State Dept. assesses human trafficking situation in Azerbaijan

By Nigar Orujova

US Secretary of State John Kerry unveiled the 2013 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report in a ceremony held at the U.S. Department of State on June 19, the US embassy in Azerbaijan said.

This year Azerbaijan was added to the Tier II, according to the TIP Report. The report said that the Azerbaijani government is making significant efforts to combat trafficking.

"During the reporting period, the government increased law enforcement efforts against labor trafficking of Azerbaijanis, continued to provide protection and reintegration services to identified trafficking victims, and continued to raise awareness of trafficking crimes," the report said.

The TIP Report is the US government's principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking. Freeing victims, preventing trafficking, and bringing traffickers to justice are the ultimate goals of the report and of Washington's anti-human trafficking policy.

The thirteenth installment, this year's report includes assessment of 188 countries.

In the TIP Report, each country is placed into one of three tiers based on the extent of their governments' efforts to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

The U.S. embassy congratulated Azerbaijan on the progress it has made in combating human trafficking, demonstrated by the upgrade to Tier II it received in this year's report.

"This progress was a result of efforts by the Azerbaijani government and members of civil society to work towards compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. As the report also notes, there is still serious work to be done to further combat TIP in Azerbaijan. The United States will continue to work with Azerbaijan on this issue," the embassy said.

The Department of State recommended Azerbaijan to strengthen efforts to combat human trafficking by increasing law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders, investigating potential trafficking crimes at the detection of a single trafficking indicator, improving the definition of forced labor in the Labor Code to empower labor inspectors to identify trafficking crimes, etc.

"The government of Azerbaijan demonstrated anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period," the report said.

Azerbaijan approved the National Action Plan on Combating Human Traffic in May 2004. According to the Azerbaijani law on the fight against human trafficking and the Penal Code sex trafficking and forced labor are prohibited and prescribe penalties of 5 to 15 years' imprisonment. There is a 2009-2013 action plan to combat trafficking in Azerbaijan.

In 2012, Deputy Interior Minister Vilayat Eyvazov said 484 human trafficking cases including ten cases of forced labor had been recorded in Azerbaijan in the past six years.

363 traffickers were brought to trial, 225 criminal groups were detected on related charges, with eight neutralized, since 2006.

Each year funds worth $500,000 are allocated from the state budget to combat human trafficking in Azerbaijan.

According to statistics of the Interior Ministry Department on Combating Human Trafficking, the number of human trafficking cases in Azerbaijan was rising prior to 2009, but has been decreasing since then. 27 such cases were registered in 2006, 74 in 2007, 76 in 2008, and 80 in 2009, followed by a reduction to 70 cases in 2010, 69 cases in 2011 and 89 in 2012.

According to the International Labor Organization report for 2012, some 21 million people are unfree labor and sexual exploitation victims worldwide, 2 million of whom fall to East and West Europe and CIS.