Trafficking in Persons

Trafficking in persons is a modern-day form of slavery, involving victims who are typically forced, defrauded or coerced into sexual or labor exploitation. It is among the fastest growing criminal activities, occurring both worldwide and in individual countries. The United States estimates that each year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked all over the world.

People are snared into trafficking by various means. For example, physical force is used or false promises are made regarding a legitimate job or marriage in a foreign country to entrap victims into prostitution, pornography and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation or slavery-like labor conditions in factories and fields. Victims suffer physical and emotional abuse, rape, threats against self and family, passport theft, and physical restraint.

Human trafficking happens in nearly every corner of the world and the United States is committed, along with our friends and partners, to fighting this problem worldwide. Prevention of human trafficking, protection of trafficking victims, and prosecution of human trafficking facilitators are the main goals of the anti-trafficking fight.

Latvia is ranked in Tier 2 of the State Department’s 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report, the most comprehensive report on human trafficking around the world evaluating what governments are doing to fight it.  In 2014, the Government of Latvia adopted a new anti-trafficking action plan for 2014 to 2020 (PDF-350KB). Ministries jointly with local and international non-governmental organizations are currently implementing the plan.

More information on the U.S. role in the fight against trafficking in persons is available at the home page of U.S. Department of State.

Among embassy’s partners in Latvia are several non-governmental organizations that are deeply involved in the anti-trafficking fight by carrying out education campaigns and raising public awareness that are the keys to the prevention of human trafficking.

If you consider working abroad, or need free legal or other advice related to your planned trip, please contact the below local non-governmental organizations for assistance:

Association Shelter “Safe House”
Lāčplēša iela 75-9/10
Rīga, LV-1011
Tel. +371 2861 2120
E-mail: drosa.maja@apollo.lv
patverums-dm.lv

International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Pils iela 21
Rīga, LV-1167
Tel. + 371 6750 3626
Fax: + 371 6750 3603
iom.int

Resource Center for Women “Marta”
Matīsa iela  49-3
Rīga, LV-1009
Tel. + 371 6737 8539
marta.lv

[ Disclaimer: Please be informed that these are not U.S. Government agencies. The Embassy does not guarantee the performance or availability of any of the named organizations, nor endorse them over others offering assistance to potential trafficking victims. ]

Sexual and labor exploitation are against the law both in the United States and in Latvia. Laws of both countries prohibit slavery. Victims of crime, including trafficking victims, can receive assistance.

If you are a trafficking victim or know somebody who is a trafficking victim and needs assistance, such as rehabilitation services, psychological, medical, or other help, there are local specialists available. Please contact one of the below non-governmental organizations if you or somebody whom you know needs immediate assistance as a trafficking victim:

Latvian non-governmental organizations providing assistance to victims of crime

Association Shelter “Safe House”
Lāčplēša iela 75-9/10
Rīga, LV-1011
Tel. +371 2861 2120
E-mail: drosa.maja@apollo.lv
patverums-dm.lv

Center Against Abuse “Dardedze”
Cieceres iela 3a
Rīga, LV-1002
Tel: + 371 6760 0686
Fax: + 371 6761 2614
centrsdardedze.lv

Crisis Center “Skalbes”
Kungu iela 34
Rīga, LV – 1050
Tel.: + 371 6722 2922
skalbes.lv

Resource Center for Women “Marta”
Matīsa iela  49-3
Rīga, LV-1009
Tel. + 371 6737-8539
marta.lv

[ Disclaimer: Please be informed that these are not U.S. Government agencies. The Embassy does not guarantee the performance or availability of any of the named organizations, nor endorse them over others offering assistance to potential trafficking victims. ]

There are several anti-trafficking projects funded by the U.S. government in Latvia:

2018

  • On May 10 and May 11, U.S. State district court judge Mark Kappelhoff and federal prosecutor Barbara Martinez led a two‐day training in Riga on anti‐trafficking in persons issues for 115 Latvian judges, prosecutors, police investigators, and NGO participants. The U.S. trainers shared best practices in investigating and prosecuting different types of trafficking cases using a victim‐centered approach. The training included breakout sessions focused on judicial process and prosecution.
  • Journalist Uldis Āboliņš, who regularly covers issues related to human trafficking for TV channel LNT, visited the U.S. to get acquainted with the best practices fighting human trafficking. During an almost a two weeks long program, “Combating Human Trafficking Through Prevention, Protection & Prosecution” journalists from all over the world visited federal and state agencies and met with officials, NGOs, and media organizations in Washington, D.C., Houston, TX, and Los Angeles, CA. The program participants developed six reports about their U.S. visit upon arrival to their home countries.

