Strasbourg, 31.01.2013 – The Council of Europe’s expert group on human trafficking, GRETA, has warned that official figures may underestimate the scale of trafficking in Latvia. GRETA has also urged the Latvian authorities to take further steps to prevent human trafficking, especially among vulnerable groups.
In its first report on Latvia, GRETA highlighted several important steps which have been taken in recent years – including the launch of two national anti-trafficking programmes and the creation of both a national coordinator and an inter-institutional working group. The allocation of resources to help victims was also praised, as was cooperation with NGOs and international organisations.
The report states that Latvia is primarily a country of origin for trafficking victims, who are most often trafficked to Cyprus, Germany, Ireland and the UK for sexual exploitation. However, GRETA expressed concern that official figures may be underestimating the true scale of the problem, not least because Latvia lacks a formal system for identifying victims and referring them for appropriate support.
The independent group of experts stated that the Latvian authorities should step up their efforts to prevent trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as children in state institutions or those living in deprived areas.
Furthermore, GRETA noted that the investigation of trafficking-related offences does not often lead to successful trials and effective penalties. The report urged the authorities to strengthen investigation and prosecution procedures and to raise awareness of human trafficking among relevant professionals – including judges, lawyers and investigators.
The Council of Europe’s anti-trafficking convention entered into force in Latvia in 2008. This report is the first assessment of the extent to which the convention’s provisions have been put into practice.