TURKEY (Tier 2)
Turkey is a source, destination, and transit country for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Women and child sex trafficking victims found in Turkey originate predominately from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Turkish women are also subjected to forced prostitution within the country. According to regional experts, men and women from Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Mongolia are subjected to forced labor in Turkey. A recent report claimed that children involved in the drug trade, prostitution, and pick pocketing in Turkey are vulnerable to exploitation by criminal groups. According to a recent report by ECPAT, some Turkish children may be subjected to human trafficking through forced marriage.
The Government of Turkey does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but it is making significant efforts to do so. The government improved its recognition of forced labor and domestic trafficking during the reporting period and provided funding to the IOM-run anti-trafficking hotline. The government did not follow through on correcting its long-standing deficiency of inconsistent protection of victims in Turkey, resulting in significant gaps in protection and assistance for victims. Further, the number of victims the police identified dropped by almost half compared to the previous year. While it prosecuted and convicted trafficking offenders in 2010, the government did not provide sentencing information to demonstrate that they received adequate jail sentences.
Recommendations for Turkey: Finalize and enact anti-trafficking legislation to prohibit internal trafficking in Turkey; vigorously prosecute and convict trafficking offenders; conduct a study to determine why a significant number of prosecuted trafficking cases result in acquittals; commit sustained funding for the three specialized NGO shelters in the country and consider establishing a victim assistance fund from fines levied against convicted traffickers for this purpose; allow potential victims some time to recover from their trafficking experiences and to make informed decisions about their options for protection and possible cooperation with law enforcement; expand the best practice of allowing NGOs access to detention centers; increase efforts to proactively identify potential victims of forced prostitution and forced labor; continue to improve witness protection measures to provide victims with more incentives to cooperate with law enforcement; and develop specialized assistance for children who are subjected to trafficking, as well as men who are subjected to forced labor.
The Government of Turkey proactively investigated and prosecuted cases of trafficking in 2010. Article 80 of Turkey’s Penal Code prohibits both sex trafficking and forced labor, and prescribes penalties of eight to 12 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. This statute, however, places emphasis on the movement, rather than the exploitation, of victims and does not explicitly prohibit trafficking occurring within Turkey’s borders. Notably, the government revisited a case of alleged prostitution and trafficking involving children on a yacht discovered on October 28, 2010, which included the alleged involvement of a senior third country national official; authorities had initially determined that this case did not involve human trafficking, but have now begun the prosecution of 10 suspects. The government reported that it prosecuted 430 trafficking suspects under Article 80 during January through September 2010, of which 150 suspects were acquitted. Of the remaining 280 convicted offenders, 26 were sentenced to time in prison. Twenty-eight of these offenders were convicted under Article 80 with sentences ranging from two to 24 years’ imprisonment. The government convicted other offenders under non-trafficking statutes. Further, the government reported it reached a verdict in 31 cases at the appellate level, which resulted in “severe punishment” for traffickers, but did not provide further information on the sentences. Turkish law allows for the suspension of prison sentences of two years or less under certain conditions. The government continued its institutionalized and comprehensive anti-trafficking law enforcement training in 2010. Complicity in trafficking by law enforcement personnel continued to be a problem. The government did not take any additional action stemming from a 2009 prosecution involving three police officers under Article 80. Furthermore, the government did not report any follow-up to its 2008 investigation of 25 security officials for trafficking-related complicity.
The Government of Turkey demonstrated some limited progress in protecting trafficking victims in 2010; however, it did not address critically needed improvements to achieve a more victim-centered approach. While it improved identification of internal trafficking victims and some foreign victims of forced labor, its overall identification of foreign trafficking victims continued to decline in 2010. It did not provide sufficient funding or resources to its three anti-trafficking shelters, forcing one to shut down for eight months in 2010. During the reporting period, the government identified 58 trafficking victims; this represents a sharp decline from the previous year when it identified 102 victims. In partnership with the Istanbul trafficking shelter, the police continued the good practice of allowing shelter staff into the immigration detention facility to interview foreign women who may have been too afraid to disclose elements of their trafficking experience to police. However, police continued to detain and interview victims in a detention setting, inadvertently deporting some foreign trafficking victims. According to regional experts, Turkish authorities continued to arrest and deport women in prostitution without adequate efforts to identify trafficking victims among them; NGOs report that some of these women were subsequently identified as trafficking victims in Armenia. On October 28, 2010, police raided a yacht that functioned as a hotel, but was also discovered to be offering prostitution services from Ukrainian and Russian women, some of whom were as young as 17 years old. These women and child trafficking victims were deported after being detained and brought before a prosecutor for questioning. Authorities, however, subsequently indicted 10 suspects in this case on trafficking charges and began prosecuting them for human trafficking in December 2010. The fate of the deported victims in this case is unknown.
According to the police, 32 trafficking victims were referred to one of the three NGO-run anti-trafficking shelters in the country. The government’s lack of consistent funding, however, continued to cause unpredictability in these shelters’ ability to operate and assist victims, forcing one shelter to close down in 2010 for eight months. While the government encouraged victims to participate in trafficking investigations and prosecutions, most victims chose to return to their country of origin and declined to participate in prosecutions of traffickers, most often due to victims’ perceived fear of authorities, retribution from their traffickers, and slow court procedures. IOM facilitated the repatriation of 21 victims in 2010. The government offered victims legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they would face retribution or hardship. Foreign victims may apply for humanitarian visas and remain in Turkey for up to six months with permission to work, with the option to extend for an additional six months. The government granted two such permits to trafficking victims in 2010, an increase from previous years when no such permits were issued. According to a Turkish media report in 2010, some children were tried in court for prostitution-related offenses, although due to a new law passed in July, juveniles may now be tried in juvenile courts. This report noted that these children were “vulnerable to manipulation” by criminal or political groups, thus indicating possible third party involvement in their prostitution.
The Turkish government took an important step to improve its anti-trafficking prevention efforts in 2010 by providing $150,000 for the operation of its national IOM-run anti-trafficking (“157”) hotline. IOM continued to report that the highest percentage of calls came from clients of women in prostitution. The Turkish government provided anti-trafficking training to its military personnel prior to their deployment abroad for international peacekeeping missions. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor within Turkey. Prostitution by women who are Turkish citizens is legal under restricted conditions in Turkey, though the government reported efforts to screen both brothels and women involved in street prostitution to identify potential trafficking victims. The government did not take any discernible steps to prevent child sex tourism by Turkish nationals traveling abroad.