Merle Albrant, Anni Säär

Men as well as women, adults as well as minors can fall victim to the modern slavery, human trafficking. Human trafficking constitutes a severe breach of personal liberty and dignity and is a serious crime. Human trafficking is estimated to be in third place among the crimes committed in the world – it is preceded by drugs and arms trade and cyber crime.[1] Estonia is a country of origin, transit and destination for men subjugated to conditions of forced labour and for women subjugated to forced prostitution.[2]

According to Riigikogu’s “Development Objectives of Criminal Policy until 2018” human trafficking is one of Estonia’s main priorities in the fight against crime. The Minister of Justice and the Minister of Internal Affairs consider the fight against human trafficking a common priority for the police and the prosecutor’s office and stand by the need to set clear and coherent aims for the police and the prosecutor’s office in the fight against crime.[3]

Political and institutional developments

In April 2013 the government of Estonia approved the final report of 2012 on execution of the development plan for reducing violence and the implementation plan for years 2013-2014.[4]  The Minister of Justice who introduced the development plan for reducing violence also emphasized the importance of raising awareness. The activities for 2012 included prevention of cases of human trafficking and offering the persons who had already fallen victim more effective assistance. There were information days for people going to work in foreign countries, in order to explain possible dangers of human trafficking, material was put together for schools and training was carried out on the importance of reporting violent crime. In 2012 work also started on a new European project developing international cooperation in handling cases of a form of human trafficking – labour exploitation.[5]

The implementation plan for 2013-2014 of the development plan for reducing violence also has to do with increasing the effectiveness of the fight against human trafficking.[6] The implementation plan of the development plan specifically lists concrete actions in the field of human trafficking. These actions consist of informing the general public of human trafficking, and training. So far, for example, the textbooks of social education have been implemented, the teachers of social education have received appropriate training and counselling via telephone has been guaranteed. Separate activities have been set up for prevention of labour exploitation as well as detecting it, including for charting the extent of labour exploitation and informing of it. According to the implementation plan increasingly more attention is being paid to developing methods of assisting the victims of human trafficking and the according activities, including provision of services. Since the necessary elements of an offence of human trafficking have been included in the Penal Code as of 14 February 2012 the implementation plan imposes separate activities and draws increasingly more attention to increasing the effectiveness of examining the cases of human trafficking.

Estonia’s “Guidelines for Development of Criminal Policy until 2018” confirm that criminal policy must consider possible future risks and be prepared to prevent and react to problems that have yet not spread to Estonia, such as problems based on racial, ethnic and religious matters, for example forced marriages, honour killings, and becoming the destination of human trafficking.[7] The document also points out that as a methods of preventing offences against the person the Ministry of Social Affairs in cooperation with local governments and the non-profit sector must guarantee a sufficient number of shelters for victims of human trafficking all across Estonia. Therefore, the Ministry of Social Affairs has drawn up a contract with the NGO Eluliin, who has provided shelters for women involved in prostitution in Harjumaa, Tartumaa and Ida-Virumaa, as well as a shelter for victims of human trafficking in Harjumaa. The survey of criminal policy has also shown that prevention matters, that the police has to inform target groups of opportunities for receiving help and direct persons who need help to employees of victim support, the Ministry of Social Affairs should also develop the system of victim support by making it more client friendly.[8]

Legislative developments

2013 did bring about legislative developments in the fight against human trafficking and assisting the human trafficking victims. The most important, the greatest and the most positive change was the amendment to the Penal Code that came into force 23 December 2013, which criminalized buying sex from a minor. According to the amendment it is punishable to have sexual intercourse for remuneration or  for any other benefit with a person of under 18 years of age, or to perform other acts of sexual nature.

14 February 2013 the government approved the draft act amending the Victim Support Act and other acts, which specifies and supplements the protection of rights of human trafficking victims, increases the support for participating in criminal proceedings and increases availability of services necessary for recuperating. According to the Minister of Justice, Hanno Pevkur the draft act affects the areas of activity of three different ministries, involving the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Internal Affairs in addition to the Ministry of Justice in increasing the effectiveness of protection of victims of human trafficking.[9]  According to Pevkur the draft act increases the protection of rights of human trafficking victims by adhering to the need to offer victims help and support before the criminal proceedings, as well as during and after.[10] The purpose of the aforementioned amendment was to bring several acts of law in concordance with the Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA (OJ L 101, 15.4.2011, pages 1-11)(the human trafficking directive). The aforementioned draft act also partially adopted the Directive 2011/93/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2004/68/JHA (OJ L 335, 17,12.2011, pages 1-14).[11]

