The Council of Europe’s expert group on human trafficking has urged Latvia to take further steps to identify, protect and compensate victims of trafficking, and to ensure that traffickers are convicted. These are among the main proposals for action included in the third evaluation of Latvia’s implementation of the Council of Europe’s anti-trafficking convention, published by the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA).
Latvia used to be primarily a country of origin of victims of trafficking in human beings, but since 2019, there has been an increase in the number of foreign victims identified in Latvia. Trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation has become the main form of exploitation, and the number of identified male victims has increased over the years. The report welcomes the authorities’ efforts to develop the legislative and policy framework, and adopt a new national action plan against trafficking in human beings (2021-2023).
Since 2016, only two victims of trafficking have claimed - and were awarded by criminal courts - compensation from perpetrators. The number of victims who received state compensation was 12 in the period 2016-2020. GRETA urges the authorities to make additional efforts to guarantee effective access to compensation for victims of trafficking. Furthermore, GRETA is concerned by the low number of investigations, prosecutions and convictions for trafficking in human beings, and the fact that a significant number of the sentences handed down were suspended. Adequate human and technical resources should be provided to the Police Anti-Trafficking Unit, says the report.
In addition, GRETA urges the Latvian authorities to make full use of the available measures to protect victims and witnesses, and to prevent intimidation during the investigation, as well as during and after the court proceedings.