Annual Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 (Russia)
Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons - Country Report: Russia - Released June 14, 2010
Russia (Tier 2 Watch List)
Russia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labor, and for women and children forced into prostitution. In 2009, the ILO reported that forced labor is the most predominant form of trafficking in Russia. Men from the Russian Far East are subjected to conditions of debt bondage and forced labor, including in the agricultural and fishing sectors. Men, women, and children from Russia and other countries, including Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, and Moldova are subjected to conditions of forced labor in Russia, including work in the construction industry, in textile shops, and in agriculture. An estimated 40,000 men and women from North Korea are subjected to conditions of forced labor in Russia, specifically in the logging industry. Women from Russia are also subjected to conditions of forced labor in Armenia. Women from Russia are subjected to conditions of forced prostitution or are victims of sex trafficking in a number of countries, including
- South Korea,
- South Africa,
- New Zealand, and
- the Middle East.
Women from Africa, including Ghana and Nigeria, as well as from Central Asia are subjected to forced prostitution in Russia, while children from Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova are subjected to forced prostitution and forced begging in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Men from Western Europe and the United States travel to Western Russia, specifically St. Petersburg, for the purpose of child sex tourism. Experts continue to credit a decrease in the number of child trafficking victims in these cities to aggressive police investigations and Russian cooperation with foreign law enforcement.
The Government of the Russian Federation does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these efforts, the government did not over the last year: develop a comprehensive strategy that addresses all forms of trafficking and provides comprehensive victim assistance, nor did it establish a national level body responsible for coordinating government efforts to combat trafficking, and victim identification and assistance remained inadequate and diminished during the reporting period; therefore, Russia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the seventh consecutive year. In November 2009, the government failed to allocate funding to prevent the closure of the IOM-run shelter and rehabilitation center in Moscow. The shelter and rehabilitation center opened in March 2006 with foreign funding and assisted 423 victims of both sex and labor trafficking, including men and women, through November 2009; its closure created a significant void in the availability of medical, rehabilitative, and reintegration services for trafficking victims in Russia. The federal government did not dedicate funding to anti-trafficking activities or trafficking victim assistance during the reporting period. Despite limited funding by some local governments, the majority of shelter and direct trafficking assistance continued to be provided by foreign-funded international organizations and NGOs. There were also reports that identified foreign victims were held in detention centers and deported, rather than being referred to NGOs for assistance.
The North Korean (DPRK) regime provides contract labor for logging camps operated by North Korean companies in the Russian Far East. There are allegations that this labor is exploitative, specifically that the DPRK government and North Korean companies keep up to 85 percent of the wages paid to the North Korean workers and that workers’ movement is controlled. Although there have been instances in which government officials were investigated, prosecuted, and convicted for trafficking in recent years, allegations of widespread complicity persist.
Recommendations for Russia
Develop and implement a comprehensive national strategy that addresses both sex and labor trafficking and provides comprehensive victim assistance throughout Russia; provide funding from federal, regional, and/or municipal budgets to implement this national strategy; allocate funding to anti-trafficking NGOs that provide victim assistance and rehabilitative care; increase the number of both sex and labor trafficking victims identified and assisted; ensure victims of trafficking are not punished or detained in deportation centers for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; ensure victims have access to legal alternatives to deportation to countries in which they face hardship or retribution; improve efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish labor trafficking offenders; increase the number of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for trafficking offenses, particularly government officials complicit in trafficking; create a central repository for investigation, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing data for trafficking cases; designate trafficking-specific responsibilities to relevant government ministries on the national and regional levels; establish an official federal coordinating body with the authority to implement the national strategy; increase efforts to raise public awareness of both sex and labor trafficking; increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish labor trafficking offenses; and take steps to prevent the use of forced labor in construction projects for the 2012 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Vladivostok and the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi.
The Government of the Russian Federation demonstrated important law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Article 127 of the Russian Criminal Code prohibits both trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Other criminal statutes are also used to prosecute and convict traffickers. Article 127 prescribes punishments of up to five years’ imprisonment for trafficking crimes; aggravating circumstances may extend penalties up to 15 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2009, police conducted 102 trafficking investigations under Article 127 – including at least eight investigations for forced labor cases – compared with 111 trafficking investigations – including at least 16 forced labor investigations conducted in 2008. The government reported prosecuting 99 individuals under Article 127 – including at least 13 individuals for forced labor in 2009, compared with 81 individuals – including at least 14 individuals for forced labor reported prosecuted in 2008.
The government reported that 76 individuals were convicted under Article 127 – including at least 10 individuals convicted for forced labor, compared with 38 convictions – including two for forced labor reported in 2008. The government did not report sentencing data for trafficking offenders convicted in 2009, however, based on reports in the media, at least 24 trafficking offenders were convicted and prescribed sentences ranging from six months to 13 years’ imprisonment in 2009. In July 2006, the Duma passed asset forfeiture legislation that permits prosecutors to forfeit the assets of convicted persons, including traffickers; however, there were no reports that the law has been used against human traffickers since its enactment. Some law enforcement officials were provided with anti-trafficking training; however, this training was sporadic and limited to a small number of police officers, investigators, and prosecutors.
The Government of the Russian Federation demonstrated minimal progress in combating government complicity in human trafficking during the reporting period. In February 2010, several media sources reported on one allegation that a high level official in the Ministry of Internal Affairs was involved in a forced labor trafficking ring spanning from 2006 through 2008. In that case, members of the elite riot police allegedly kidnapped dozens of migrant workers and forced them to work on police construction projects and also the personal homes of high-level police officials. In January 2010, a senior district police commissioner in Astrakhan was convicted and sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment for taking passports and travel documents from migrants and forcing them to work as agricultural laborers.
