Human trafficking affects millions of people every year on every continent. This shameful crime is a highly-organized and lucrative business. It is also a gross violation of human rights which mostly affects women and children. Latvia is strongly committed to combat this heinous crime.
Latvia has developed a strong legal framework to address trafficking in human beings by providing severe punishments in line with the relevant United Nations, the European Union, and the Council of Europe legal instruments. At the same time, legal regulation on non-punishment of victims of trafficking is in place. Recently Latvia signed the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs, which is another area of great concern.
Latvia’s National Strategy for the Prevention of Trafficking in Human Beings for 2014 – 2020 is based on four „P-s” – prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership -, and it addresses current risks and trends. As a country of origin of victims of human trafficking, especially young women, Latvia pays particular attention to combating trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, as well as labour exploitation and fictitious marriages. Our law enforcement agencies work in close cooperation with NGOs in identifying and assisting Latvian nationals and third countries nationals subjected to trafficking for the purpose of exploitation.
Trans-national inter-institutional cooperation involving public and private partnership is a core pillar for achieving results in this fight. Raising public awareness and understanding about risks leading to human trafficking, in cooperation with media and information communication technology companies, must be a priority.
So called “sham marriages” between Latvian citizens and third-country nationals, arranged in other countries with the sole purpose to obtain a residence permit in the European Union, is a serious concern for Latvian Government in recent years. Latvia is a part of a regional awareness raising campaign on preventing human trafficking and sham marriages, involving several European countries. This project involves regional trainings for multidisciplinary groups of experts and practitioners, as well as informative activities raising awareness on this issue. As a result, the number of Latvian citizens in these fictitious “marriages” abroad has substantially decreased.
Individual and victim-centered approach considering victim’s needs and best interests must be our priority. Latvia provides state funded assistance to victims of trafficking, including social and psychological rehabilitation services, safe shelter, legal aid, compensation, medical treatment, special protection, and access to education and labor market. NGOs are involved in all stages - from reporting, to identification, and to assisting a victim. Close cooperation between law enforcement, judiciary and victim service providers should be further facilitated. Also, it is important to consider how to achieve more successful reintegration of victims of human trafficking after receiving of services.
Trends of human trafficking are constantly changing and affecting every country. Given the transnational nature of this crime, national efforts are not enough. Based on our own experience, it is important for the countries of origin to work closely with the countries of transit and destination to fight this crime together.