Trafficking in Persons Report 2012 on Armenia22:45, 22 June, 2012
Armenia is a source country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking, as well as a source country for women and men subjected to forced labor. To a lesser extent it has been a destination country for women subjected to forced labor. Women and girls from Armenia are subjected to sex trafficking in the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, and within the country. Armenian men and women are subjected to forced labor in Russia. Armenian boys have been subjected to forced labor within the country. An NGO reported a new trend of labor migrants withdrawing their children from school and taking them abroad as helpers; these children are vulnerable to conditions of forced labor.
The Government of Armenia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. In 2011, the government convicted more trafficking offenders than during the previous year, continued to train hundreds of officials in partnership with NGOs and international organizations, and strengthened anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns. The number of victims identified by the government during the year continued to drop.
Recommendations for Armenia: Increase efforts to identify victims of forced labor and to investigate and prosecute labor trafficking offenses; further improve partnerships with NGOs, which would allow NGOs to regularly assist law enforcement with the victim identification process; further educate law enforcement and labor inspectors on distinguishing between labor trafficking and civil labor violations; continue to provide and expand funding for NGOs that provide victim assistance and ensure that all funding allocated for anti-trafficking programs and victim assistance is spent on designated programs; improve efforts to protect victims who consent to serve as witnesses in prosecutions, including by establishing a compensation mechanism for trafficking victims; regulate and educate local employment agencies so they can help prevent the forced labor of Armenians abroad; ensure that victims who are unable to assist in prosecutions have access to services and protection; continue to ensure that victims are provided with legally mandated assistance; improve efforts to identify child victims of forced labor among the population of working children; and expand awareness-raising campaigns to rural and border communities.
The Armenian government demonstrated progress in its law enforcement efforts against human trafficking during the reporting period. Armenia prohibits both sex trafficking and labor trafficking through articles 132 and 132-2 of its criminal code, which prescribe penalties of five to 15 years' imprisonment - penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes such as rape. The government investigated 16 sex trafficking cases and one labor trafficking case in 2011, compared with 15 sex trafficking and no labor trafficking cases in 2010. During 2011, the Armenian government prosecuted eight new cases against 15 individuals for sex trafficking offenses and no individuals for labor trafficking offenses, compared with prosecutions against six alleged sex traffickers and no alleged labor traffickers newly prosecuted in 2010.
During the year, the government continued to prosecute an additional 11 defendants whose cases had begun in previous years; nine were charged with sex trafficking and two with labor trafficking. The government convicted 13 trafficking offenders in 2011 - including 11 individuals for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking - up from a total of five convictions in 2010. All 13 convicted offenders in 2011 were given sentences ranging from four to nine years' imprisonment. Based on a request made by Armenian law enforcement agencies in 2010, in September 2011 Turkey extradited an alleged Armenian trafficker to Armenia; the alleged trafficker was escorted by Armenian law enforcement officers from Istanbul to Yerevan.
The Armenian government sustained partnerships with anti-trafficking NGOs, international organizations, and foreign governments to provide anti-trafficking training to hundreds of government officials including prosecutors, police, border guards, members of the judicial system, and labor inspectors. Human trafficking continued to be included in the curriculum of all education facilities of law enforcement bodies. There were no reports of government officials' complicity in trafficking during 2011.
The Government of Armenia demonstrated some progress in its efforts to identify and provide protection to victims of trafficking during the reporting period. The government officially identified 13 new trafficking victims in 2011 - two of whom were labor trafficking victims, and all of whom were female - and offered assistance, including referrals to NGO shelters, to all of them. This contrasts with 19 victims identified in 2010. The government continued to provide the equivalent of approximately $17,000 to an NGO-run shelter, which assisted 31 female victims of trafficking in 2011. Victims were not detained at the shelter. Although extra employment assistance was made available to trafficking victims, no trafficking victims requested it during the reporting period. In practice, judges rejected sex trafficking victims' claims for civil damages, as the victims could not substantiate the financial damages they suffered.
Law enforcement officials encouraged trafficking victims to cooperate in investigations and prosecutions. When requested to do so by victims' attorneys or NGOs, law enforcement officers provided security at court proceedings on an ad hoc basis. In 2011, all victims voluntarily assisted police with trafficking investigations.
The absence of appropriate protections for victims who provide testimony continued to be of concern. The government did not penalize victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. The government permitted foreign victims to stay in the country through temporary residency permits and to obtain temporary employment; however, no foreign victims were identified in the reporting period. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs created two new staff positions in the Family and Children Department dedicated to further improving assistance to trafficking victims.
The Armenian government undertook strong trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period. The government spent the equivalent of almost all of the $23,000 devoted in the budgets of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and Ministry of Youth and Sport Affairs to further increase public awareness of human trafficking. Many of these public awareness activities involved broadcasting anti-trafficking public service announcements and other programs on national and regional stations during peak viewing periods. Various government agencies undertook prevention activities.
The Ministerial Council to Combat Trafficking in Persons and the Inter-Agency Working Group against Trafficking in Persons continued to meet regularly and coordinate the implementation of the 2010-2012 National Plan of Action addressing human trafficking, in collaboration with NGOs and international organizations, and began to work on the 2013-2015 National Plan of Action.
The government regularly published reports on its anti-trafficking activities during the reporting period. During the year, the government took measures to identify and record the unregistered births of children. In an effort to reduce the demand for commercial sex, the government publicized its efforts to combat prostitution. The government provided anti-trafficking training to Armenian troops before their deployment overseas on international peacekeeping missions.