The Problem of Trafficking and Georgia


Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili signed a decree on the National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking for 2005-2006 years. The decree envisages setting up an anti-trafficking interim commission, which will be chaired by Secretary of the National Security Council Gela Bezhuashvili. It is of note that Georgian NGOs and civil society representatives have also participated in the process of development of the action plan. "The previous plan was completely produced by the government. It was signed on 17 January 2003. We were asked to make remarks and recommendations only several days before this date. Moreover, the old action plan served no purpose ...” says Lia Sanikidze, head of the non-governmental organization Women for Future. The 2003 year was dedicated to a holding of meetings and development of recommendations. A working group consisting of representatives from the government, Ombudsman’s Office, NGOs, international organizations and mass media was formed. The work of this group was initiated by the Women for Future organization. A series of meetings held once every two months concluded with the regional conference organized in December 2003. Final recommendations that in some degree represent a basis for the new action plan have been discussed at this conference. It is worth noting that the new draft action plan is based on the results of the preliminary survey conducted by five working groups. The developed recommendations cover particular issues related to trafficking, such as its prevention, criminal results, illegal migration, protection of trafficking victims, rehabilitation, international cooperation and monitoring of the implementation of the action plan. The OSCE mission to Georgia supported the working groups in their activities. Experts from the both governmental and non-governmental sectors worked in these groups. "By this National Action Plan, Georgia will reiterate its international commitments undertaken in the sphere of human rights and democratization,” Head of the OSCE Mission to Georgia Roy Reeve said. The existence of the National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking is rather important, since according to expert assessments, the preconditions for trafficking such as poverty, gender inequality, and social-economic background are commonplace in Georgia. Trafficking means transportation of persons for the purpose of their exploitation abroad. Both women and men can become the victims of trafficking. As known, a flow of trafficking victims moves from the underdeveloped countries to the developed countries. "Currently there are no real data about the number of illegal migrants or victims of trafficking in Georgia. But there exists a particular tendency and this tendency is alarming,” Lia Sanikidze says. Moreover, great attention should be paid not only to the publication of trafficking facts, but also to the further stages as well. "The organizations working on trafficking issues draw attention only to particular facts, while the information about the fate of victims and legal procedures is quite insufficient. However, just this sort of information would help victims or witnesses to overcome fear,” says Khatuna Madurashvili, UNA expert in trafficking issues. The fact that trafficking is a rather dangerous and widely spread offence was quite clear for the previous authorities as well. In 2003, the anti-trafficking office was set up at the Crime Detection Department of the Interior Ministry. In the opinion of Ucha Nanuashvili, head of the Human Rights Center, "this was the main achievement of past years in terms of combating trafficking, however later the new authorities abolished it, that raises a great deal of questions.” At the same time, during the previous authorities two articles were added to the Criminal Code. According to Lia Sanikidze, these articles are interesting since they define trafficking as a particular crime and impose sanctions on it. It should be noted that in order to strengthen the anti-trafficking activities, the Human Rights Department was set up at the General Prosecutor’s Office in 2003. Hot lines were put into operation both at the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Foreign Ministry. All the above-mentioned anti-trafficking measures were implemented during the previous authorities. After the new government and new staff came to power, structural reorganization was conducted. As a result, the anti-trafficking departments were simply abolished at a number of governmental organizations. Hence, in Ucha Nanuashvili’s opinion, it is not time to speak about positive trends in the anti-trafficking drive. Absence of legislation related to trafficking issues is another problem. "Trafficking is defined as a separate form of a crime throughout the world. It needs individual legislation, individual approach,” Lia Sanikidze claims. The amendments to the Criminal Code can be considered as the only exclusion in this regard. During the previous authorities, a working group supported by OSCE ODIHR was established at Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA). The group consisted of the governmental, non-governmental, and international experts. It has elaborated the draft-law on Avoidance, Eradication and Combating Trafficking in persons, which is already submitted to the parliament, but the date of hearing is still unclear. Georgia is not a party of any international anti-trafficking acts. In this regard, it is very interesting that the Georgian Parliament was instructed by the President to ratify the International Agreement on Trafficking, which in Khatuna Madurashvili’s opinion, "should lead to recognition of international standards on combating trafficking and bringing local legislation into conformity with these standards, as well as adoption of new legislation.” Moreover, the most effective anti-trafficking measure envisages a final formulation of an inter-state agreement, as this offence is transnational, it requires an allied struggle, "Unfortunately Georgia has not taken any effective steps in the regard so far, this is simply a part of the working plan,” Khatuna Madurashvili says. As for the non-governmental organizations, they continue anti-trafficking activities; however, their interest in this sphere has significantly decreased within the past year. "However, this does not mean that the problem of trafficking is less prevalent, simply other issues are the focus of attention of the non-governmental organizations. But I think that it is necessary to continue activities in this sphere,” states Ucha Nanuashvili. However, in the opinion of civil experts, the work should continue in close cooperation with the government. "The attempts of non-governmental organizations to render assistance to the victims of trafficking alone are not enough. This needs state systems and procedures, which will really promote the settlement of the problem,” Lia Sanikidze adds.