Riigikogu adopted the Act amending the Victim Support Act and other acts 28 March 2013, which came into force 28 April 2013.[12] With the amendment the state took on an increased responsibility in assisting victims of human trafficking and the sexually abused minors, describing services to be guaranteed to the victims, which include health care services, psychological counselling, safe housing with catering, material help, translation services, etc. The amendment to the Victim Support Act marks a positive change, as helping the victims is now regulated by law; there were no separate provisions in Estonian law on assisting victims of human trafficking before that. The amendment to the Victim Support Act provided a definition of a victim of human trafficking and a sexually abused minor, in other words, who are the persons entitled to receive help and support stated in this act of law. For the purposes of the Victim Support Act, a victim of human trafficking is a person in the case of whom criminal proceedings have been commenced with regard to criminal offence committed against him or her based on the elements of criminal offence specified in paragraphs 133–133,3 138–140 or 175 of the Penal Code.[13] For the purposes of the Victim Support act, a sexually abused minor is a person under the age of 18 in the case of whom criminal proceedings have been commenced with regard to criminal offence committed against him or her based on the elements of criminal offence specified in paragraphs 141–146, 178–179 or 180 of the Penal Code.[14]

Unfortunately, it has to be pointed out that implementation of amendments made in 2013 has not been effective and the problem areas regarding identifying victims of human trafficking and directing them towards services have to be mentioned. Until 2013 the victims of human trafficking were identified by the non-profit organisations specializing in victims of human trafficking, including women involved in prostitution. Since the amendments to the Victim Support Act came into force the investigative body makes the decision as to who qualifies as a victim. When the investigative body has determined that the person is a victim of human trafficking the Social Insurance Board refers the victim to the services. The Social Insurance Board had not even received the names of some of the victims of human trafficking, which points to problems in assisting the victims and in implementing the act of law. The role of identifying the victims and designation of services offered to victims has moved from the hands of the third sector to the state, which might not be most effective in providing protection for the victims. The problem area is the competence and knowledge of victim support employees of the investigative bodies and the Social Insurance Board in identifying the victims of human trafficking. In-service training of the officials in identifying victims of human trafficking and working with the vulnerable target group would be necessary. The actual effect of the amendment to the act made in 2013 can only be evaluated after some time has passed.

The survey of criminal policy has shown that the regulation in force in Estonia is generally in compliance with the articles on penal power stated in Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, however, in criminal procedure third-country nationals (not Estonian or EU nationals) who are victims of human trafficking are not granted immediate legal consultation.[15] Estonia has no separate system for granting immediate legal consultation of victims of human trafficking at all. The victims of human trafficking would need legal assistance from specialized advocates and lawyers since the first procedural act.

Court practice

In 2013 the survey of criminal policy on 2012 was published, which reported that 36 persons were convicted of criminal offences relating to human trafficking in 2012. All punishments were to do with sexual exploitation, but also for being a part of a criminal organization. Criminal organizations were running the brothels (cases no 1-12-700, 1-10-17129).[16]

Number of criminal offences tied to human trafficking[17] increased by 10 cases in comparison to 2012: 32 criminal offence cases were registered in 2012, in 2013 there were 42 cases. The number of human trafficking cases has predominantly increased by cases of exploitation of minors (6 cases in 2012, 18 cases in 2013), although, admittedly 11 of them were unique cases, others were repeat cases.[18] In previous years the human trafficking cases (Penal Code § 133) had mostly to do with detaining prostitutes and violence against them. In 2013 there was a wider range of human trafficking cases: there was an addition of criminal offences (theft and drug trafficking) where the criminals had forced victims to commit crimes, used violence on them, even threatened to take their lives.[19] In 2013 charges were brought in four human trafficking cases, three of which had to do with taking Vietnamese citizens across the border between Russia and Estonia.[20]

In criminal case no 1-12-6744 the person who had organized the running of a brother applied for a reduction in punishment as he had been 60 years old at the time of committing the crime, had essential hypertension and therefore had failed to find suitable work for a longer time.[21] The circuit court noted that the court cannot accept the notion that persons who cannot find means of subsistence that are legal and choose the easier option to raise necessary funds taking to life of crime should be treated more leniently by the court. In this case the court took a condemning view of crime.

In criminal case no 1-13-1199 A. Andriasan was convicted of aiding human trafficking as he offered a lift and carried six persons, one of whom was a minor. By taking advantage of their vulnerable situation, these people were forced to work on unusual conditions, for a marginal or no pay without days off in the Russian Federation, and they would have been forced to do that later also in the Polish Republic.[22] Analysing this case begged the question why these persons who were victims of human trafficking had not been guaranteed rights that they were entitled to? They were also detained in the expulsion centre and five of them were deported to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This example of judicial proceedings clearly points to the fact that there are problems in Estonia with guaranteeing the rights of victims of human trafficking from third countries and assisting them.

