Trafficking in Persons Report 2016 - Country Narratives - Lithuania

LITHUANIA: Tier 1

Lithuania is a source, transit, and destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking, as well as a source and destination country for men subjected to labor trafficking. Observers estimate 40 percent of identified Lithuanian trafficking victims are women and girls subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Lithuanian women are also trafficking victims in Western Europe and Scandinavia. Lithuanian children and adults are increasingly forced to engage in criminal activities, such as shoplifting, theft, and drug selling, in Nordic countries and Western Europe. Some Lithuanian men are subjected to forced labor in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, including in agriculture. Men from neighboring countries, as well as China, may be subjected to labor trafficking in Lithuania. Vietnamese adults and children transiting through Lithuania may be trafficking victims. The approximately 4,000 boys and girls institutionalized in more than 90 orphanages are especially vulnerable to trafficking. In early 2015, the government initiated investigations into official complicity and negligence related to allegations of sex trafficking of girls and boys at state-run orphanages.

The Government of Lithuania fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period, the government greatly increased the available training for police, prosecutors, and judges. Officials identified more victims, particularly among exploited children. A working group established by the General Prosecutor’s Office completed recommendations for best practices for law enforcement and public officials on victim identification, investigations, and interagency coordination; the relevant government agencies endorsed those recommendations and began implementation in December 2015. The interior ministry drafted a government resolution in December 2015 to create an inter-ministerial body with NGO representation to coordinate national efforts. The national audit office published a self-critical review of its efforts as a means to guide future progress. The government began to phase out state-run orphanages, where children are vulnerable to exploitation, in favor of the foster care system; however, some police officers failed to recognize sex trafficking among women coerced into prostitution and children exploited for commercial sex. Additionally, public funding for care providers did not sufficiently cover victim assistance costs, and the government lacked a system to deliver specialized care to child victims.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR LITHUANIA:

Increase funding for NGOs to provide sustainable victim protection; provide systematic, effective training for all police officers on the identification, referral, and appropriate treatment of victims, including by integrating an anti-trafficking module into the basic training for the police; establish a formal inter-ministerial committee with NGO representation to coordinate whole-of-government anti-trafficking efforts; prevent the sex trafficking of children in state-run orphanages by prosecuting complicit or negligent orphanage authorities and ensuring ongoing reforms to the orphanage system to improve protection of vulnerable children; further improve training of investigators and prosecutors on building trafficking cases, including developing evidence beyond victim testimony; further improve judicial understanding of trafficking and sensitivity toward victims of sex trafficking; equip courtrooms with the capacity to allow victims to provide testimony outside the presence of their alleged traffickers; intensify efforts to identify victims proactively, particularly children exploited for commercial sex and adults coerced to be in prostitution; and provide all victims access to shelter and trafficking-specific assistance, particularly adult male and child victims.

PROSECUTION

The government demonstrated progress in law enforcement efforts. Lithuania prohibits all forms of trafficking through articles 147 and 157 of its criminal code, which prescribe penalties ranging from two to 12 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Lithuanian authorities initiated investigations of 25 cases in 2015, compared with 24 in 2014. Authorities initiated prosecutions of 27 suspected traffickers, compared to 40 with 2014 and 18 in 2013. The government convicted 17 traffickers under articles 147 and 157, compared with 18 in 2014. All 17 traffickers convicted in 2015 were sentenced to time in prison, with terms ranging from three to eight years’ imprisonment. The government collaborated with foreign counterparts in 17 international trafficking investigations, compared with two in 2014 and five in 2013. In March 2015, prosecutors announced an investigation into the director of an orphanage who had allegedly operated a sex trafficking ring inside the institution, offering young boys to pedophiles. In January 2015, prosecutors announced the investigation of a state-run residential institution for children with special needs; teenage residents allegedly had been subjecting girl residents to sex trafficking. In the latter case, the orphanage’s director defended her institution by saying such activity is common at all Lithuanian orphanages. The investigations remained ongoing at the close of the reporting period.

