Ukraine Downgraded In Human Trafficking Report

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine has made little progress in its fight against human trafficking this year, due largely to the government’s failure to implement reforms, a US report released last month said.

Trafficking of women and children, for prostitution, is a big problem in Ukraine.

According to a number of sources, another problem hampering Ukraine’s battle with trafficking is a lack of cooperation between Ukraine and trafficking destination countries in prosecuting traffickers.

Ukraine was downgraded from its 2006 ranking in the US State Department’s 2007 Trafficking in Persons/People (TIP) report, released June 12.

In the ranking, which was the result of monitoring conducted between April 2006 and March 2007, Ukraine was downgraded from its Tier 2 ranking in 2006 to the Tier 2 Watch List, reflecting the country’s failure to make sufficient progress combating trafficking over the last year.

“The Government of Ukraine does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so,” the report stated.

The annual report monitors the efforts of governments worldwide to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons. Its authors reproved Ukraine for failing to prosecute and punish traffickers and to protect trafficked persons.

Russia, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Belarus joined Ukraine on the Tier 2 Watch List this year. There are 32 countries on the Tier 2 Watch List in total. Uzbekistan was the only CIS country to fall into Tier 3, the report’s worst ranking, which included 16 countries.

Former Soviet republics experienced severe economic depression and poverty after the breakup of the USSR, which has made them vulnerable to large-scale human trafficking.

Ukraine remains a major source of and destination for men, women, and children trafficked internationally for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has estimated that approximately 100,000 Ukrainians have been trafficked since 1991.

In one of the latest human trafficking-related cases in Ukraine, on June 19, police detained a Kyiv resident for allegedly trying to sell five Ukrainian women into sexual exploitation in Germany.

In addition to poverty and unemployment, widespread corruption and the “possible complicity” of government officials are also believed to impede the prosecution of traffickers by supporting cross-border smuggling and document forgery.

Ukraine’s government has taken some steps to broaden its anti-trafficking efforts over the year.

In September 2006, the Interior Ministry established a special unit within its Anti-Trafficking Department to combat trafficking for labor exploitation and to monitor businesses involved in employing Ukrainians abroad. However, only four investigations into labor exploitation were conducted in the first four months of the special unit’s inception.

In March 2007, the government adopted the National Anti-Trafficking in Persons Program, which for the first time earmarked funds for anti-trafficking efforts. Although the US report commended the program as a “positive step,” it said that higher levels of funding are necessary for the plan to be effective.

Despite these measures, only a small number of convicted traffickers faced punishments suitable to the gravity of their crimes.

Last year, 47 of 86 convicted traffickers received probation rather than jail time and most of the others received between two to eight years imprisonment. The assets of 18 convicts were confiscated.

The report also claims that victims’ rights are often not respected during the prosecution of traffickers, and said that some judges and prosecutors “demonstrated unsympathetic, negative, and sarcastic attitudes toward victims.”

Ukrainian citizens trafficked internationally are most often destined for Russia, Poland, Turkey, The United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, the Czech Republic, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Cyprus, Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, Spain, Hungary and Israel, according to the report.

In addition to domestic and international trafficking of Ukrainians, the country is also a major transit country for women from Central Asian countries, like Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, who are trafficked for sexual exploitation in Europe.

Frederick Larson, the Counter-Trafficking Program Coordinator for Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova at IOM, agrees with the TIP report that impunity for traffickers is among the main problem areas.

“The prosecutorial and judicial systems fail in providing sufficient punishment for those individuals who are taken to court,” Larson said.

However, he emphasized that Ukrainian authorities have made commendable efforts to stop human trafficking, and even “more [efforts] than many other countries.”

Larson said that while most cases have involved the sexual exploitation of women and children in the past, he has seen an increase in the number of labor exploitation cases in the last two years.

IOM, which provides medical, psychological and legal assistance to trafficking victims, has helped over 4,000 trafficking victims in Ukraine since 2001.

Larson said that while trafficking victims want to help the government prosecute traffickers, they are often reluctant to testify in court.

“There is still a huge stigma in Ukrainian society when it comes to trafficking, especially related to sexual exploitation. Many of these people come from smaller cities … their families don’t even know they were trafficking victims,” Larson said.

Larson stressed that there should be an increased focus on the countries of destination, where trafficking might not be a priority for authorities.

“It is very difficult for the Ukrainian authorities to combat a transnational crime on a national level. They need competent counterparts in the destination countries that make [fighting trafficking] a priority,” Larson said.

In line with Larson’s claim, Amnesty International (AI) released a report June 12 criticizing Greece, a major destination country for Ukrainian trafficking victims, for not protecting the rights of sexual trafficking victims brought to its country.

The report cites gaps in Greek law and procedures that undermine efforts to help trafficked women and girls.

“…[C]ontinued protection for trafficked women is made conditional on their willingness to testify in court against their traffickers,” the report cites Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at AI, as saying.

“Some are silenced by threats of reprisals from their traffickers. As a result, traffickers escape justice while their victims do not get assistance.”

The report claims that despite a series of new laws introduced by Greece since 2002, authorities have “failed to correctly identify most trafficked women and only a few have received limited protection or assistance.”

According to official statistics obtained by AI, between 100 and 200 women and children are identified each year as having been trafficked in Greece, however, local NGOs estimate that thousands of trafficked women and children remain unidentified each year.

Source: Kyiv Post

Comments

My daughter was stolen my the SBU. There is still human trafficking in the Ukraine!