Riga, June 30, 2016 – On June 30, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released the 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report. This year, Latvia was placed in Tier 2, which is the same ranking as last year.
The 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report finds that the Government of Latvia is making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, although the government does not yet fully comply with these standards. The report notes that the Government of Latvia improved its anti-trafficking efforts by strengthening prevention efforts and awareness-raising activities, and having a working group to facilitate inter-ministerial and public-private coordination. Latvia continues to be a regional leader in identifying and preventing sham marriages that put women in highly vulnerable situations, including some cases of trafficking.
The 2016 report states, however, that these robust efforts did not extend to the government’s fight against certain forms of trafficking, particularly Latvians subjected to labor trafficking abroad, as well as trafficking occurring within Latvia. While the number of prosecutions in sex trafficking cases increased, authorities have not initiated a labor trafficking investigation since 2009, and a Latvian court has never convicted a criminal defendant of labor trafficking. Authorities failed to identify victims exploited within the country. The number of prosecutions and convictions under the trafficking statute remained low relative to the number of victims identified.
The report includes specific recommendations for the Government of Latvia to continue addressing the problem of human trafficking. These recommendations include increasing efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases under the trafficking statute (Section 154-1 of the Latvian Criminal Law) and imposing criminal penalties on convicted traffickers that are commensurate with the severity of the crime committed. The report also includes recommendations that the Government of Latvia increase efforts to proactively identify victims, particularly Latvian and foreign victims exploited within the country; review and improve the efficiency of trial procedures to ensure a victim-centered approach and to expedite prosecutions; and to fully fund and implement the 2014-2020 National Anti-Trafficking in Persons Program.
The full text of the 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report is publicly available at http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/