The government increased its training of personnel during this reporting period. Although the basic training for police cadets continued to exclude trafficking, the national police organized eight anti-trafficking sessions at the police academy, which were attended by 160 police officers. In April, the national police and an NGO jointly organized a seminar for police, prosecutors, and judges. In September, a Supreme Court judge conducted a specialized training for 40 judges. In October, 20 police officers participated in a trafficking-specific two-day course organized by the Criminal Police Bureau. In November and December, the state labor inspectorate organized trainings on victim identification guidelines approved during the reporting period; 34 labor inspectors participated. The national police force continued to designate eight officers to lead trafficking investigations, and the General Prosecutor’s Office designated six prosecutors. A Supreme Court justice with specialized knowledge of trafficking crimes received most of the trafficking cases that reached the Supreme Court. Observers reported prosecutors were reliant on victims’ testimony to prove a trafficking case.

PROTECTION

The government demonstrated progress in efforts to assist victims, although funding for services remained insufficient. Lithuanian law enforcement identified 79 victims and potential victims in 2015, compared with 47 in 2014. Authorities identified more child victims: from three in 2014 to 18 in 2015. NGOs receiving a mix of public and private funding provided support to 139 trafficking victims and at-risk individuals, including 39 victims of labor trafficking; NGOs assisted 133 victims in 2014. The central government provided NGOs approximately 43,000 euros ($48,000) for victim assistance programs, compared to approximately 149,000 litas ($52,600) in 2014. Experts reported the funding provided by the state was not sufficient to cover the actual expenses incurred by care providers for victim assistance. Five publicly funded men’s crisis centers had the capacity to provide assistance, to include finding shelter, though not all police officers were aware of this service. Authorities placed child trafficking victims in foster homes and mixed-use shelters, which may not have provided specialized care needed by child victims. The government had a formal procedure to refer identified victims to care facilities for assistance, although it was underutilized in some parts of the country.

Law enforcement could offer foreign victims of trafficking a 30-day reflection period to decide whether to cooperate with law enforcement. Foreign victims cooperating with law enforcement could receive temporary residency. Authorities did not identify any foreign victims in 2014 or 2015. The Lithuanian criminal code requires victims to testify. Lithuanian law permits authorities to use video conferencing and other technologies in the courtroom, which could prevent re-traumatization of trafficking victims, but courts continued to have limited technical capabilities. The government provided legal representation to victims; however, observers reported the attorneys were not trained on trafficking issues, so NGOs often hired private attorneys for victims. In most cases in 2015, victims received compensation. Observers reported shortcomings in police recognition of trafficking victimization among individuals in prostitution; as a result, authorities subjected sex trafficking victims to administrative sanctions for prostitution, and authorities treated child sex trafficking victims as criminals rather than victims.

PREVENTION

The government demonstrated progress in prevention efforts. In December 2015, the interior ministry drafted a government resolution to create a national inter-ministerial coordination commission with NGO representation. A working group established by the General Prosecutor’s Office completed recommendations for law enforcement and public officials on best practices in victim identification, investigations, and interagency coordination; the relevant government agencies endorsed and began implementation of those recommendations in December 2015. The National Audit Office evaluated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and called for improvements in victim assistance, coordination, training for officials, and prevention activities, as well as the creation of an independent national rapporteur. The interior ministry continued to publish an annual report covering the government’s anti-trafficking law efforts. Following concerns that many Lithuanian children were unnecessarily institutionalized and at an increased risk of sex trafficking, the government worked to phase out large institutions and increase support for foster care. Public officials participated in NGO-organized prevention activities, and law enforcement authorities raised awareness in the media. In addition, the police advertised and managed an e-mail account that the public could use to report potential human trafficking situations and ask for advice. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. The Lithuanian government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex, but not for forced labor.