficking arising from the migrant labor sponsorship system, the Government of Bahrain launched a new migrant labor visa regime that allows for workers to change employers and criminalizes the use of “free visas” that often leave workers stranded in Bahrain without a job. Nonetheless, Bahrain continues to lack a formal procedure to identify victims of trafficking and has not prosecuted individuals for forced labor of domestic workers under its new anti-trafficking law.

Egypt

The Government of Egypt made modest anti-trafficking progress in addressing the recommendations of the June 2008 Report. In July 2008, the government enacted amendments to the child protection law, which include provisions prohibiting the trafficking of children. These amendments impose sentences of at least five years’ imprisonment and a fine between USD 9,000 and 40,000 for trafficking a child for sexual exploitation or forced labor. The National Council on Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) is currently working on by-laws to guide enforcement of the amendments to the child protection law. The government also began drafting an anti-trafficking law and initiated a comprehensive study on the nature and scope of trafficking – both internal and transnational – affecting Egypt.

The Government of Egypt, however, provided no data on prosecutions or punishments of traffickers under the new amendments to the child protection law. Despite receiving training, the government did not institute a formal system to identify and protect victims of trafficking and provided no data on the number of victims identified and protected since June.

Jordan

The Government of Jordan made measured progress since the release of the June 2008 Report. In October 2008, the government took initial steps toward creating a joint labor inspector and police unit tasked with investigating forced labor of domestic workers and migrant workers in the Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZs). The government forwarded 19 cases for prosecution involving forced labor of either domestic workers or migrant workers in the QIZs. The National Center for Human Rights also forwarded ten cases to the courts of employers withholding workers’ passports. Additionally, the Ministry of Labor in July 2008 established, and allocated $336,000 to, a Humanitarian and Legal Assistance Fund to provide trafficking victims with support, such as food, housing, repatriation assistance, and legal aid; this fund recently assisted 38 Bangladeshi workers whose factory closed without notice. Agriculture and domestic workers are now fully covered by Jordan’s Labor Law after Parliament passed amendments in July 2008. The government is currently working on regulations that would allow inspectors to enter households upon permission of the sponsor or with a court order to investigate domestic workers’ conditions. Finally, Jordan began drafting a comprehensive anti-trafficking law that would criminalize trafficking and mandate a shelter for victims of trafficking.

The Jordanian government has provided limited data regarding criminal law enforcement efforts taken to prosecute and punish trafficking offenses. Jordan does not have a formal procedure to systematically identify victims of trafficking and refer them to protection services.

Libya

The Government of Libya made little discernible progress since the release of the June 2008 Report. The government did not publicly report any data regarding criminal prosecutions of trafficking offenses. The government continued to lack a formal procedure to systematically identify and protect victims of trafficking; without such a procedure, foreign trafficking victims may be detained and deported as illegal migrants without adequate protection. The Government of Libya does not provide psychological or legal assistance to victims of trafficking; services available to trafficking victims are limited to those provided on a case-by-case basis by international organizations to migrants held in detention.

The Government of Libya continued to provide in-kind assistance to trainings for law enforcement officials on human trafficking, including to prosecutors and legal professionals, in the form of travel reimbursement and training facilities. Enforcement efforts continued to be hampered by the lack of criminal statutes specifically criminalizing trafficking and prescribing related penalties. In practice, Libya drew on other elements of its existing criminal code to prosecute and compel payment of repatriation expenses from traffickers known to have withheld travel documents and pay from victims.

Oman

The Government of Oman made progress in addressing human trafficking since the release of the June 2008 Report. In November 2008, Oman enacted a comprehensive anti-trafficking law prohibiting all forms of trafficking. This new law makes trafficking offenses, in the absence of aggravating circumstances, punishable by three to seven years’ imprisonment, in addition to financial penalties. In September 2008, the government also recruited 94 labor inspectors, both male and female, as well as seven legal researchers to strengthen enforcement of Oman’s labor laws that prohibit certain acts related to human trafficking. In August, Omani government labor inspectors received training that, among other topics, highlighted their role in combating human trafficking and best practices against trafficking in persons.

