On Tuesday, September 28, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the Human Trafficking Prevention Plan 2021–2023, as well as designated the Ministry of the Interior as responsible for the implementation of this plan.
“Trafficking in human beings is a particularly heinous criminal act based on the deception and exploitation of vulnerable people. Frequentely, it is an invisible crime, hidden from the public eye. This is the reason why it is so difficult to detect and investigate human traficking cases. Thus an important part of our prevention plan is the professional development of investigators, prosecutors and inspectors, as well as close intragovernmental cooperation in order to improve the ability to both detect these crimes and be more active in prevention,” said the minister for the Interior Marija Golubeva.
The plan and the measures it contains are defined to effectively combat human trafficking, which is a form of modern slavery. Victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation or other forced labour through violence or threats or abduction. The number of these crimes is growing rapidly both on a global scale and within individual countries, including Latvia, where 48 victims were identified in 2020 (39 victims in 2019; 26 victims in 2018). Therefore, it is very important to be able to respond to the challenges posed by human trafficking crimes today and in the near future.
The most common forms of human trafficking in Latvia are sexual exploitation, forced marriage and labour exploitation, which have experienced a rapid increase in recent years. The most recent possible case of human trafficking has also been identified in connection with the exploitation of agricultural and forestry work.
The plan includes a total of 31 measures, divided into four directions of action:
• prevention - includes information and awareness-raising measures for various groups of society and specialists working with human trafficking issues;
• protection - aimed at providing an accessible and appropriate service to victims of human trafficking;
• prosecution of offenders - includes measures to facilitate the detection of cases of trafficking in human beings, the prosecution and investigation of case law in order to facilitate the prosecution of perpetrators;
• co-operation - provides for measures to facilitate the exchange of information between the organizations involved, as well as to identify and address national issues in the field of trafficking in human beings.
The implementation of several measures included in the plan will allow to fulfil several international and recommendations made by the Office of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Latvia, including:
• more intensive work with risk groups will be implemented;
• more intensive training will be provided for investigators, prosecutors and labour inspectors;
• the national coordination mechanism will be improved and strengthened in the regulatory framework;
• it will be decided to establish a national independent rapporteur in Latvia.
The successful implementation of these measures is possible with the active participation, support and willingness of all parties involved. It should be noted that in the future anti-trafficking issues may also arise in areas where they have not traditionally been addressed, such as calls for procurement requirements to be designed to address the risks of trafficking both in execution and in supply chains.