Latvia could target assets of human traffickers says CoE

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In a report published March 23, the Council of Europe’s (CoE) Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) said Latvia has strengthened its legislation but asks the authorities to improve the identification, protection and compensation of victims of trafficking.

From 2012 to 2016, 110 victims of trafficking were identified, the majority of whom were women involved in “sham marriages”, which led to their exploitation, CoE said.

The second most frequent form of exploitation was forced labor (25 cases), followed by sexual exploitation (20 cases). Eight children were also identified. All but one of the identified victims were Latvian nationals.

"Latvia remains primarily a country of origin for trafficked people," CoE said.

"As regards the legal framework, GRETA welcomes the introduction of a provision in the Criminal Law which makes it possible to release from criminal liability a person who commits a criminal offence while being trafficked. The use of prostitution services knowing that the person is a victim of trafficking has also been criminalized," it added.

In addition, the inclusion in the new asylum law of victims of trafficking as part of the people who are considered to have special reception needs is also described as "a positive development."

While the report recognizes that considerable efforts have been made to train professionals, increase public funding to assist victims of trafficking and contribute to their social rehabilitation, it also asks the authorities to take measures to better identify victims, in particular among foreign nationals, asylum seekers and persons placed in immigration detention centers, as well as victims of trafficking for the purposes of labor exploitation.

"Special attention should be paid to children, in particular those exploited in prostitution, unaccompanied minors and migrant children; the report underlines the need to provide adequate services to child victims of trafficking, including appropriate accommodation, access to education and vocational training. It also recommends putting an end to child detention for immigration purposes," said CoE.

There are also recommendations that law enforcement officers should get better training and become more involved in tackling trafficking by, for example, targeting the financial assets of traffickers.

"Strengthening the capacity to locate, seize and confiscate assets of the traffickers by carrying out proactive investigations, including financial investigations related to trafficking offences," is recommended by CoE. 

The authorities should make full use of the available measures to protect victims and to prevent intimidation during investigations and during and after court proceedings, the report said.

The report follows on from a previous report from 2013 and can be read in full HERE.

A brief response from Latvian Interior Ministry official Ilze Petersone-Godmane at the conclusion of the report said: "Latvia acknowledges that the report highlights issues and areas which require more efforts and improvements."

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