Since the release of the 2008 Report, the Government of Oman has not reported any criminal arrests, prosecutions, or convictions for trafficking. Although the government has trained labor inspectors on the identification of trafficking victims, it has not instituted procedures to systematically identify and protect victims of trafficking among all relevant government personnel; as a result, some trafficking victims may still be arrested and deported without adequate protection.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

India

The Government of India made limited overall progress in its efforts to address human trafficking since the release of the June 2008 Report. Nevertheless, the government displayed a commitment to enhancing coordination efforts among the various ministries that play a role in addressing some forms of anti-trafficking.

The Indian government sustained significant efforts in addressing sex trafficking, particularly through a central government-coordinated campaign to assist victims that included approximately $240,000 in funds committed since August 2008 for 18 projects at 12 new shelters in the four states of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur and Nagaland. However, the government has not been able to show appreciable progress in curbing widespread complicity of law enforcement officials in human trafficking crimes. Although efforts to rescue bonded laborers by various state governments continued -- the Minister for Labor and Employment reports that during the period between April 2007 to March 2008, 716 bonded laborers had been rescued and rehabilitated from the states of West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Haryana -- prosecution of bonded labor offenses appeared to be few, and those convicted seldom faced significant punishment.

Since a new child labor law was enacted two years ago, the government conducted over 200,000 inspections, prosecuted 1,700 employers, and rescued 6,782 children from forced child labor. The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) began development of a National Missing Children Tracking System --that will link India’s 28 state capitals -- to assist in the return of missing, runaway, abducted, or trafficked children to their families. The MWCD also began building a website that NGOs, police, and the general public can access to help locate and return missing children.

The government continued to take new steps to prevent child trafficking and child labor during the reporting period. Notably, the Ministry for Labor and Employment (MOLE) in May 2008 issued a “Protocol on Prevention, Rescue, Repatriation, and Rehabilitation of Trafficked and Migrant Child Labor” to guide state and district-level authorities and NGOs. The MOLE also expanded the Indian government’s list of occupations and activities that are banned from employing children, by adding nine additional items. The MWCD is exploring public-private partnerships as one way to help industries ensure that labor is not exploitative and provide for rehabilitative training and upgrading of workers’ skills.

Several national and state-level investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking crimes were initiated since April 2008, including a central government investigation in September 2008 into a case of trafficking of minor girls and young women from Manipur state to Malaysia, which led to the quick repatriation of victims and the arrests and prosecution of traffickers in Manipur. In December 2008, a court in Pune, Maharashtra convicted a Nepalese brothel-owner to five years imprisonment for forcing a minor girl into prostitution. This was the first successful conviction of a trafficking case in Pune. While the government has not been able to increase the size or mandate of a two-person Ministry of Home Affairs central “nodal cell” created in 2006 to coordinate the anti-trafficking efforts of various state governments, it convenes periodic meetings with state officials to raise awareness on trafficking.

Sri Lanka

The Government of Sri Lanka made some progress in addressing key concerns raised in the June 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report. Since June 2008, there were no convictions for trafficking offenses by the Government of Sri Lanka under its 2006 amendment to the penal code, which expressly prohibited trafficking in persons. The government is prosecuting three cases of internal trafficking; however, the alleged offenders are charged under a child abuse statute. The government took no steps to institute a formal procedure to identify victims and ensure that they are not punished for acts committed as a result of being trafficked.

A critical lack of anti-trafficking awareness among law enforcement personnel and the judiciary persists. Officials did, however, take some steps to prevent potential trafficking for labor exploitation during the assessment period by making 13 arrests for recruitment of underage domestic servants to the Middle East. Police remained inadequately trained in how to investigate trafficking crimes or collect trafficking-related evidence. An anti-trafficking module, developed with the assistance of IOM, was formally accepted by the police in October 2008 to become the curriculum for all police recruits during basic training and at two higher level training institutes. The Sri Lankan government convened a meeting of 500 mid-level police in Colombo -- one from each station nationwide -- in November 2008 to build awareness of trafficking and enhance the government’s ability to identify and take action against traffickers. Sri Lanka also launched a public awareness campaign in October 2008 to inform the public of the dangers of using illegal recruitment agents. Finally, the government printed booklets in Sinhala and Tamil advising workers headed to the Middle East of their rights and responsibilities.

