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LITHUANIA: Tier 1

The Government of Lithuania fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore Lithuania remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by enacting new legislation to reform the institutional child care system; increasing funding to NGOs for victim assistance programs, resulting in the provision of support to more victims and at-risk individuals; identifying more victims; and investigating and prosecuting a significant amount of traffickers. The government established guidelines for municipalities on anti-trafficking models, and two municipalities approved the creation of anti-trafficking working groups, action plans involving key stakeholders from civil society, and local referral mechanisms. Although the government meets the minimum standards, a lack of victim protection during the investigation and trial process and a lack of knowledge within relevant agencies in recognizing indicators of child trafficking remained. The government provided training to law enforcement officials in collaboration with NGOs, but some police officers did not identify victims of trafficking. Authorities inconsistently implemented victim identification and referral mechanisms throughout the country, specifically in rural areas.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR LITHUANIA

Increase efforts to identify trafficking victims, particularly children, in municipalities, through enhanced training for police and child protective services officials; implement reforms to the child care system to improve the protection of vulnerable children; provide specialized services to child victims in foster homes and mixed-use shelters; implement formal victim identification and referral mechanisms for victim assistance throughout the country, especially in rural areas; protect victims from threats and re-victimization during the investigation and trial of trafficking cases; expand training investigators and prosecutors on building trafficking cases, including collecting adequate evidence beyond victim testimony; and broaden public awareness efforts to educate low-income and socially at-risk communities on the risks of trafficking.

PROSECUTION

The government increased law enforcement efforts. Articles 147 and 157 of the criminal code criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties ranging from two to 12 years imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with regards to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Authorities initiated 35 investigations (nine investigations for sexual exploitation, five for labor exploitation, 14 for exploitation for forced criminal activities, four for false marriage, and three for trafficking for other purposes), compared with 29 in 2016. The government initiated prosecutions of 54 suspected traffickers (64 in 2016) and convicted 20 traffickers under articles 147 and 157 (23 in 2016). Nearly all traffickers received prison sentences, with terms ranging from two to 10 years. However, one trafficker received no jail sentence but paid a fine, and two traffickers received jail sentences that the court suspended. The government collaborated with foreign counterparts in 21 international trafficking investigations, compared with 18 in 2016. The general prosecutor’s office received and fulfilled one request for extradition (zero in 2016), and issued five European arrest orders in human trafficking cases (six in 2016). In 2015, prosecutors began investigating allegations that the director of an orphanage sexually exploited boys and operated a sex trafficking ring inside the institution, offering young boys to pedophiles. In April 2017, the court convicted the former director for sexual exploitation, imposing a prison sentence of three years and 10 months with a suspended sentence for three years, a fine, and a ban from working at any public or private educational or care institution for five years.

Although the basic training for police cadets included only one hour on trafficking, the national police organized three anti-trafficking training sessions on crime investigations for 55 police officers. The border guard organized two anti-trafficking training events for 43 border officials. In March 2017, the national court administration held two trainings for 82 judges and judicial assistants on communication during court procedures with victims, including children, and in October organized training on the legal definition of human trafficking, the challenges in proving trafficking crimes, and courtroom practices for 78 judges and judicial assistants. During the reporting period, eight specialized prosecutors participated in a regional conference dedicated to combating trafficking, and 37 prosecutors attended six anti-trafficking trainings throughout the country. Prosecutors reported collecting adequate evidence continued to be a problem in proving trafficking cases.

PROTECTION

The government increased efforts to protect and assist victims. Authorities identified 60 victims in 2017 (41 in 2016); eight were minors compared with four in 2016. Government-funded NGOs supported 219 trafficking victims and at-risk individuals (179 victims in 2016). The central government allocated NGOs €115,000 ($138,060) for victim assistance programs, compared with €81,000 ($97,240) in 2016; local governments allotted €16,000 ($19,210) to support trafficking victims. In 2017, 13 victims received compensation of about €34,000 ($40,820) in total. The government assisted nine Lithuanian victims exploited overseas in obtaining legal documents, providing consultations, and coordinating with local NGOs for additional aid and information. Authorities implemented formal victim identification and referral mechanisms for victim assistance; however, observers reported authorities in some parts of the country underutilized both. Observers reported local officials’ tendency to blame trafficking victims persisted, especially in rural areas.

