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Combating Trafficking in Human Beings. What has been accomplished in 10 years

Date

2022 12 05

Rating
1
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Minister of the Interior Agnė Bilotaitė opened the international conference "10 Years of Combating Trafficking in Human Beings - Achievements and Challenges", organised by the Ministry of the Interior in cooperation with Arūnas Valinskas, member of the Human Rights Committee of the Lithuanian Seimas.

The event commemorates the tenth anniversary of Lithuania's ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and provided an overview of how Lithuanian institutions and organisations have been able to implement the Convention's main objectives. Foreign guests - the President of the Council of Europe's Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA), a representative ofrom the Office of Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as presenters from Finland, Estonia and Poland - provided insights on how Lithuania has been doing in the fight against trafficking in human beings in a cross-country context, and also presented best practices from other countries on combating human trafficking in the fields such as trafficking children, human beings for work and preventive measures to combat trafficking in human beings in the digital space and in the migration context.

"Today, it seems to us that there is nothing more terrible than war. But we need to realise that forced marriages, organ trafficking, sexual exploitation, slave labour, child trafficking - all of this is happening around us every day. When we talk about the victims of human trafficking, we are not talking about statistics, but about the tragically shattered destinies of the people of our country. Even one victim of human trafficking is one victim too many. So we will continue to focus and work tirelessly to prevent these crimes," Minister Bilotaitė said in the conference.

The Minister pointed out that as the geopolitical situation is changing, trafficking in human beings is also changing, with new forms of human trafficking replacing the usual ways of trafficking known to law enforcement. Today's trafficking in human beings and its phases from recruitment to exploitation of victims are moving intensively into cyberspace, where there are no international borders and where there are not enough skills and means to identify victims and prosecute traffickers.

Minister Bilotaitė also stressed that as soon as Lithuania received the first war refugees from Ukraine, the vast majority of whom are women and children, it immediately took all the necessary preventive measures to protect them from the dangers of human trafficking.

Lithuania is a source, transit and destination country in the context of human trafficking. Lithuanian citizens are exploited in foreign countries for trafficking in human beings for criminal activities, forced labour, sexual exploitation, marriages of convenience, fraud and begging. Minors are forced to steal from orphanages and girls are sexually exploited. In Lithuania, third-country nationals are exploited for forced labour in inhumane conditions and women are sexually abused in massage parlours without the right to choose.

Over the past decade, the legal framework has been improved, two Action Plans to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings have been adopted and over 100 measures and actions have been implemented. A Commission for the Coordination of the Fight against Trafficking in Human Beings has been established and inter-institutional cooperation has been strengthened, a National Association against Trafficking in Human Beings has been set up and a hotline for victims is in place. A National Rapporteur on trafficking in human beings has been appointed and a pilot group of labour inspectors is in place. A national referral mechanism for victims has been launched, funding for victim assistance has been increased, the prevention of trafficking in human beings has been included in the primary education curriculum, and a mobile app for pupils and teachers has been developed.

Lithuania's efforts in the fight against trafficking in human beings are viewed positively, as reflected in the annual evaluation by the US Department of State, as well as in periodic GRETA assessments.

The good results in the fight against trafficking in human beings are partly reflected in the statistics on pre-trial investigations. The number of new pre-trial investigations is decreasing every year since 2017: 35 new pre-trial investigations were opened in 2017 and only 7 in 2021. The number of persons recognised as victims is also decreasing, e.g. 60 persons were recognised as victims in 2017 and 26 in 2021.

Recommendations for further progress in Lithuania's fight against trafficking in human beings, highlighted at the International Conference, will be proposed for inclusion in the new Action Plan on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings 2023-2025.