Tajikistan

The Government of Tajikistan demonstrated minimal progress in combating trafficking in persons since the release of the June 2008 Report.

The government reported new investigations of both sex and labor trafficking cases since April 2008, and law enforcement officials renewed efforts to use the trafficking statute, Article 130.1. The national government made modest efforts to improve public awareness of trafficking issues among Tajik laborers going abroad to work. The government, however, reported no efforts to improve the formal victim identification and referral mechanism. Additionally, the government reported no significant efforts to investigate allegations of government officials complicit in trafficking.

Reports indicate that some local authorities -- primarily the heads of local governments, in cooperation with school and university directors -- were responsible for compelling, facilitating, or tolerating the forced labor of children and adults in the cotton sector in Sughd and Khatlon regions, despite government decrees forbidding such practices. Some local government officials reportedly organized and compelled some university students, university employees, and government employees in those regions to pick cotton during the fall 2008 harvest. University administrators and profession in at least one region reportedly organized and compelled students to pick cotton. Teachers were observed compelling many school-aged children, particularly those between 14 and 17, to participate in the cotton harvest in rural areas in Sughd and Khatlon as well. Tajik officials have denied violating laws against forced labor. Moreover, in December 2008, Khatlon prosecutors filed charges against local government officials in Shahritus and Kubodiyon for using school-aged children in the cotton harvest campaign.

Uzbekistan

The Government of Uzbekistan demonstrated limited progress in addressing human trafficking problems since the release of the June 2008 Report, including efforts to combat forced labor during the annual cotton harvest. In September 2008, the government adopted a multi-year national action plan on combating child labor and the Prime Minister issued a formal ban on the use of child labor during the annual cotton harvest; both address the forced labor of children. Nevertheless, some local government officials organized and compelled many schoolchildren, university students, and faculty from several regions to work in the fields during the annual cotton harvest. The majority of school age children were older than eleven, though children as young as nine were observed picking cotton in some areas.

The Uzbek government adopted a National Anti-Trafficking Action Plan in July 2008, established a National Inter-Agency Commission on Combating Trafficking in Persons, and in September adopted criminal code amendments strengthening penalties against traffickers. Several individuals have since been convicted and imprisoned based on the new amendments, including four who were convicted and sentenced in October. The government did not provide financial or in-kind assistance to the two existing trafficking shelters, although a local NGO in Tashkent reported improved cooperation between civil society and law enforcement. Starting in the fall of 2008, the government launched a public awareness campaign in state-controlled newspapers and publications warning about the dangers of trafficking for both forced labor and sexual exploitation.

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

Argentina

The Government of Argentina showed progress in combating trafficking in persons since release of the June 2008 Report. The federal government took steps to implement its new anti-trafficking law – which was enacted in April 2008 –and significantly increased law enforcement efforts to rescue victims and investigate trafficking crimes. It also continued financial assistance to a small non-governmental shelter, but overall victim services remained lacking.

Since enactment of the federal anti-trafficking law, which prohibits all forms of human trafficking, the Ministry of Justice, which has the lead on the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, has ordered the formation of anti-trafficking units in its four federal forces (federal police, airport police, border patrol, and coast guard), in addition to creation of a first responder office to direct assistance to victims and coordinate criminal investigations. The government also increased raids of suspected trafficking sites, conducting 118 raids and rescuing 133 victims (including 51 children) between May and November 2008. The government reported no prosecutions or convictions under its new anti-trafficking law, although it is making efforts to improve data collection on trafficking cases throughout the country. Moreover, the government reported no investigations of allegedly complicit officials with trafficking activity, and no additional resources have been dedicated to expand existing shelter services to trafficking victims. The government continued funding to a small foundation dedicated to fighting human trafficking and providing care to victims, as well as anti-trafficking training for government officials.

