US State Department Appreciates Lithuanian Efforts in Combating Trafficking in Persons

Prepared according to US Department of State (www.state.gov) information 03/ 06/ 11

On the 11th of June the US State Secretary Colin L. Powell presenting the 2003 Trafficking in Persons Annual Report stressed the need for partnership of different countries in fight against human trafficking: “The transnational character of this crime means that countries of origin, transit and destination must work in partnership to prevent trafficking, protect its victims, and prosecute those who are responsible for trafficking” emphasized Collin L. Powell.

In the report countries are categorized into four tiers according to the efforts in combating trafficking. Lithuania is subsumed in the first tier in 2003 report, that means the country obtained high results preventing trafficking in persons.

According to the Report, Lithuanian government continues to earmark significant funds in its national budget to implement its two-year Program on the Control and Prevention of Trafficking in Humans and Prostitution. This program addresses the causes of human trafficking in order to design better preventive measures. The government conducted two vigorous preventive information and education campaigns with international and non-governmental organizations, and the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Education Ministry uses its regional network to focus on prevention among potential victims of sexual abuse and trafficking. The Government of Lithuania fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government showed strong preventive campaigns and increasingly vigorous law enforcement efforts, including against government officials complicit in trafficking.

However Lithuania is considered a source, transit and destination country for trafficking in women and children, for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Lithuanian women are increasingly trafficked to Spain, Germany, Italy, Norway, and Sweden. Women are trafficked through and within Lithuania from Ukraine, Russia (including Kaliningrad), and Belarus.

Trafficking in persons into or out of Lithuania for purposes of sexual abuse, material or personal gain, and prostitution, is criminally prohibited. Penalties range from four to eight years of imprisonment, with more severe penalties for aggravating circumstances, including trafficking in children. The law also provides for asset forfeiture and confiscation, with new penalties for trafficking in minors, operating a brothel and possession of child pornography. The government initiated 22 criminal cases against traffickers mostly concerning international trafficking, with six convictions handed down in 2002, and the government made its first arrests for internal trafficking. The government has bilateral agreements with the Interior Ministries of more than 20 countries, including cooperation in the area of trafficking. The government coordinates with law enforcement from several regional and European countries via trilateral and bilateral agreements, Interpol and EU liaison officers stationed in Lithuania. Enhanced border control led to a decrease in trafficking victims from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, transiting through Lithuania, and the police have been working to create a national database to monitor traffickers through other related crimes says the Report. Trafficking increasingly falls under the mandate of the organized crime police.

According to this Report Lithuanian police provide temporary shelter, access to medical services, and some legal and counseling services to victims who need protection, and the government provides temporary to permanent residence status. Legally, victims should not be punished for prostitution or illegal immigration into Lithuania; however, relief from deportation in trafficking cases is not always provided in practice. The Ministry of Social Security and Labor trained social workers assisting trafficking victims and the government trains Lithuanian consular and embassy staff in destination or transit countries, which may fund assistance to victims says the Report.

The 2003 Trafficking in Persons Annual Report represents the United States’ commitment to stop the horrifying practice of human trafficking. The Report estimates, that 800- to 900,000 people are trafficked every year.

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