Search

 

Cablegate: Estonia: Tip Roundtable Discusses Estonians

VZCZCXRO0575
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTL #0456/01 1931234
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 121234Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY TALLINN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9992
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TALLINN 000456

SIPDIS

FOR EUR/NB (CAROLINE ULCZYCKI) AND G/TIP (MEGAN HALL)

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM EN
SUBJECT: ESTONIA: TIP ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSES ESTONIANS
WORKING ABROAD

REF: TALLINN 132

1. (SBU) Summary. On June 29, post organized and hosted
a roundtable discussion on trafficking-in-persons (TIP)
and TIP-related crimes for ten representatives of
Estonian NGOs, labor organizations, student groups,
Ministry of Justice (MOJ) officials, and representatives
of diplomatic missions. The discussion focused on TIP
problems associated with Estonian labor migration. The
roundtable successfully introduced local TIP NGOs to
labor and student organizations, thereby broadening the
network of anti-TIP efforts. Additionally, an idea
proposed by post to develop a recognizable label for
legitimate employment agencies was eagerly received by
the roundtable participants. A Russian-language weekly
paper published an article on the roundtable. End
summary.

Post Hosts Roundtable
---------------------

2. (U) On June 29, Post organized a roundtable
discussion at the Embassy between local anti-TIP NGOs,
labor organizations, diplomatic missions, and the MOJ.
Roundtable participants included representatives from
the MOJ; the Central Organization of Finnish Trade
Unions (SAK); ATOLL Center, an NGO for women in
prostitution; Living for Tomorrow (LFT), an anti-TIP
NGO; Estonian Women Shelters Union (ENUT); the Danish
Embassy; the National Resource Center for Guidance
(NRCG), a national information center for Estonian
students; and the Estonian office of the European Job
Mobility Portal (EURES). The discussion focused on the
potential TIP-related dangers facing Estonians seeking
employment abroad. On July 11, MK Estonii, one of
Estonia's largest circulating Russian-language weeklies,
published an article on the roundtable including a
summary of the main points from the discussion.

Caveat Emptor: Seeking Employment Abroad
----------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Although Estonia has experienced rapid economic
growth and wages have risen quickly in recent years,
salary levels are still significantly below those in
many other EU countries. Wage disparities have
encouraged an outflow of Estonian laborers. In a 2006
report, the Bank of Estonia estimated that roughly 10%
of Estonia's labor force has gone abroad for employment.
A number of unscrupulous employment agencies operating
in Estonia have taken advantage of this demand for
foreign employment with unfortunate consequences for
their Estonian "customers." Although these agencies
have not been directly linked to TIP activities,
according to Eve Kyntaja, SAK Project Manager, some
Estonians using employment agency services have become
victims of labor fraud and other crimes (e.g., being
paid Estonian wages while in Finland, unsafe working
conditions, long hours not allowed by Finnish labor law,
no pensions, no holidays, etc.). Kullike Arend, EURES
Director, said that under Estonian law, employment
agencies are not allowed to take commissions, and are
required to be run like a non-profit organization.
However, in reality, Arend said that some agencies
unofficially require service fees, specifically preying
on people who are ignorant of Estonian labor law and
aren't aware that these services are supposed to be
free. "In the communist days, bribes for services were
common," Arend explained, "so older people, especially
Russian-speakers, are especially vulnerable as they
don't realize these agencies are breaking the law."

4. (SBU) Although the GOE is aware of the illegal
activities of some employment agencies, it has had
difficulty shutting them down. Brit Tomingas, the MOJ's
TIP Coordinator, noted that victims are reluctant to
come forward to press charges. In 2006, the MOJ
collected 10 complaints about employment agencies
activities. However, most of the victims were reluctant
to press charges and/or act as witnesses for fear of
reprisal. Additionally, according to Jevgenia Zurba,
LFT TIP officer, most of the victims of these agencies
are from the Russian-speaking minority where there still
exists a strong cultural aversion to seeking help from
GOE agencies, especially the police. "In the Russian
community," Zurba explained, "there is still strong
Soviet mentality of not trusting the police."

