Reports on Russia
Annual Trafficking in Persons Report 2011
Released June 27, 2011
Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Country Report: Russia
RUSSIA (Tier 2 Watch List)
Russia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The Migration Research Center estimates that one million people in Russia are exposed to “exploitative” labor conditions that are characteristic of trafficking cases, such as withholding of documents, nonpayment for services, physical abuse, or extremely poor living conditions. People from Russia and other countries including, Belarus, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are subjected to conditions of forced labor in Russia. Instances of labor trafficking were reported in the construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and domestic services industries. There are reports of many men and women from North Korea subjected to conditions of forced labor in the logging industry in the Russian Far East. There are also reports of exploitation of children, including child prostitution in large Russian cities and forced begging. Reports of Russian women being subjected to forced prostitution abroad continued to be received in 2010. Russian women were reported to be victims of sex trafficking in many countries, including in Northeast Asia, Europe, and throughout the Middle East.
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, however, the government failed to demonstrate evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous reporting period. Therefore, Russia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the eighth consecutive year. Russia was not placed on Tier 3 per Section 107 of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, however, as the government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; Russia is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan.
Victim protections in Russia during the reporting year remained very weak, as the government allocated scant funding for victim shelters and little funding for anti-trafficking efforts by governmental or non-governmental organizations. In addition, the government did not make discernible efforts to fund a national awareness campaign, although some local efforts were assisted by local government funding. In recognition of these shortcomings, however, in December 2010 President Medvedev signed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Program to Combat Human Trafficking for 2011-2013, which outlines commitments to form a national anti-trafficking structure and fund NGOs to provide victim protections. The Ministry of Health and Social Development formed an interagency coordinating committee that specifically addresses human trafficking in December 2010 and included anti-trafficking NGOs in the committee and its working groups. This is the first known coordinated effort to address human trafficking at the national level. When implemented, these efforts have the potential to achieve significant progress in combating human trafficking.
Recommendations for Russia: Develop formal, national procedures to guide law enforcement with trafficking cases and victim assistance; produce guidance for labor inspectors and health officials in identification of trafficking victims and referral of victims to service providers; allocate funding to anti-trafficking NGOs that provide victim assistance and rehabilitative care; increase efforts to identify and assist both sex and labor trafficking victims; implement a formal policy to ensure identified victims of trafficking are not punished or detained in deportation centers for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; ensure that victims have access to legal alternatives to deportation to countries in which they face hardship or retribution; increase the number of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for trafficking offenses and investigate and criminally punish government officials complicit in trafficking; create a central repository for investigation, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing data for trafficking cases; increase efforts to raise public awareness of both sex and labor trafficking; 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 trafficking offenders, such as Articles 240 and 241 for involvement in or organizing prostitution. 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. The Ministry of Internal Affairs claimed 118 human trafficking investigations and 62 prosecutions for trafficking in 2010 (compared with 99 prosecutions in 2009). At least 15 investigations involved slave labor. The government reported that prosecutions in 2010 reportedly involved larger and more transnational trafficking rings. Russian authorities convicted 42 trafficking offenders and issued 31 sentences in 2010, a decrease from 76 trafficking offenders convicted in 2009. Sentences for the reported trafficking convictions ranged from several months to 12 years’ imprisonment.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs Training Institute reportedly provides regular courses on human trafficking awareness, and anti-trafficking training is included in the national curriculum for criminology courses at public higher education facilities. Numerous organizations and researchers have suggested that enhanced training and direction on handling suspected trafficking cases for a broader group of Russian officials would improve law enforcement officials’ ability to achieve anti-trafficking results. Officials continued to cooperate with other governments on human trafficking cases during the reporting period.
The Government of the Russian Federation demonstrated some progress in combating government complicity in human trafficking during the reporting period. In April 2011, a Moscow military court convicted and sentenced a senior military officer and 10 of his accomplices to 12 years’ imprisonment for sex trafficking. Also, in December 2010, authorities arrested a police colonel in St. Petersburg for involvement in organizing prostitution that involved trafficking-like characteristics; the investigation into the case is ongoing and charges have not been finalized. The government did not report progress on any of the open complicity cases reported in the 2010, 2009, and 2008 TIP Reports, including allegations covered in the media in February 2010 that a high level official in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other officials were involved in a forced labor trafficking ring. Reportedly, the government convicted a government hospital director for the use of slave labor in 2010, though the government did not provide information about a sentence in this case. The North Korean government continued to recruit workers for bilateral contracts with Russia and other foreign governments. Despite media allegations of slave-like conditions in North Korean-operated timber camps in Russia, the Russian government has not reported any investigations into this situation.
The Russian government demonstrated minimal progress in efforts to protect and assist victims during the reporting period. The government does not employ a formal system to guide officials in proactive identification of victims or referral of victims to available services, and there were no available statistics on the number of trafficking victims identified or assisted by the government or NGOs. An IOM shelter in Moscow, which in the past assisted hundreds of trafficking victims, remained closed due to lack of funding. A trafficking shelter in Vladivostok assisted eight victims during the reporting period despite inconsistent government funding. There were 22 crisis centers across Russia where trafficking victims received assistance, though the government did not confirm how many trafficking victims were assisted in these centers. The national government did not provide funding or programs for specific assistance to trafficking victims. International donors continued to support the majority of aid to organizations providing victim assistance, though the Ministry of Internal Affairs used budgetary funds to provide victim assistance in cases where the victim was a witness in a criminal case.
There was evidence that some law enforcement officers encouraged victims to participate in anti-trafficking investigations. Police placed at least one victim in Vladivostok‘s trafficking shelter in witness protection. There were no formal legal alternatives to deportation for foreign victims. Russia did not demonstrate a systematic approach to ensure that trafficking victims were neither punished nor detained for crimes committed as a direct result of their trafficking experience. In practice, most foreign victims were neither deported nor supported as witnesses in a prosecution; they were often released to make their own way home or stay in Russia to look for work.
Russia’s national government demonstrated limited efforts to raise awareness and prevent trafficking over the reporting period. During the reporting period, there were no nationwide campaigns to raise awareness of human trafficking in Russia or efforts to develop a labor trafficking awareness campaign in advance of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. In March 2010, the St. Petersburg city government funded a conference dedicated to issues related to trafficking in persons that was attended by city officials, law enforcement, social services, NGOs, and foreign government representatives. The Ministry of Internal Affairs held a press conference in September 2010 to raise awareness of human trafficking. In the city of Yekaterinburg, the local government continued to run a labor migration center that provided legal, employment, and shelter services to labor migrants that reportedly decreased migrants’ vulnerability to becoming victims of trafficking. In December 2010 President Medvedev signed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Program to Combat Human Trafficking for 2011-2013, which outlines commitments to form a national trafficking structure and fund NGOs to provide victim protections. In December 2010, the Ministry of Health and Social Development formed an interagency coordinating committee that specifically addressed trafficking in persons and included anti-trafficking NGOs in the committee and its working groups. This is the first known coordinated effort to address human trafficking at the national level. If implemented, these efforts have the potential to achieve significant progress in combating human trafficking.
The government does not have a body to monitor its anti-trafficking activities and make periodic assessments measuring its performance. The government did not take specific steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. According to the UN and IOM, Russian troops were required to receive anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. Although experts reported that child sex tourism among Russian tourists exists, there were no specific reports of prosecutions of Russian citizens in foreign countries.