The court practice of 2013 indicates that agreements concluded in the course of agreement processes relating to human trafficking bring only mild punishments for the criminal offenders. An example of this are two persons who organised the running of brothels, both of whom had previous convictions, but the younger of whom, in addition to running the brothel, placed the prostitutes in a position where they were obliged to form other duties for him against their will (perform sexual services for the person for free).[23] The younger was given the aggregate punishment of 4 years and 6 months, 6 months of which were enforced, and the other was given 2 years of imprisonment, 8 months of which were immediately enforced.

Statistics and surveys

Estonia continues to fail to qualify as a Tier 1 state in the report published by the U.S. Department of State, which most of developed states have reached. Tier 1, which is the highest level, does not mean the state doesn’t have any problems with trafficking in humans.[24] Tier 1 ranking indicates that a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, made efforts to address the problem, and complies with the TVPA’s (Trafficking Victims Protection Act) minimum standards.[25] Each year, governments need to demonstrate appreciable progress in combating trafficking to maintain a Tier 1 ranking or to achieve it.[26] Estonia has Tier 2 ranking as the activity of the government of Republic of Estonia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for eliminating human trafficking, however, the report states that remarkable efforts are made to achieve that end.[27] According to the report the government funded assistance of victims of human trafficking through the non-profit organisations, but the organisations declared they assisted fewer victims as the previous year and the police referred none of the victims to the non-profit organisation for assistance. Another problem area that was pointed out was that the temporary residence permit program for victims of international human trafficking was unused for the fifth consecutive year. The report recommended to increase efforts to investigate persons trafficking in humans, to prosecute, convict and punish them, also that the situation must be created where more victims assist in prosecuting persons trafficking in humans by guaranteeing the victims constantly funded legal aid.

Good practices

A positive side is that organizations contributing to the development plan for reducing violence 2010-2014 carried out several activities in cooperation with one another: organized training, compiled  departmental procedural guidelines for identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking and updated instructions for identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking. Unlike in previous years, in 2013 inclusion of the media and handling the topic of human trafficking in media was paid more attention to – for example on the EU Anti-Trafficking Day a dedicated insert on topics relating to assisting the victims (from the point of view of the assistants as well as the victims) was published between Eesti Päevaleht on the behest of the NGO Eluliin. The NGO Living For Tomorrow gave the authors of best topical articles prizes, recognizing journalists for good investigative articles on trafficking in humans.[28]

A positive development in preventative work in human trafficking is that the topic is being paid attention to in the curriculum of social education. A methodological article for basic school on the topic of human trafficking explaining the nature, concept, various forms, discussing the demand, ties to organized crime, was prepared.[29]

The NGO Eluliin, which offers the service of shelter to victims of human trafficking continued the provision of complex services in 2013 – accommodation, psychological councelling, legal councelling, assistance with communicating with officials, etc. The NGO Living For Tomorrow continued to provide counselling in the field of prevention of human trafficking and assisting the victims. The counselling line no +372 660 7320 received 558 calls in 2013, including 15 calls relating to labour exploitation and 3 calls relating to sexual exploitation, 1 call concerned being forced into a fictitious marriage. A rather large percentage of callers (35%) were officials, which refers to reliability of the counselling line among officials.[30]

Several information days and informative activities organized by Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund and EURES presenting the topic of labour slavery took place all over Estonia in 2013.[31]

Trends in 2013

A lot more articles were written about human trafficking in 2013 than in previous years, so it can be concluded that this topic is an important one and draws society’s attention. Especially much attention was received by the illegal border crossing of the Vietnamese and the Sudanese, which also drew attention to the topic of border monitoring. Because of the aforementioned incidences there were articles written about cases of human trafficking that took place in Estonia in the beginning of 1990s, which even the former Minister of Interior Affairs Heiki Arike spoke about. The media has covered the topic of human trafficking from all angles and has not focused on just prostitution, but also on forced labour and aiding trafficking in humans. The case connecting human trafficking and the world of football also received attention.[32]

Recommendations

  • Pay attention to reducing the need for human trafficking by targeting appropriate informative projects to specific target groups.
  • Develop the legal system to assist victims of human trafficking, in order to guarantee immediate legal counselling and representation of the victims.
  • Guarantee all victims of human trafficking, including victims from third countries (who are not EU nationals) protection of their rights.
  • Develop the victim support system for assisting victims of human trafficking and sexually abused minors.
  • Pay attention to handling delicate personal information of victims of human trafficking, if necessary to encrypting of documents.