2017

2016

  • On June 14, Ambassador Nancy Bikoff Pettit presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Latvia’s National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator Lāsma Stabiņa for her public-private partnership promotion efforts that contributed enormously to preventing human trafficking in Latvia. U.S. Embassy Riga nominated Lāsma Stabiņa for 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report Hero Award.

2015

  • U.S. Federal Judge Virginia Kendall visited Latvia from September 21 to 22 to train about 60 Latvian officials, police officers, prosecutors, judges, and civil society representatives. The training focused on victim centered approach to prosecute trafficking and featured interactive case studies. The U.S. Embassy sponsored the training, which was hosted by the Ministry of Interior and organized in partnership with the Shelter Association “Safe House.” To share her anti-trafficking expertise and learn about Latvia’s trafficking situation Judge Kendall also visited the Supreme Court of the Republic of Latvia and Resource Center for Women “Marta.”
  • U.S. Embassy in Tallinn organized a TechCamp from September 18 to 20 that produced several innovative ideas for combating trafficking in persons. It brought together over 60 participants from 10 countries bringing together civil society and government experts with technology experts and mentors. Six projects were chosen for development and teams developed solutions to protect potential trafficking victims by scanning online adds for suspicious job offers, sharing online reviews of labor recruiters and employers, and providing secure cloud based storage of travel and identity documents. Three participants from Latvia representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Shelter Association Safe House took part in this conference.
  • Latvia’s State Police representative Vadims Nazarovs took part in a U.S. Government sponsored Multi-Regional Project “Combating Trafficking in Persons.” The project lasted from August 8 to 29 and gathered participants representing many different states to allow them to examine U.S local, national, and international efforts to combat trafficking in persons and present innovative law enforcement strategies for preventing, investigating, and prosecuting trafficking crimes.
  • Secretary of State John F. Kerry will released the 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report on July 27, 2015. Secretary Kerry honored this year’s TIP Report Heroes, which include Latvia’s Gita Miruškina, a lawyer at Safe House in Riga. Ms. Miruškina is one of just eight men and women chosen worldwide for the award, which recognizes the tireless efforts they have made in the global fight against modern slavery. Safe House works directly with sex and labor trafficking victims, assisting them in their recovery and providing vital legal aid. Ms. Miruškina has dedicated her life to assisting victims of human trafficking and enhancing the legal understanding of trafficking in persons in Latvia and the European Union. She is the first Latvian who received TIP Report Hero award by the U.S. Secretary of State: http://www.tipheroes.org/blog/on-monday-we-welcome-the-2015-tip-report-heroes/
  • U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch visited Shelter Safe House on June 2. Together with Latvian Justice Minister Dzintars Rasnačs, she met with Safe House representatives to learn about their efforts and tour the facility. She recognized the importance of Safe House’s work in combatting human trafficking and the contributions of Safe House’s lawyer Gita Miruškina who is the U.S. Embassy’s nominee for the Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report 2015 Hero Award.
    Attorney General Lynch’s remarks at Safe House (PDF-55KB)

2014

  • Foreign Affairs Officer representing State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Chad Salitan visited Latvia from November 20 to 21. Embassy Riga representatives and Chad Salitan held trafficking-focused meetings with Latvian government officials and civil society groups.
  • On October 16, visiting U.S. Judge Virginia Kendall and U.S. Prosecutor Daniel Weiss led a training for 65 Latvian officials, police officers, prosecutors, judges, and civil society representatives. The training focused on best practices to investigate and prosecute crimes related to trafficking-in-persons, and featured interactive case studies from both Latvia and the United States. The U.S. Embassy sponsored the training, which was hosted by the Ministry of Interior and organized in partnership with the Ministry of Justice and Judicial Training Center.
  • On April 22, Deputy Chief of Mission Caryn McClelland hosted a reception to honor the anti-trafficking contribution by Vija Buša, the Deputy Chief of the Embassy of Latvia in Ireland. U.S. Embassy Riga nominated Vija Buša for 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report Hero Award to recognize her outstanding prevention and trafficking victim assistance efforts.