Tackling the Problem
--------------------

TALLINN 00000456 002 OF 002

5. (SBU) While the NGOs agreed that the police and
prosecutors need to do more to punish these agencies,
Roman Krolov, ATOLL Center Representative, argued that
Estonian NGOs and civil society also need to be more
active -- particularly in disseminating information to
people seeking employment services. Krolov cited two
problems in information dissemination. First, Estonian
TIP-NGOs and other groups are a relatively insular group
and not inclined toward information sharing outside
their circle. As an example, he said that he wasn't
aware that EURES, SAK, and NRCG provided services for
Estonians interested in working abroad until the
roundtable. He cited a number of occasions when he
would have referred individuals to these groups if he
had known about their work. Second, NGOs don't target
their public awareness campaigns properly. "Many of the
victims," Krolov explained, "are older people from the
Russian community" who are less inclined to use the
internet. They are very unlikely to see ATOLL and other
NGO's websites which warn about these agencies. Margit
Rammo, an NRCG Representative, affirmed Krolov's point
by saying that the NRCG's work with high school and
university students has shown that national public
awareness campaigns are not effective with students.
Campaigns need to specifically target young people and
other specific groups to be effective. Otherwise, she
opined, the reaction among students, for example, would
be "not another trafficking lecture." To emphasize her
point, Rammo mentioned that some employment agencies
advertise on Estonian university websites. Unless
students are told specifically what to look for in a
legitimate agency, they could fall victim to a criminal
group.

6. (SBU) An additional challenge in fighting these
agencies is the fear of litigation for slander or libel.
Sirle Blumberg, LTF Director, said that after her NGO
warned clients to avoid certain agencies she began
receiving phone calls from unidentified individuals
hinting that LTF might be sued. The other NGOs admitted
having the same concern because they did not have the
resources to stave off a lawsuit. Post suggested the
NGOS and GOE consider developing a recognizable label
that could be used by legitimate agencies on their
websites or newspaper ads similar to the "organic" label
now being used by Estonian organic farmers. The
roundtable participants were intrigued by the simplicity
of the idea. Krolov said, "Most people won't spend the
extra time vetting a group, so a label or certificate
would be an easy and visible alternative." Roundtable
participants agreed to meet separately for further
discussions on developing this idea.

7. (SBU) Comment. As the Estonian NGO community is
still relatively new, there is still need for more
coordination and information sharing, especially with
non-TIP specific groups like SAK, EURES, and NRCG.
Immediately after the roundtable, these three
organizations were added to the GOE's TIP network
distribution list to receive information of upcoming
events, meetings, and developments. End Comment.

PHILLIPS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

New IPCC Report: ‘Unprecedented Changes’ Needed To Limit Global Warming

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require “far-reaching and unprecedented changes,” such as ditching coal for electricity to slash carbon emissions, says a special report that finds some of the actions needed are already under way, but the world must move faster… More>>

ALSO:

Jamal Khashoggi: UK, France, Germany Join Calls For Credible Investigation

Germany, the United Kingdom and France share the grave concern expressed by others including HRVP Mogherini and UNSG Guterres, and are treating this incident with the utmost seriousness. More>>

ALSO:

MSF Not Wanted: Nauru Government Shows Continued Callousness

The Nauruan Government’s decision to ask Doctors Without Borders to immediately leave shows continued callousness towards asylum seekers desperately seeking a safe place to call home, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman said today. More>>

ALSO:

Sulawesi Quake, Tsunami: Aid Response Begins

Oxfam and its local partners are standing by to deploy emergency staff and resources to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, as an estimated 1.5 million people are thought to be affected by the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit on Friday. More>>

ALSO:

Decriminalising Same-Sex Relationships: UN Rights Chief Applauds Indian Decision

“This is a great day for India and for all those who believe in the universality of human rights," Bachelet said. "With this landmark decision, the Indian Supreme Court has taken a big step forward for freedom and equality...” More>>

ALSO: