Georgia’s Efforts Examined in the U.S 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report

Since the adoption of the Palermo Protocol and the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000, efforts to combat human trafficking around the world have intensified. Yet, it is an illicit $150 billion industry, with an estimated 20 million people believed to be victims of human trafficking in virtually every country in the world.

The U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, published annually, is the U.S government’s principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments to combat human trafficking. The document rates 188 countries on their efforts to stamp out trafficking in persons and is the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts.

This year’s TIP report, published on July 27, places a special emphasis on human trafficking in the global marketplace and highlights the hidden risks that workers may encounter when seeking employment. The document, covering U.S government efforts undertaken from April 2014 through March 31, 2015, also underlines the importance of the steps that governments and businesses can take to prevent trafficking.

“In the year 2015 we have a modern version of slavery... it is vital for us to push back against this… this report is important because it really is one of the best means that we have as individuals to speak up for adults and children who lack any effective platform whatsoever through which they are able to speak for themselves,” John Kerry, Secretary of State said in his remarks at an event releasing the 2015 TIP Report, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C.

Looking closely at Georgia’s performance, the report states that the country “is a source, transit, and destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking, and men, women, and children subjected to forced labor. Women and girls from Georgia are subject to sex trafficking within the country, in Turkey, and, to a lesser extent, in China, Egypt, Greece, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia. Women from Azerbaijan and Central Asian countries are subject to forced prostitution in Georgia’s commercial sex trade in the tourist areas of Batumi and Gonio in the Adjara province.”

The document informs that experts report women are subject to sex trafficking in saunas, strip clubs, casinos, and hotels. “The majority of identified trafficking victims are young, foreign women seeking employment. Georgian men and women are subject to forced labor within Georgia and in Turkey, Iraq, Russia, Azerbaijan and other countries. Georgian migrants pursuing employment in agriculture and other low-skilled jobs contact employers or agents directly, only later becoming victims in their destination country. In recent years, foreign nationals have been exploited in agriculture, construction, and domestic service within Georgia” – the report reads.

TIP also stresses that Georgian, Romani, and Kurdish children are subject to forced begging or are coerced into criminality. No information is provided about the presence of human trafficking in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Taking these shortcomings into consideration, the document underlines that the Government of Georgia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. TIP claims that investigations, prosecutions, and convictions increased during the reporting period.

The fact that the Prime Minister signed a decree establishing a labor inspectorate with authority to enforce preventative measures related to labor trafficking, and that the government increased the number of anti-trafficking mobile units from three to four, providing law enforcement more resources and personnel to conduct trafficking investigations is positively evaluated.

However the report claims that law enforcement’s limited investigative capabilities hampered trafficking investigations. Experts reported investigators focused on interrogating victims for evidence gathering, rather than interviewing them to determine whether or not they were potential victims.

“The government did not outline a strategy to systematically combat street begging; experts reported the police refused to investigate several cases of forced begging, claiming street begging is not a violation of child’s rights under current legislation” – 2015 TIP report stresses.

The Department of State places each country onto one of four tiers: Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch list, and Tier 3. This placement is based on the extent of governments’ efforts to reach compliance with the TVPA minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking which are generally consistent with the Palermo Protocol.

While Tier 1 is the highest ranking, indicating that a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, made efforts to address the problem, and complies with the TVPA minimum standards, Tier 3 is the lowest ranking assigned to countries whose governments do not fully comply with minimum standards to eliminate trafficking and are not making significant efforts to do so.

This year, in this year’s report, some 18 countries moved up in the tier rankings while around 18 countries moved down in the tier rankings. Overall the distribution of tier rankings is as followed: 31 countries are on Tier 1; 89 countries are on Tier 2; the Tier 2 Watch List contains 44 countries; and Tier 3 is comprised of 23 countries. Georgia remains in Tier 2, where it was relegated for the 2012 reporting period, after six straight years in Tier 1.

Nino Japarashvili

30 July 2015 21:20