Costa Rica

The Government of Costa Rica made solid progress in combating trafficking in persons since release of the June 2008 Report. Reforms to Costa Rica’s anti-trafficking statute were introduced in the legislature, and the government dedicated significant resources to increase prevention campaigns and training efforts. The government also improved its mechanisms for providing victim assistance, but prosecutions of trafficking offenders remained lacking.

In October 2008, the National Assembly’s Special Public Security Committee approved an amendment to criminalize internal trafficking and stiffen penalties for trafficking crimes, and incorporated this measure into a larger public security bill, which is expected to be considered by the full legislature shortly. In May, the federal judicial police established a small unit of police officers dedicated to investigating trafficking crimes; investigations have begun in six potential trafficking cases. No other prosecutions, convictions, or sentences for trafficking crimes have been reported. As part of its 2008 budget, the government dedicated $100,000 to fund increased anti-trafficking training and prevention campaigns; it also committed to developing an “immediate attention” victim assistance protocol. A government agency also dedicated $25,000 of its budget for anti-trafficking media campaigns, which were launched in conjunction with UNICEF in October 2008 and included widespread TV ads, radio spots, and educational materials. Although the government lacks adequate shelter for trafficking victims, it endeavored to provide assistance to victims on a case-by-case basis since June 2008. The government significantly increased sensitivity training, providing anti-trafficking training to more than 500 officials, mostly police, across the country. Costa Rica also hosted a regional anti-trafficking conference in November 2008.

Dominican Republic

The Government of the Dominican Republic made modest progress in its efforts to combat human trafficking since the release of the June 2008 Report. The government continued to investigate and prosecute a small number of anti-trafficking cases, and increased efforts to protect foreign victims of trafficking. Authorities did not, however, show clear evidence of efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims, and overall services available to victims in the country remained severely limited.

The government launched investigations into four cases of human trafficking opened between January and December 2008, and commenced prosecution of one case, and also assisted Swiss authorities to bring German nationals to trial for alleged human trafficking offenses committed in the Dominican Republic. The Prosecutor General’s Office reports that it has investigated and prosecuted suspects regardless of the person’s status or rank, including officials in positions of responsibility. The government did not specifically report on the investigation or prosecution of any senior government officials allegedly involved in or facilitating trafficking activities.

The government completed the investigation of a case involving two Dominican women who had been trafficked to Istanbul, Turkey. A Dominican court then issued arrest warrants for the two trafficking suspects, and authorities started a search for them. In May 2008, the government assisted IOM with the repatriation of 15 Ecuadorian women who had been trafficked to the Dominican Republic and wished to return home. One victim chose to remain behind to assist the police with the investigation. The government also increased anti-trafficking training for consular officials to provide better assistance to Dominicans trafficked abroad. Efforts continued on a national plan to combat trafficking and anti-trafficking media campaigns.

Guatemala

The Government of Guatemala made modest progress in combating trafficking in persons since release of the June 2008 Report. Necessary reforms to Guatemala’s anti-trafficking statute were considered in the legislature; meanwhile, the government increased efforts to prosecute human trafficking cases under existing trafficking-related statutes. The government also continued efforts to rescue trafficking victims, but government-run victim services remained severely lacking.

In August 2008, a comprehensive reform of Guatemala’s existing anti-trafficking law, which prosecutors have found difficult to enforce, was introduced in the legislature. In November, this measure was approved for consideration by the full Congress. Since April 2008, the government reported initiating criminal proceedings against 55 suspected trafficking offenders. In August, the prosecutor’s office in Jalapa secured the conviction of a defendant on human trafficking charges, obtaining a sentence of six years’ imprisonment. Since April, the government conducted 16 raids on commercial sites to rescue eight sexually exploited victims. The government also took steps to implement a protocol for identifying trafficking victims. Victim assistance, however, particularly shelter services for adults, remained severely lacking. In July 2008, the president approved a 10-year national plan to combat trafficking in persons and to protect victims.