2013

  • On December 6, 2013, representatives of Latvian Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs attended a video conference organized by the U.S. Embassy in Riga and State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. The goal of the video conference was to discuss State Department’s recommendations for the Government of Latvia on steps that should be taken in order to be ranked on Tier 1 in the next annual Trafficking in Persons Report.
  • On September 18, 2013, anti-trafficking NGO Shelter Association “Safe House” started their new awareness raising campaign “Be Smart – Prevent Human Trafficking.”  This activity targets both local youth who will be briefed about trafficking threats and agencies of nine Latvian local governments that will receive information on anti-trafficking response. This campaign is partially sponsored through embassy’s small grants program.
  • Senior Desk Officer from Policy Department at the Ministry of Interior Lāsma Stabiņa took part in a U.S. Government sponsored Multi-Regional Project “Combating Trafficking in Persons.” The project goals were to allow its participants representing 22 different states examine U.S local, national, and international efforts to combat trafficking in persons; present innovative law enforcement strategies for preventing, investigating, and prosecuting trafficking crimes; explore U.S. policy initiatives for quality services to victims of trafficking; and discuss awareness and education efforts and international cooperation in combating trafficking in persons.
  • U.S. Embassy in Riga, through its small grants program, is sponsoring a research by Latvian TV journalist and documentary movie director Kārlis Lesiņš who will create a full-length documentary, in Latvian, English and Polish, about the phenomenon of sham marriages registered by Latvian and Polish women with third country nationals to allow them acquire EU immigration benefits. The research will focus on development of hybrid identities and human trafficking threats presented by marriage brokers. This project aims to fill in the information gap about sham marriages often perceived as opportunities for individuals to receive “easy money” by exploiting the Irish legal system while, in fact, they often result in physical and sexual abuse, human trafficking, immigration and security violations, and generations with hybrid identities. With this research, general public will become better aware of the dangers of sham marriages and governments will be better informed about the causes of this phenomenon and its prevention.
  • On April 26, 2013, a panel of U.S. Embassy representatives made presentations in a training event sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Latvian diplomatic staff members and addressed the role of consular services as a part of joint anti-trafficking efforts.
  • On March 28, 2013, Ambassador Pekala took part in national anti-trafficking working group meeting that was organized by the Ministry of Interior to design Latvian government’s seven-year, anti-trafficking strategy for 2014-2020.

2012

  • On December 6, 2012, the U.S. Embassy to Latvia honored Latvia’s efforts to combat trafficking in persons by commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in the United States. U.S. Ambassador Mark Pekala hosted an award ceremony in recognition of Latvia’s TIP heroes. During the event there was also a screening of the film “Journey to Freedom”, released by Fair Trade Productions and funded through a grant by the U.S. Department of State.
  • On September 28, 2012, Ambassador Mark Pekala hosted a round table discussion on anti-trafficking cooperation among Latvian experts on the issue. Martha Lovejoy from State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons was the guest of honor.
  • On June 13, 2012, four Latvian Prosecutors attended video conference Prosecution of Human Trafficking Cases from a Source Country Perspective. The conference was organized by the U.S. Embassy in Riga and State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Along with Latvian Prosecutors, the conference was attended by law enforcement representatives from Romania, Estonia, and Lithuania.
  • On March 31, 2012, Embassy Riga and anti-trafficking NGO – Shelter Association “Safe House”  completed a trafficking prevention project “Be Aware!-Promoting Human Trafficking Awareness in Latvia.” The project was sponsored by U.S. Government’s Alumni grant of $25,000. In the result of the project, approximately 500 school children received anti-trafficking message. However, we estimate that as many as 10,000 individuals may eventually be reached through distribution of an anti-trafficking documentary and video clips that were produced using the project funds.

