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TURKEY: Tier 2

The Government of Turkey does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Turkey remained on Tier 2. These efforts included identifying more victims and interviewing more potential victims. The government conducted surveys and consultations to draft a new national action plan and organized robust trainings on various anti-trafficking issues. The government allocated funds for financial assistance to victims, and the national commission and six provincial commissions implemented anti-trafficking efforts. Observers reported the Directorate General for Migration Management (DGMM) improved its ability to accurately identify victims and refer them to assistance. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Prosecutors and judges lacked experience and resources to prosecute complex cases, and cases were often dropped, acquitted, or reclassified to lesser offenses due to a lack of evidence, particularly testimonies, as victims and witnesses rarely participated in court proceedings. The government provided limited specialized assistance, including victim assistance programs and opportunities to encourage victims to cooperate in investigations. Some domestic civil society groups remained excluded from anti-trafficking efforts. The government, in some cases, penalized victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit due to inadequate identification efforts, including limited proactive identification efforts for internal trafficking victims, forced labor victims, and victims among migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers.

Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers.Institutionalize and provide training to investigators, prosecutors, and judges on victim-centered approaches to trafficking cases, including advanced training on trafficking investigations and prosecutions.Increase proactive victim identification efforts among vulnerable populations, such as refugees and asylum-seekers, persons in LGBTI communities, migrants awaiting deportation, Turkish and foreign women in commercial sex, and children begging in the streets and working in the agricultural and industrial sectors.Establish procedures or specialized units to ensure trafficking cases are handled by trained prosecutors.Expand partnerships with civil society to better identify victims and provide victim services.Strengthen specialized services including shelter and psycho-social support for all victims.Improve interagency cooperation and adopt a national action plan.Encourage victims’ participation in investigations and prosecutions, including using remote testimony or funding for travel and other expenses for victims to attend court hearings.

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Article 80 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of eight to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine equivalent to “10,000 days,” which were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those for serious crimes, such as rape. The government did not report the number of investigations in 2018 or 2019. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) prosecuted 52 new trafficking cases with 237 defendants in 2019 (43 new trafficking cases with 198 defendants in the first three quarters of 2018). The MOJ continued to prosecute 192 cases with 1,384 defendants from previous years (172 cases with 1,617 defendants in 2018). Courts convicted 43 traffickers in 2019 (37 traffickers in the first three quarters of 2018); judges sentenced one trafficker with imprisonment, one trafficker with a fine, and 41 traffickers with both imprisonment and fine, but the government did not report the length of the sentences and the amount of the fines. Courts acquitted 258 suspected traffickers (177 suspected traffickers in the first three quarters of 2018).

Turkish National Police (TNP) maintained the Department of Combatting Migrant Smuggling and Human Trafficking, comprising 30 officers at headquarters with 22 provincial offices. The Gendarmerie also operated the Department of Counter Smuggling and Trafficking with 16 provincial offices. The government did not designate specialized prosecutors for trafficking cases, and a lack of experience and specialization among prosecutors and judges regarding trafficking, particularly after the dismissal of more than 150,000 government workers during the 2016-2018 state of emergency, limited the judiciary’s ability and means to prosecute complex crimes like trafficking. For example, GRETA reported law enforcement lacked sufficient resources to fully investigate labor trafficking. Experts continued to report misperceptions about trafficking among law enforcement authorities, including confusion between sex trafficking and “encouragement of prostitution” (Article 227) or between labor trafficking and “violation of freedom of work and labor” (Article 117). Judiciary officials reported cases were dropped or reclassified to lesser offenses due to a lack of evidence, particularly testimonies, as victims and witnesses rarely participated in court proceedings. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking. The government maintained institutionalized training programs for TNP and gendarmerie officers in specialized units but did not provide specialized training for judges and prosecutors. The government, independently and with technical and financial support from international organizations, provided various anti-trafficking training for 3,001 officials, including TNP, coast guard, gendarmerie, prosecutors, and judges. The government did not provide information on extraditions or international investigations.