Guyana

The Government of Guyana made some progress in combating trafficking in persons since release of the June 2008 TIP Report. While the government has not successfully prosecuted anti-trafficking cases to conclusion, it continued efforts to investigate and move cases forward, despite judicial backlogs. The government also continued to assist victims, and conducted sensitization and awareness activities.

Since June 2008, the government’s multi-agency task force on trafficking in persons has established “focal points” in communities around the country to help refer possible cases, assist with investigations, and raise public awareness. In July, the Guyana Police Force instituted a full-day training session on trafficking in persons for senior and mid-level officers of its Criminal Investigations Division. The police also conducted raids on establishments thought to harbor potential trafficking victims; some of these raids have resulted in trafficking investigations. While the government has continued some anti-trafficking activities since release of the June 2008 Report, some senior officials have expressed doubts that human trafficking is a widespread problem in the country.

Panama

The Government of Panama made progress in combating trafficking in persons since release of the June 2008 Report. A penal code reform package which included changes to Panama’s anti-trafficking law came into force, and the federal government has since taken steps to better coordinate assistance to victims. However, effective prosecution of trafficking crimes and the availability of shelter services, particularly for adult victims, remained lacking.

In May 2008, a penal code reform package, passed by the Panamanian National Assembly in 2007, came into effect. Article 177 of the new code prohibits transnational and internal human trafficking for the purpose of sexual slavery or unauthorized paid sexual activity, carrying a penalty of four to six years in prison. Additionally, Article 179 of the new code prohibits the internal and transnational trafficking of minors for sexual exploitation, carrying a prison term of eight to 10 years. Although trafficking for forced labor is not criminalized, the new law closes a previous gap in Panamanian law by prohibiting the internal sex trafficking of adults. Some NGOs and government officials, however, have expressed concern about the new code’s statutory language and how it will be applied by judges, particularly relating to minors who are exploited in prostitution and are trafficking victims. Some government officials also indicated that the new law’s lesser penalties (reduced jail time and eliminated fines) may prove to be worrisome.

In August 2008, an immigration reform package, Law 3, also went into effect, eliminating the “alternadora” visa, which had been used to facilitate the trafficking of Colombian women into the sex trade. While foreign women may still apply for an entertainment visa, Law 3 created a registry of entertainment businesses that sponsor such visa holders; attending an anti-trafficking education seminar is also required. No entertainment visas have yet been issued under the new law.

The government reported no convictions or sentences for trafficking crimes since April 2008, although the judicial investigations division of the Panama City Police reported more than one dozen criminal investigations relating to the sexual exploitation of minors, some of which may involve trafficking crimes. The government also continued efforts to extradite a suspected trafficker from the Dominican Republic for recruiting Dominican women to Panama under false pretenses and then forcing them to provide sexual services. In June 2008, the government released a three-year national plan to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of minors. In November 2008, Panama’s interagency anti-trafficking commission opened a three-person office to ensure implementation of the national plan. Senior government officials continued to condemn human trafficking in public speeches, and increased efforts to train officials about the phenomenon.

Venezuela

The Government of Venezuela made limited progress in its efforts to combat trafficking in persons since release of the June 2008 Report. The government did not share information or statistics relating to law enforcement efforts against suspected traffickers or public officials allegedly complicit with trafficking crimes. Overall, victim assistance -- particularly shelter services -- remained severely lacking. However, the government continued limited efforts to coordinate services for trafficking victims, and maintained widespread prevention campaigns against commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, and child sex tourism. In early 2007, as part of an anti-violence-against-women measure, the government enacted a law to prohibit the trafficking of women and girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The law created specialized courts to address cases involving domestic violence against women. Although it is unclear if these courts will have jurisdiction over human trafficking cases involving female victims, the first of these tribunals opened in Caracas in June 2008. The government continued to direct limited assistance to trafficking victims through its nationwide hotline, and maintained anti-trafficking prevention campaigns through public service announcements, posters, and educational materials. Senior government officials condemned human trafficking publicly.



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