Human Trafficking in Latvia

Human Trafficking in Latvia
The U.S. Department of State produces an annual Trafficking in Persons Report to assess the progress of countries in steps taken to eliminate human trafficking in Latvia according to the standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). In terms of efforts to address human trafficking in Latvia, the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report on Latvia ranks Latvia as a Tier 2 country, meaning “Latvia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.”

Human Trafficking Struggle in Latvia

Latvia has struggled with human trafficking for a long time and many Latvians have been victims of the cruel trade. Data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reveals that “every year approximately 2,000 people become victims of human trafficking in the Baltic.” Trafficking rings were even able to take advantage of the recent pandemic, preying on desperate people facing job losses and financial difficulties. Under the guise of job opportunities, traffickers lured Latvians desperate for work and income.

There are certain factors that complicate the counterattack against human trafficking rings, such as limited resources and education for identifying victims. It is also tough to follow where the money goes in the multinational networks of human trafficking.

But Latvia is doing its utmost to meet the standards set by the TVPA to protect more of its citizens from trafficking. The country is making efforts to keep its citizens safe: Latvia conducted more investigations into trafficking cases and the government amended the labor law to protect employees and worked to identify more trafficking victims, the Department of State reported.

Aid to the Cause

Even though efforts are underway to create a stronger fighting force against traffickers, trafficking is still prevalent. Statistics on human trafficking in Latvia come from reported incidents, however, many cases go unreported. But, fortunately, there are many organizations that are up to the test of tackling this problem head-on.

MARTA is a nonprofit organization that came about in 2000 and is the “only women’s rights advocacy institution in Latvia.” MARTA “provides professional, social, legal, psychological services to adult victims of violence and human trafficking, ensures assistance to women and their children in vulnerable life situations,” among other services.

Many of MARTA’s programs focus on upholding the rights of women and children while decreasing the prevalence of violence and providing training to educators.

In the period of up to 180 days, victims can receive specialist help in form of social workers, psychologists or legal help. Victims can also receive medical assistance, safe shelter and health check, among others, depending on their needs. Victims can receive support from MARTA for a longer period if they become witnesses in criminal proceedings. Latvia’s state budget covers all the costs of social rehabilitation services, therefore it is free of charge for the victims. According to its website, “To receive the service, you must register for a consultation at the MARTA Centre via phone call and write an application.”

Knowledge of human trafficking is valuable as it allows more people to protect themselves and prevents others from becoming victims. With ongoing efforts from organizations and the Latvian government, the prevalence of human trafficking in Latvia could reduce and Latvia could move closer to Tier 1 status.

– Kelsey Jensen
Photo: Flickr