Belarus has again ranked in the lowest tier of the Trafficking In Persons Report issued by the U.S. Government. The authors of the ranking take note of some steps Belarus took to address trafficking, but criticized Minsk for the absence of convicted traffickers.
As in the previous years, the position of Belarus is drastically influenced by the issues related to the right to work and forced labor.
“The Government of Belarus does not fully meet the minimum standard for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” the report reads.
Belarusian government took some steps to address trafficking, including actively engaging in multilateral efforts to combat trafficking and making efforts to protect Belarussian victims exploited abroad. However, no significant effort was made, according to the report.
Meanwhile, the policies that “actively compelled the forced labor of its citizens, including civil servants, students, part-time workers and the unemployed, citizens suffering from drug or alcohol dependency, and, at times, critics of the government” remained in place.
“For the fourth consecutive year, authorities did not convict any traffickers under the trafficking statute,” the report says.
Belarus is praised for its victim protection efforts. The government identified one confirmed and 183 potential trafficking victims during law enforcement investigations, which is more than in the last two years.
Trafficking victims received information, medical care and support from NGOs.
“Over the past five years, Belarus is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor,” the authors of the report say.
According to it, Belarusian victims are primarily subjected to trafficking in Russia and Belarus, as well as in Poland, Turkey, and other countries in Eurasia and the Middle East.
The report also mentions the critics of the Belarusian presidential decree that requires unemployed persons to pay a fee to the state or potentially face compulsory community service by the European Parliament and the continuing practice of “subbotniks”, which requires employees of the government, state enterprises, and many private businesses to work on occasional Saturdays and donate their earnings to finance government projects.
The Belarusian authorities are recommended to abolish all decrees and laws that lead to forced labor, provide specialized assistance to children affected by trafficking and allocate more funds to fight this crime.
Of the neighbors of Belarus, only Russia has also been placed in Tier 3. Ukraine and Latvia are in Tier 2, Lithuania and Poland performed best of all and were rank in Tier 1.