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Cablegate: Latvia: 2009 Tip Interim Assessment

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRA #0552/01 3201201
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161201Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY RIGA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6140

UNCLAS RIGA 000552

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR G/TIP Megan Hall
DEPT ALSO FOR EUR/PGI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM ELAB KTIP KCRM KWMN SMIG LG

SUBJECT: LATVIA: 2009 TIP INTERIM ASSESSMENT

REF: A) STATE 109948; B) RIGA 503; C) RIGA 529; D) RIGA 531; E) RIGA
472; F) RIGA 452; G) RIGA 90; H) RIGA 366;

1. (U) In response to reftel A, post provides the following
responses keyed to the specific questions and format provided
therein.

2. (SBU) Latvia is experiencing EuropeQs worst economic crisis, with
more than a twenty percent drop in GDP over the last two years. The
resulting loss of revenue has caused a shortage of government
funding for a broad range of social spending needs, including
assistance for trafficking victims. As detailed in reftel B,
GOL-funded rehabilitation is provided through a local NGO, Shelter
Association Safe Home (Safe Home), which reported that 12
individuals have received state-funded assistance this year. Initial
FY2009 funding for trafficking victims was supplemented twice,
providing rehabilitation support for more than twice as many victims
as originally budgeted. The percent of eligible victims assisted
rose from 43% in 2008 to 71% in 2009. While the GOL was unable to
expand victim services outside of Riga this year, the director of
Safe Home maintains that the groupQs current network of partners
(e.g. local crisis centers, hospitals and a refugee facility)
throughout Latvia is sufficient to locate and provide services for
victims in areas outside Riga. It is encouraging that the GOL is
still allocating some of its scarce resources to expand victim
assistance efforts, but it is clear that funding limitations
continue to undermine the current scale of Latvian anti-trafficking
and victim assistance efforts (see reftel C).

3. (SBU) Despite resource limitations, GOL sources reported a broad
spectrum of government efforts to identify victims of trafficking
among vulnerable populations and to increase public awareness about
TIP. For example, law enforcement officials initiated 19 new
anti-trafficking investigations this year (a 12% rise from 17
investigations in 2008). Latvian State Police conducted an
increased number of street surveys and spot-checks among prostitutes
(governmental sources claim that 26 pimps were detained, twice as
many as in 2008). State Border Guard officials also performed
periodic anti-trafficking spot-checks. GOL efforts to increase
awareness about human trafficking were largely focused on educating
the public about brokered marriages and fraudulent overseas
employment offers (see reftels D and E). Given rising domestic
unemployment rates, the Latvian State Employment Agency disseminated
a timely anti-TIP warning for those considering employment abroad.
MFAQs Consular Department used its web page and a travelersQ hotline
to educate Latvians about available assistance in different
countries and the potential pitfalls of overseas employment.
According to GOL sources, MFA and State Police officials regularly
visit Latvian schools to educate students about the dangers of
illegal employment and brokered marriages.

4. (SBU) Due to funding shortages, efforts to provide law
enforcement officials, border guards and labor inspectors with labor
trafficking training have been significantly delayed or curtailed.
Some funds originally budgeted to provide training were reallocated
to fund assistance for trafficking victims (see reftel C).
Nonetheless, GOL sources indicate that the Latvian Police Academy
developed and implemented a new anti-TIP training program
including instruction on labor trafficking - for its students. More
generally, MFA provides annual anti-TIP training to its consular
staff (see reftel G) and GOLQs Office of the Prosecutor General sent
a representative to Belgium earlier this year, for a meeting of EC
experts on anti-trafficking issues.

5. (SBU) According to GOL sources, Latvian anti-trafficking and
trafficking-related statutes provide for severe penalties for
offenders. As reported in reftel H, a number of the laws were
amended this year. For example, a TIP-related section of the
Criminal law (Section 165-1) was expanded to prohibit moving,
transiting, or establishing residence for another person for the
purpose of sexual exploitation, regardless of whether the exploited
individual is acting voluntarily. The revisions to the existing
statute broaden the definition of acts banned under the law and
allow prosecutors more flexibility to pursue cases in which the
victimQs volition is more difficult to establish. Penalties under
this statute were strengthened as well. GOL sources reported that
additional anti-TIP training for judges and prosecutors will help
ensure that a majority of convicted traffickers serve some time in
prison. Unfortunately, this training Q which will be performed by
the Latvian Judicial Training Center - has been delayed due to
funding constraints until 2010. According to figures provided by GOL
contacts, nine individuals were convicted of trafficking or
trafficking-related crimes in the first ten months of 2009. Of this
total, four were given sentences ranging up to ten years
imprisonment (2 were given a term of up to 3 years, one was given
3-5 years, and the fourth was given 5-10 years imprisonment). The
percent of convictions resulting in prison sentences rose from 27%
in 2008 to 44% in 2009.

6. (SBU) A number of other significant TIP-related developments have
occurred this year, including approval of a new national action plan
which provides an integrated GOL anti-TIP strategy for the future
(see reftel F). Effective implementation of this blueprint will
ultimately depend upon funding. Four trafficking victims requested
governmental compensation, becoming the first applicants under a new
GOL program. The Ministry of Welfare also proposed a change in
Latvian law, which would allow trafficking victims from other EU
countries to receive GOL-funded assistance. Finally, the Ministry of
Welfare indicated that it plans to give Safe Home more flexibility
when using GOLQs funds for rehabilitation or other TIP-related
purposes (i.e. training and outreach). These changes would provide
the NGO with greater discretion in determining the length of
rehabilitation and in reusing funds obligated for one victim to
provide services for another.

GARBER

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