The government established reforms to the institutional child care system by entering into force new legislation that allowed temporary guardianship of a child in foster care for no longer than 12 months, and guardianship of a child under three years of age in a child care institution only in exceptional cases and for no longer than three months. The government allocated €2.7 million ($3.2 million) to the reforms. While the goal was to move all children from institutions to families by 2020, authorities continued to place child victims in mixed-use shelters, as there were no shelters specifically for child trafficking victims. According to NGOs, child protective services reportedly lacked knowledge in recognizing indicators of child trafficking, especially in rural areas. Sexually abused children could seek assistance in the government-operated national support center in Vilnius.

Five publicly funded men’s crisis centers had the capacity to provide support to trafficking victims, including finding shelter; the government reported that 103 male victims received assistance during the reporting period. Victims were reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement because traffickers threatened victims as they were entering or exiting the courtroom. Experts acknowledged the lack of victim protection during the investigation and the trial process. In an effort to prevent re-traumatization of trafficking victims, courts increasingly used video technology to present victims’ testimony, as the criminal code required trafficking victims’ testimony. Legislation allowed foreign trafficking victims a 30-day reflection period to decide whether to cooperate with law enforcement; foreign victims cooperating with law enforcement could receive temporary residency. Authorities identified 20 foreign victims in 2017 and one in 2016. While the government provided legal representation to victims, observers reported the attorneys had little experience with trafficking issues. NGOs often hired private attorneys for victims. In 2017, 13 victims received compensation.

PREVENTION

The government increased prevention efforts. The government continued to implement its national action plan for 2017-2019 and maintained an interagency commission for coordinating anti-trafficking efforts. At the municipal level, the government initiated the establishment of anti-trafficking working groups, action plans involving key stakeholders from civil society, and local referral mechanisms. The interior ministry donated €10,000 ($12,000) to an awareness campaign created by the Lithuanian community in the United Kingdom aimed at educating Lithuanians on the risk of trafficking. The campaign included the development of preventive videos and flyers on the threat of human trafficking with information on how and where to receive assistance. These products were distributed among Lithuanian communities in the UK, Lithuanian-language newspapers, news portal websites, and social networks. From October to December, the government, law enforcement, and NGO representatives participated in a prevention campaign organized by the interior ministry in cooperation with regional municipalities. Additionally, the government distributed 18,000 information cards in three languages (Lithuanian, Russian, and English), which included indicators of trafficking and contact information. Using government funding, NGOs organized anti-trafficking seminars, lectures, discussions, meetings, and three conferences, which more than 1,000 people attended. The police advertised and managed an email account that the public could use to report potential human trafficking situations and ask for advice. The government fined individuals who contributed to the demand for commercial sexual acts. The labor inspectorate, in cooperation with an NGO, produced leaflets alerting third country nationals to the risk of labor exploitation. In May 2017, the inspectorate conducted checks of business recruitment practices, focusing on whether businesses employed third country nationals and abided by anti-trafficking legislation. Additionally, the inspectorate and police inspected construction sites to ensure employers were complying with the law regarding third country nationals, concentrating on Ukrainian workers. In October 2017, the Ministry of Interior co-hosted a training for 40 social workers on the prevention of missing and exploited children, in conjunction with a foreign government and NGO. In 2017, 35 inspectors participated in five training sessions organized by the inspectorate.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, Lithuania is a source, transit, and destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking, as well as a source and destination country for men subjected to trafficking for labor and criminal activities. Law enforcement reports the majority of trafficking cases involve Lithuanian trafficking networks that prey on Lithuanian victims. Traffickers target unemployed adults and children from low-income and socially at-risk families mainly through the internet, social media, and newspaper. Traffickers exploit Lithuanian adults and children in criminal activities, such as shoplifting, and Lithuanian women in commercial sex in Western Europe and Scandinavia. Women and girls subjected to sex trafficking within the country remained a problem. Reports indicate the percentage of male victims vulnerable to forced labor and criminal activity increased and composed the largest group of identified trafficking victims. Foreign workers from Ukraine, Nepal, and China, seeking a better life and well-paid jobs in Lithuania, are at risk of labor trafficking in agriculture and construction. The approximately 4,000 boys and girls institutionalized in approximately 90 orphanages are especially vulnerable to trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

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