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Trafficking in Georgia




Trafficking and Georgia

On March 1st US State Department will make a statement where Georgia stands  among the most dangerous countries with its large scale trafficking facts and uninvestigated cases of them. According to Nugzar Sulashvili head of the Centre for Foreign Citizens and Migrants Rights and Security, victims of trafficking from Georgia are frequently duped into working in the sex industry, often becoming virtually enslaved as prostitutes in Greece, the USA, and Turkey. 

Georgian society is not fully aware of the danger of human trafficking. Victims of trafficking can be frightened into silence by the popular connotation of the word. Usually in the mass-media, trafficking is perceived as relating to the sex industry. This word has become so humiliating that the victims often avoid acknowledging the fact that they have essentially become the victims of contemporary slavery in the 21st century.

The government has not taken any real steps towards combating trafficking except for adding a new article to the law, which should enter into effect in summer. At that time, combating trafficking and supporting victims should become easier. Currently, the problem of trafficking is a topical issue. "According to our data, during the last 3 years only one Georgian was given shelter in Finland; others were passing respective procedures in courts but they haven't been granted the status" - stated Nugzar Sulashvili. Despite a large number of immigrants, only 47 have asked for political shelter during the last 13 years. Others have stayed illegally.

Recently, we interviewed Mr. Sulashvili, the head of the Centre for Foreign Citizens and Migrants Rights and Security. This organization has been working on the issue of trafficking for several years. The organization had a rehabilitation centre where people were offered assistance. This assistance included providing medical examinations, medication, and consultation. "This can be considered as luxury, taking into consideration existing social conditions, so many people visited us. At the beginning of 2003, we exhausted all the resources for financial aid. Now we are not able to offer anything except consultancy, but we have some other projects and want to restore the Rehabilitation Centre. We haven't been able to establish a Shelter House. We have consulted with the relatives of the people involved in migration. Members of the migrants' families have asked what they are supposed to do."

What kind of victims did you have to work with?

There was one case when a woman died in heavy labour conditions, and several women were seriously injured. It was a huge effort for us to persuade the victims to ask for defense of their rights. Members of their families were strictly against perceiving the injured people as victims of trafficking.

Has a criminal case been brought to court on behalf of the deceased victim of trafficking?

The case has been brought to court.  A woman, who led the trading with human beings in Greece, was imprisoned. One of the tourist agencies made a wrong announcement about taking women to work in Greece; in fact illegal migration was taking place. The coordinator of this "business" was detained while transporting people to Greece. These women organized the slave labour there. One of the women died three months after returning to Georgia. This was in summer of 2003. For the reason of not having a law regarding trafficking, the case was disqualified, although the investigation hasn't been closed.

What is being done to eradicate trafficking?

Some preventive measures have been taken lately. Trainings have been held, lectures have been given in schools, institutes, and colleges, and society has become a little more aware of the fact that trafficking happens not only in the sex industry.

The number of people who have contacted us have decreased by 80%. This doesn't mean that trafficking or the victims of it don't exist. I think that NGOs as well as the governmental bodies have to find new ways to win the trust of these people, so that more of them will get in touch with us and defend their rights.

NGOs are developing a project to establish a shelter for the victims of trafficking. This model will be difficult to implement in Georgia. When we had shelter for the victims of trafficking and asked them to live in the shelter for certain period of time for rehabilitation, they refused, because they had trouble admitting to their families that they had been the victims of trafficking and needed rehabilitation. Much work is to be done in this regard too.

How do the governmental bodies work on the problem?

There were several cases when people trading in adolescents were detained. We hoped that the persons who coordinated the process would be revealed, but only the traders have been punished and no high-ranking officials who are supposed to be related with the "business" have been exposed. In addition, the Ministry of Internal Affairs had a trafficking hot line, but it didn't work properly because they didn't have proper materials, and were not able to keep track of data. As for rehabilitation, they couldn't render any assistance in this area.

Does trafficking take place within the country?

We possess some information about the regions which are not under the jurisdiction of Georgia and thus it is impossible to take any measures there. In Adjara, girls are often brought from Russia, and in Samachablo, especially in Tskhinvali, there was a distribution  office especially for girls brought from Russia. From this place the girls were sent to different parts of Turkey. There are some groups in Tbilisi who bring girls who don't have any kind of identification to work in saunas, casinos, and night clubs. They promise these girls high allowance and security. We try to get in touch with these kind of girls, who are working without any pay. 

Your organization has also been working to provide assistance to the potential victims of trafficking. Are there certain preventive measures available for people who wish to study or work abroad?

There are month long courses available within the framework of our project. People who want to go abroad to study or work are trained to avoid problems in future. We help them to find legal ways to travel, and advise them to sign a contract before going abroad. We help make them aware of their rights.

Mr. Nugzar expressd his alarm about massive deportation of Georgian immigrants and thinks that this will cause serious problems, because here they don't have any opportunity for employment.

Is there any possibility to work abroad in a legal way?

There are some working programs (mainly these are agricultural programs, but women can sometimes work as nurses) in America, England, Scotland. But the demand of all the councils is to guarantee that after the term of work expires, these people will return to their country. To my mind, the government must set as a priority the issue of establishing possibilities for the Georgian citizens of going abroad legally. This will provide for our economic development, capability of monetary transference, the introduction of new equipment and methods, and a sharing of experience. 



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