The government increased victim protection efforts. DGMM identified 193 victims (134 victims in 2018); 134 were victims of sex trafficking, 35 of labor trafficking, 16 of forced captivity, four of forced begging, three of domestic servitude, and one of child soldiering (95 were victims of sex trafficking and 39 of forced labor in 2018); 173 were female and 20 were male (111 were female and 23 were male in 2018); 20 were children (15 were children in 2018); 191 were foreign victims and two were Turkish nationals (all were foreign victims in 2018). Standard operating procedures provided guidelines for identifying and referring victims to assistance and required first responders to refer potential victims to DGMM, which officially recognized victims. DGMM maintained two identification experts in each of the 81 provincial offices to interview victims; DGMM interviewed approximately 4,500 potential victims (3,612 in 2018). While in previous years, DGMM’s ability to identify victims varied among provinces, and some staff were reluctant to act on cases referred by civil society, an international organization reported improved efforts by DGMM to accurately identify victims and refer them to assistance. The government operated 134 mobile teams for street children in all 81 provinces that conducted outreach work, and the Ministry of Family, Labor, and Social Services (MOFLSS) continued to deploy specialized staff to government-operated migrant and refugee temporary accommodation centers to screen camp residents for indicators of trafficking. However, observers and the government reported the government faced limitations in identifying victims in highly vulnerable refugee and migrant communities outside of camps and had difficulty offering protection resources to address trafficking in these communities. Observers reported the need for improved training for first responders and proactive identification efforts, particularly for forced labor, Turkish nationals, and persons in the LGBTI community. Police reported difficulties in identifying sex trafficking victims due to victims’ fear of deportation, and labor inspectors and asylum officers did not receive training or guidance on victim identification. Additionally, media and civil society reports indicated a small number of forced removals to Syria without screening for indicators of trafficking.

The law entitled officially identified trafficking victims to services, including shelter, medical and psycho-social services, work options, education, translation services, temporary residency, repatriation assistance, financial assistance, vocational training, and legal counseling. The government provided shelter to 43 victims (134 in 2018). The government did not report the total amount allocated for anti-trafficking efforts, compared with 1.05 million Lira ($176,710) in 2018. The government allocated 878,000 Lira ($147,760) to international NGOs working on trafficking-related projects, compared with 4.75 million Lira ($799,390) in 2018; it did not provide funding to domestic NGOs. The government also spent approximately 100,000 Lira ($16,830) for financial assistance to victims in specialized shelters. DGMM operated two specialized shelters for victims of trafficking, one in Kirikkale and a second in Ankara, with the capacity to accommodate 40 victims. The DGMM was also in the process of opening a larger specialized facility. In addition to the specialized shelters, the MOFLSS operated more than 100 shelters which provided accommodation for victims of violence, including men and children, and 32 locally administered shelters offered general support services to trafficking victims. The DGMM-run shelters and MOFLSS-run shelters required victims to have an escort to leave the shelter during their initial stay but allowed victims to leave the shelter voluntarily once security officials completed an assessment and deemed conditions safe. Government-operated Monitoring Centers for Children provided support to child victims of violence, including trafficking. However, GRETA reported “serious concerns” about the limited capacity of specialized shelters to accommodate victims and the lack of specialized assistance. The government cooperated with international organizations and NGOs to provide training. In previous years, experts and civil society actors expressed similar concern that the government’s victim protection efforts precluded funding of independent organizations and the government’s exclusion of some NGOs from identifying and providing services to victims.

The government inadequately identified victims, which later resulted in penalizing victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. For example, observers reported authorities arrested, detained, and deported sex trafficking victims and charged potential victims with indicators of trafficking with offenses related to lacking valid documents. The government did not provide guidance on non-penalization of victims to law enforcement authorities. The law entitled identified victims to a temporary residence permit for 30 days, which authorities could extend up to three years with the option to apply for a work permit; the government issued 98 permits (82 in 2018). DGMM voluntarily repatriated 86 victims with support from an international organization (52 in 2018). Judges and prosecutors reported procedural law does not allow victim statements prior to repatriation as evidence in court proceedings. The law provided witness protection and legal aid, but observers reported that limited opportunities to encourage victim cooperation in prosecutions with victim-centered approaches, protection measures, and legal assistance resulted in a high number of acquittals and downgraded cases. The government did not report how many victims participated in criminal investigations or legal procedures. The government maintained judicial interview rooms, which allowed victims to testify in private to reduce re-traumatization. The government also operated a directorate to support victims with psychologists and social workers in seven pilot court houses.

