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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Azerbaijan


Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
2013 Trafficking in Persons Report
Tier 2
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Azerbaijan is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Azerbaijani men and boys are subjected to conditions of forced labor in Russia and in Azerbaijan. Women and children from Azerbaijan are subjected to sex trafficking within the country and in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Russia, and Iran. Some migrant workers from Turkey, as well as Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Romania, India, and Ukraine are subjected to conditions of forced labor in Azerbaijan’s construction industry. Within the country, forced begging of children, particularly ethnic Roma children, is a problem. Domestic servitude of Filipina victims in Azerbaijan is an emerging problem. In the past, Chinese men and women have been subjected to forced labor in the construction, street vending, and agriculture sectors in Azerbaijan.

The Government of Azerbaijan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government increased law enforcement efforts against labor trafficking of Azerbaijanis, continued to provide protection and reintegration services to identified trafficking victims, and continued to raise awareness of trafficking crimes. However, the government did not identify any foreign victims of human trafficking nor demonstrate a willingness to thoroughly investigate companies that allegedly engage in forced labor of migrant workers. Systemic government corruption hindered effective law enforcement and victim identification efforts. Civil society groups criticized the government’s anti-trafficking efforts for producing limited results but noted improved partnerships with some government agencies.

Recommendations for Azerbaijan: Strengthen efforts to identify foreign victims of labor trafficking within the country; increase law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders, including individuals or companies that subject migrant workers to forced labor, and increase the number of convicted offenders who are sentenced to time in prison; vigorously investigate and prosecute alleged government officials complicit in human trafficking; investigate potential trafficking crimes at the detection of a single trafficking indicator; improve the definition of forced labor in the labor code to empower labor inspectors to identify trafficking crimes; consider permitting civil society representatives to accompany potential victims during initial police interviews; enhance victim protection during court proceedings; send court verdicts to addresses chosen by the victims; increase funding to victim service providers and expand the network of providers outside Baku; provide sensitivity training to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and the judiciary, including on how to work with trafficking victims who experienced psychological trauma; educate judges on the legal definition of human trafficking; improve communication between government agencies, including victim referrals and details on potential cases; target public awareness campaigns to foreign migrant workers, describing indicators of human trafficking and avenues to seek help; and continue efforts to raise public awareness about both sex and labor trafficking in cities and rural areas.

Prosecution

The Government of Azerbaijan demonstrated anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Azerbaijan’s 2005 Law on the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons and Article 144 in the penal code prohibit sex trafficking and forced labor and prescribe penalties of five to 15 years’ imprisonment, punishments which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government reported two labor trafficking investigations and 10 sex trafficking investigations in 2012, compared with two labor trafficking investigations and 17 sex trafficking investigations in 2011. The government reported prosecuting two individuals for labor trafficking and 12 for sex trafficking crimes in 2012, compared with no prosecutions for labor trafficking crimes and 20 individuals prosecuted for sex trafficking in 2011. The government convicted 12 sex trafficking offenders in 2012, compared with 10 sex trafficking offenders convicted in 2011. Six of these 12 convicted trafficking offenders were sentenced to time in prison; three of these six offenders were sentenced to between four and ten years’ imprisonment, while sentencing information for the remaining three offenders was not reported. Article 70 of the criminal code—often used in the case where a criminal is a female with young children—was applied to suspend the sentences of five of these 12 offenders. The government did not convict any labor trafficking offenders in 2012 or 2011; however, in February 2013 the government, for the first time convicted a labor trafficking offender with a sentence of eight and a half years’ imprisonment. Although the government recently adopted amendments enhancing measures that can be imposed against legal entities for the use of forced labor, as noted in the 2012 TIP Report, there were no criminal prosecutions against such entities in the reporting period.

Systemic corruption in Azerbaijan hindered anti-trafficking efforts. Civil society groups reported that law enforcement bodies did not adequately investigate accusations of forced labor in the construction sector for fear of recrimination by influential figures who control the sector, including government officials. Local police were also accused of accepting bribes from prostitution establishments, some of which have sex trafficking victims, to ignore those businesses’ illegal activities. The Government of Azerbaijan did not report any investigations or prosecutions of government employees for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during the reporting period. An NGO reported a case in which local authorities solicited bribes from trafficking victims in order to continue investigating their exploitation; the victims decided not to pursue the case. Some local observers reported the Ministry of Internal Affairs Anti-Trafficking Department (MIA ATD) subjected trafficking victims to interrogations and intimidation during investigations.