During the reporting period, the Moscow district military court prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced one senior military officer to 10 years’ imprisonment for organizing an international sex trafficking syndicate which was allegedly responsible for trafficking 130 women and girls from Eastern Europe to Western Europe and the Middle East between 1999 and 2007; the government did not report whether two additional high-level government officials investigated by authorities in this case in 2008 were prosecuted or convicted during the reporting period.
The government reported no progress on two additional investigations reported in the 2009 TIP Report – one investigation involved a low-level police officer arrested for trafficking women to the U.A.E. and the second investigation involved two low-level police officers arrested for trafficking women within Russia for forced prostitution; these investigations were still on-going at the end of the reporting period. There was no updated information on whether the three officials that were arrested for trafficking-related complicity in 2007 – as reported in the 2008 and 2009 TIP Reports – were prosecuted, convicted, or punished during the reporting period. There was no updated information on whether the five military officials investigated in 2007 for the labor exploitation of military conscripts under their command were prosecuted, convicted, or punished for their actions during the reporting period.
The Russian government demonstrated very limited efforts to protect and assist victims during the reporting period. The government also showed inadequate efforts to identify victims; the majority of assisted victims continued to be identified by NGOs or international organizations. Some municipalities across Russia had cooperation agreements between NGOs and local authorities to refer victims for assistance, though there was no national policy or system of victim referrals. In November 2009, the government failed to allocate funding to prevent the closure of the IOM-run shelter and rehabilitation center in Moscow, creating a significant void in the availability of medical, rehabilitative, and reintegration services for trafficking victims. The Russian government continued to lack national policies and national programs to provide specific assistance for trafficking victims. The majority of aid to NGOs and international organizations providing victim assistance continued to be funded by international donors. Some local governments reportedly provided in-kind and modest financial support to some anti-trafficking NGOs. A local government in the Russian Far East provided facility space and modest funding amounting to approximately $3,732 for utilities for a shelter for victims of domestic violence and trafficking that opened in February 2009, although the majority of the shelter’s operation costs were funded by a foreign donor during the reporting period. The shelter did not receive adequate funding during the entire reporting period to consistently assist victims of trafficking, though efforts were underway to secure funds from a foreign donor for repatriation, medical services, and other specialized services for trafficking victims. Three of these victims were referred to the shelter for assistance by local government officials; the fourth victim was referred to the shelter by a Russian Consulate official in Gauangzhou, China.
The City of St. Petersburg funded and provided in-kind assistance to several local NGOs and the Russian Red Cross to conduct outreach programs to identify and assist street children, many of whom are victims of forced prostitution. The local government in Kazan continued to provide modest in-kind assistance to another foreign-funded trafficking shelter. Although the government did not track the number of victims assisted by local governments and NGOs in 2009, some victims of trafficking were provided with limited assistance at regional and municipal-run government-funded domestic violence and homeless shelters. However, the quality of these shelters varied and they were often ill-equipped to provide for the specific legal, medical, and psychological needs of trafficking victims. Also, many foreign and Russian victims found in regions where they did not reside were denied access to state-run general health care and social assistance programs, as local governments restricted eligibility to these services to local registered residents.
In 2009, IOM and NGOs reported assisting at least 143 victims of human trafficking – including 139 victims assisted by the IOM rehabilitation center in Moscow prior to its closure in November 2009. Government authorities referred at least 12 victims for assistance in 2009, compared with approximately 56 victims referred by authorities in 2008. In 2009, at least one victim of forced labor was placed in the witness protection program as part of an investigation conducted in the Russian Far East and was encouraged to participate in the trafficking investigation; authorities in some communities in Russia encouraged victims to participate in trafficking investigations and prosecutions.
In January 2010, the government placed four identified victims of sex trafficking from Africa in a temporary detention facility for foreign nationals pending deportation; the government did not report whether these victims were deported from Russia nor did it report efforts to handle these women as victims rather than illegal migrants, such as efforts to refer these victims to NGOs for assistance. In theory, foreign victims were permitted to reside in Russia pending the investigation and prosecution of their trafficker and may petition for asylum to remain in Russia. In March 2010, a news report alleged that a victim of forced labor from North Korea, who had previously fled from a logging camp, was approached by several men in plain clothing, and told to get into a vehicle before he was able to meet with officials from the international community to seek assistance; the article noted the possibility that the victim could be deported to North Korea, where he faced possible torture, imprisonment, and execution for escaping from the logging camp. The victim’s immigration status and location were unknown at the conclusion of this reporting period.
The federal government did not demonstrate significant efforts to raise awareness and prevent trafficking over the reporting period; however, a local government in the Russian Far East conducted outreach to students at schools and universities to sensitize them to the prevalence of trafficking. In Yekaterinburg, local governments continued to run two labor migration centers that provided legal, employment, and shelter services to labor migrants; services of this nature decreased migrants’ vulnerability to becoming victims of trafficking. The Ministries of Internal Affairs and Foreign Affairs continued to place warnings on their respective websites about human trafficking. In September 2009, the government created the position of Ombudsman for Children’s Rights, a step that may lead to improved efforts to prevent child trafficking; however, the ombudsman’s mandate currently does not include specific anti-human trafficking responsibilities. The government did not take specific steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government did not report trafficking-specific training for its troops deployed abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions. The government did not support efforts to develop a labor trafficking awareness campaign in advance of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.