The government maintained prevention efforts. The government did not update its national action plan, in place since 2009, but conducted surveys and consultations to draft a new plan. A national commission coordinated interagency anti-trafficking efforts and convened in November 2019. Six provincial coordinating commissions for anti-trafficking implemented anti-trafficking efforts at the provincial level. The commission and DGMM continued to publish annual data reports. DGMM maintained a migration-related national hotline that also handled trafficking calls; the government did not report the number of trafficking-related calls to the hotline (258 in 2018). The law required recruitment agencies to maintain a license and approve all contracts with the government; the government adequately enforced the law.

The government continued efforts to identify vulnerable populations and limit trafficking by maintaining comprehensive migrant registration protocols for the nearly four million Syrian and other refugees, including by providing birth registrations for newly born refugee children. The law allowed both Syrians under temporary protection and non-Syrian conditional refugees the right to work, provided they were registered in the province they wished to work in for at least the preceding six months. Applying for a work permit was the responsibility of the employer, and refugee advocates reported the procedure was burdensome and costly, resulting in few employers pursuing that path. As a consequence, the vast majority of both conditional refugees and those under temporary protection largely remained without legal employment options, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, including trafficking. The government, in collaboration with an international organization and domestic labor unions, implemented various efforts to decrease child labor, including training businesses on regulations for employing children and awareness campaigns. MOFLSS fined 27 workplaces for violating child labor laws (50 in 2018); however, resources and inspections were insufficient to effectively monitor and enforce prohibitions against the use of child labor. In the absence of a complaint, inspectors did not generally visit private agricultural enterprises employing 50 or fewer workers, resulting in enterprises vulnerable to exploitative or forced labor. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, including by organizing an awareness campaign.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Turkey, and traffickers exploit victims from Turkey abroad. Trafficking victims in Turkey are primarily from Central and South Asia, Eastern Europe, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Morocco, and Syria. Of the 134 victims identified in 2019, most were Uzbeks (44), followed by Syrians (31), Moroccans (28), Kyrgyz (26), and Indonesians (11). Traffickers reportedly exploited some Georgian men and women in forced labor and some Turkish men in trafficking and forced labor in Moldova. Romani children from marginalized communities often were seen on the streets in major cities where they worked as garbage collectors, street musicians, and beggars, raising concerns about exploitative conditions and forced labor. Human rights groups reported commercial sexual exploitation remained a problem in the LGBTI community, which faced discrimination and hostility from both authorities and the local population.

The world’s largest refugee population of approximately four million displaced Syrians and more than 350,000 refugees of other nationalities resided in Turkey during the reporting period. Despite government efforts to register refugees and asylum claimants, refugee groups in certain areas remain vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation. Some Syrian and other refugees, including children, are vulnerable to forced or exploitative labor, including street begging. Experts report some refugee children work long hours with low wages, in some cases in substandard working conditions. Demographic surveys indicate 50 percent of Syrian women in Turkey are married by age 18. NGOs and others working with refugees have noted that in some cases, Syrians and girls of other nationalities were sold into marriages in which they were vulnerable to domestic servitude and sex trafficking.

Reports indicate some youth in Turkey joined the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. The government alleged the PKK recruited and forcibly abducted children for conscription, while many in the country’s Kurdish community asserted that youth generally joined the terrorist group voluntarily. Reports document one victim who was forced to join the group at age 13 and children as young as 11 who were lured by promises of monetary compensation and taken to PKK training camps in Iraq.

U.S. Department of State

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