Protection

The Government of Azerbaijan made progress during the reporting period to protect and assist victims of trafficking, although the failure to identify foreign labor trafficking victims remained a concern. The MIA ATD has a description of indicators for identifying trafficking victims, but there was no information on how this list was used or whether it was distributed to other government agencies. In 2012, the government certified 17 men as labor trafficking victims and 36 women as sex trafficking victims, compared with no labor trafficking victims and 29 female victims of sex trafficking in 2011. Despite more than 5,000 raids conducted by the MIA ATD and the Labor Inspectorate, the government did not identify a single foreign labor trafficking victim. In part, this failure to identify victims is because the Labor Inspectorate is not authorized by the labor law to identify trafficking victims. In 2012, government authorities identified 455 children who were subjected to forced begging. The government referred approximately 130 of these street children to NGOs and “child police desks,” where they were given assistance; there is no information on the children who were not referred.

The government did not ensure victims of trafficking were not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. In fact, there were reports that some labor and sex trafficking victims were subjected to administrative penalties for working without permits and for prostitution offenses, respectively. Moreover, the government allegedly deported foreign sex and labor trafficking victims who it did not identify as victims. In 2012, the MIA ATD assisted 53 victims of human trafficking, compared with 38 victims assisted in 2011. Of those victims, 43 received temporary shelter at a government-run facility, which adult victims could reportedly enter and leave freely. Thirty-five of these victims were provided with a one-time subsidy payment in the equivalent of approximately $500, an increase from the equivalent of approximately $250 in 2011. The government offered some of the victims other forms of financial compensation, as well as medical and legal assistance and psychological counseling. On an ad hoc basis, the government encouraged trafficking victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions. There was no information as to whether trafficking victims received social services from local governments based on recent changes which amended the Law on Social Services.

The MIA ATD often referred potential trafficking victims to NGOs or the labor ministry’s victim assistance center, but referrals between other relevant government agencies were poor, hindering victim identification and appropriate protection. While the anti-trafficking law authorized victims to receive temporary relief from deportation, this was not applied in practice because the government did not identify any foreign victims. In December 2012, the government provided in-kind assistance, including the provision of facilities, for a three-day anti-trafficking conference in Baku. Prosecutors, judges, and police investigators responsible for trafficking crimes participated in the event, which included sessions on victim identification and sensitivity training.

Prevention

The Government of Azerbaijan sustained its trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period. The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) served as the national coordinating body of relevant ministries responsible for fighting trafficking. Despite efforts to improve the ministries’ investigative and victim identification procedures through two interagency conferences and four national-level seminars held in 2012, anti-trafficking coordination across ministries was limited, and there was limited understanding of each agency’s responsibilities under the law. Many working-level officials in the NRM appeared to be focused mainly on sex trafficking and to have a limited understanding of labor trafficking indicators.

The government’s Council on State Support to NGOs provided financial support to anti-trafficking activities in 2012. The MIA ATD gave financial awards to 15 NGOs involved in anti-trafficking issues, compared to 10 NGOs in 2011. The government funded and continued to disseminate anti-trafficking pamphlets and posters and continued to run public service announcements to raise awareness of human trafficking. The government continued to fund an NGO-operated trafficking hotline that provided information to the public and assisted potential victims of trafficking; two of the 13,000 phone calls led to the investigation of two labor trafficking cases. The government organized anti-trafficking seminars for representatives of government ministries, municipal governments, NGOs, teachers, and college students throughout the country, and the MIA ATD trained representatives from 15 travel companies on the identification of trafficking victims.

The Azerbaijani government focused on administrative violations of the labor code such as lack of payment of wages, passport withholding, and lack of provision of work permits, rather than on investigating those violations as potential indicators of forced labor. The government fined companies for employing undocumented workers and failing to provide work permits, secured labor contracts for thousands of migrant workers, and recovered the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars of unpaid wages from employers, which were provided to migrant workers. However, the government did not investigate any of these companies for human trafficking, including one that repeatedly exploited migrant workers. A civil society group noted that this administrative rather than criminal approach creates an enabling environment for the exploitation of migrant workers, as alleged trafficking offenders are not criminally prosecuted. The government provided identity documents to 19 undocumented minors and provided citizenship to 105 stateless people; stateless and undocumented individuals in Azerbaijan are vulnerable to trafficking. The government did not take actions to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The Government of Azerbaijan has a 2009-2013 action plan to combat trafficking.



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