As reported over the past five years, Russia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Labor trafficking remains the predominant human trafficking problem within Russia. Workers from Russia and other countries in Europe, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia—including Vietnam and DPRK—are subjected to forced labor in Russia. Instances of labor trafficking have been reported in the construction, manufacturing, logging, agricultural, brick factories, textile, grocery store, maritime, and domestic service industries, as well as in forced begging, waste sorting, and street sweeping. Official and unofficial statistics estimate there are between five and 12 million foreign workers in Russia, of which the government estimates 1.5 million are irregular migrants. Foreign laborers work primarily in construction, housing, and utilities, and as public transport drivers, seasonal agricultural workers, tailors and garment workers in underground garment factories, and vendors at marketplaces and shops. Many of these migrant workers experience exploitative labor conditions characteristic of trafficking cases, such as withholding of identity documents, non-payment for services rendered, physical abuse, lack of safety measures, or extremely poor living conditions. Subcontracting practices in Russia’s construction industry result in cases of non-payment or slow payment of wages, which leave workers at risk of labor trafficking. Organized crime syndicates from Russia sometimes play a role in exploiting labor migrants, and corruption among some government officials and within some state agencies creates an environment enabling some trafficking crimes. There are reports of Russian citizens facing forced labor abroad. There are also reports of increased vulnerability of children from state and municipal orphanages being lured via the internet and social networks, to forced criminality, child pornography, sexual exploitation, and use by armed groups in the Middle East.
Women and children from Europe (predominantly Ukraine and Moldova), Southeast Asia (primarily Vietnam), Africa (particularly Nigeria), and Central Asia are reportedly victims of sex trafficking in Russia. Forced prostitution occurs in brothels, hotels, and saunas, among other locations; certain traffickers advertised the sexual services of children over the internet. Some children on the streets are exploited in child sex trafficking. Russian women and children are reportedly victims of sex trafficking in Russia and abroad, including in Northeast Asia, Europe, Central Asia, Africa, the United States, and the Middle East.
In recent years, criminal cases have involved Russian officials suspected of allegedly facilitating trafficking in Russia by facilitating victims’ entry into Russia, providing protection to traffickers, and returning victims to their exploiters. Employers sometimes bribe Russian officials to avoid enforcement of penalties for engaging illegal workers. As previously mentioned, the DPRK sends approximately 20,000 North Korean citizens to Russia annually for work in a variety of sectors, including logging in Russia’s Far East—with approximately 30,000 North Korean citizens officially registered in Russia; reportedly many of these North Korean citizens are subjected to conditions of forced labor. A February 2016 agreement between Russia and DPRK may exacerbate these conditions by enabling Russian authorities to repatriate North Koreans residing “illegally” in Russia, potentially even for those with refugee status, despite reports that DPRK authorities arrest, imprison, subject to forced labor, torture, and sometimes execute repatriated trafficking victims.