2011

2010

  • On December 2, over 40 people from various Latvian governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations completed a four day training support from the U.S. Department of State, the International Organization for Migration (IOM)  organized the training, which included presentations from local Latvian experts and IOM experts from Moldova and Ukraine.
  • On November 15, U.S. National Human Trafficking Resource Center held a video-conference for about 30 Latvian government agency officials and representatives of NGOs. During the video-conference the Latvian participants learned how to manage a national anti-trafficking hotline, how to identify and respond to trafficking cases, how to refer identified victims for assistance, etc.
  • On November 10, representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Riga took part in a Training Seminar on Human Trafficking for Diplomatic and Consular Personnel hosted by the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • On October 12, Vice Consul at the U.S. Embassy in Riga Kelly H. Busby delivered opening remarks to the campaign against trafficking for sexual exploitation organized by the Resource Center for Women Marta.
  • Starting from August 6, 2010, Vineta Polatside, project manager at International Migration Organization’s Riga Office, will take part into an educational exchange program specializing on anti-trafficking issues at the University of Minnesota. The program costs are covered by the the prestigious U.S. Government’s Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, which brings accomplished, mid-career professionals to the United States for a year of combined academic and professional work.
  • From January 20 to January 29, 2010, Latvian delegation of five persons representing different ministries, Office of Prosecutor General, and non-governmental organization society “Shelter Safe Home” attended a training program “Combating Trafficking in Persons” sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State. The training program allowed the delegation representatives to share their experience in this area with their U.S. counterparts and acquire new knowledge about U.S. anti-trafficking laws, immigration process and enforcement, provisions for trafficking victims, investigation and prosecution mechanisms in trafficking cases, etc. The delegation also met and established contacts with a number of non-profit anti-trafficking groups and human rights organizations in Washington, Atlanta, and NY City.

2008

  • A total of 18 Lecturers from Latvian universities and colleges attended a training course “Human Trafficking: A Social and Legal Problem in Latvia and Worldwide”.  The training course was sponsored by the Government of the U.S. and administered by the Riga Office of International Organization for Migration. The purpose of the training was to provide Latvian lecturers with theoretical and practical skills to educate their students on how to prevent and fight human trafficking and what assistance measures there are available for trafficking victims in Latvia. The course participants developed a training material E-course on human trafficking. The newly developed e-course as well as other publications on the topic are now available for Latvian lecturers through the web site www.cilvektirdznieciba.lv.

2007

  • From April 23 to 27 specialists from the U.S. Department of Justice visited Latvia to conduct training sessions for judges and law enforcement specialists on prosecution of human trafficking cases.

2006

  • Project “Investigating and Prosecuting Trafficking in Persons Cases” took place from May 23 to May 26

2005

  • Establishing regional anti-trafficking working groups in Riga, Liepāja, and Daugavpils bringing together different law-enforcement agencies, social workers, and other parties. The project is carried out by International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA), in conjunction with the Council of Youth Health Centers of Latvia (LJVCP), and other non-governmental organizations.
  • Prevention of Human Trafficking and Rehabilitation of Trafficking Victims is a project carried out by the Resource Center for Women Marta.
  • Within a regional project carried out by International Organization for Migration (IOM) training on trafficking issues will be provided to specialists at law enforcement agencies, social workers, educators, prosecutors, and judges.
  • Establishing university partnership between Dominican University and Attistiba School of Social Work and Social Pedagogic to introduce issues related to human trafficking into curriculum for students of social work.

2004

  • Anti-trafficking Conference, sponsored and arranged in conjunction with Dominican University and School of Social Work and Social Pedagogic Attistiba, took place from December 1 to 3 at the Latvian Police Academy. The conference brought together Latvian Prosecutors, Judges, Police, Border Guards, and Social Workers and their international partners from the U.S., Sweden, and Finland.

2003

  • The Lilya 4-Ever project, co-sponsored by the Swedish Embassy and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), conveyed the anti-trafficking message to over 10, 000 students.
  • Providing the Ministry of Interior of Latvia with anti-trafficking brochures “Be Smart Be Safe” for training purposes and use in anti-trafficking campaigns.