[1] Haabu, Raigo. ERR. „Eesti on inimkaubanduse ohvrite arvult Euroopa esikümnes“ [Estonia is in top ten for the number of human trafficking victims in Europe]. 30.05.2013. Available at: http://uudised.err.ee/v/eesti/458c00bd-4ff1-4af6-a46a-76c9da05ad7d.

[2] The Embassy of the United States. Aruanne inimkaubitsemise kohta Eestis aastal 2013 [2013 Trafficking in Persons Report]. Available at: http://estonian.estonia.usembassy.gov/tipest_0713.html.

[3] Ministry of Justice. Riigi kuritegevusvastased prioriteedid [The state’s priorities in crime fighting]. Available at: http://www.just.ee/26990.

[4] Ministry of Justice. Leps, Anu. 17.04.2013. Vägivalla vähendamise arengukava 2012. aasta täitmise aruanne sai valitsuse heakskiidu [The final report of 2012 on implementation of the development plan for reducing violence was approved by the government]. Available at: http://www.kuriteoennetus.ee/40605.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Vägivalla vähendamise arengukava rakendusplaan aastateks 2013-2014 [Implementation plan for the development plan for reducing violence 2013-2014]. Available at: http://www.kuriteoennetus.ee/orb.aw/class=file/action=preview/id=40606/Arengukava+rakendusplaan+aastateks+2013-2014.pdf.

[7] Ministry of Justice. 2013. Kriminaalpoliitika arvudes: võrdlusi statistikast ja uuringutest [Criminal policy in figures: comparisons of statistics and surveys]. Available at: http://www.just.ee/orb.aw/class=file/action=preview/id=59115/Kriminaalpoliitika+kogumik+valmis.pdf.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Government of Republic of Estonia. 14.02.2013. Eelnõu täpsustab inimkaubanduse ohvrite aitamist [Draft Act specifies assisting victims of human trafficking]. Available at: http://valitsus.ee/et/valitsus/tegevusprogramm/turvaline-eesti/valitsuse-tegevused-turvaline-eesti/14022013-Eelnou-tapsustab-inimkaubanduse-ohvrite-aitamist.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Riigikogu. Ohvriabi seaduse muutmise ja sellega seonduvalt teiste seaduste muutmise seaduse eelnõu seletuskiri [Explanatory memorandum to the act amending the Victim Support Act and other relevant acts]. Draft Act 379SE. Available at: http://www.riigikogu.ee/?op=ems&page=eelnou&eid=55d3bc8c-d171-445c-a264-8f3ae3c399e6&.

[12] Ohvriabi seaduse muutmise  ja sellega seonduvalt  teiste seaduste muutmise seadus [the act amending the Victim Support Act and other relevant acts]. State Gazette I, 18.04.2013, 2.

[13] Victim Support Act § 3 lg 11.

[14] Victim Support Act § 3 lg 12.

[15] Ministry of Justice. Kriminaalpoliitika uuringud 17: Kuritegevus Eestis 2012 [Surveys of criminal policies 17: Crime in Estonia 2012]. Op. cit.

[16] Ministry of Justice. Kriminaalpoliitika uuringud 17: Kuritegevus Eestis 2012. Available at: http://www.just.ee/orb.aw/class=file/action=preview/id=59116/Kuritegevus_Eestis_2012.pdf.

[17] Trafficking in human beings (Penal Code § 133), support to human trafficking (§ 133¹), pimping (§ 133²), aiding prostitution (§ 133³), human trafficking in order to take advantage of minors (§ 175), also forcing persons to donate organs or tissue (§ 138¹) and inducing them to do so (§ 140).

[18] Ministry of Justice. Kriminaalpoliitika uuringud 17: Kuritegevus Eestis 2012. Op.cit.

[19] Vägivalla vähendamise arengukava aastateks 2013-2014:  2013. a täitmise aruanne [development plan for reducing violence 2013-2014: implementation report]. (the document is not public).

[20] Delfi. 21.01.2014. „Kriminaaltulu konfiskeeriti mullu rohkem kui 1,4 miljoni euro väärtuses“ [Last year more than 1.4 million euros worth of profit from criminal activities was confiscated]. Available at: http://www.delfi.ee/news/paevauudised/110_112/kriminaaltulu-konfiskeeriti-mullu-rohkem-kui-14-miljoni-euro-vaartuses.d?id=67651471.

[21] Tallinn Circuit Court. 15.01.2013 judgment in criminal case 1-12-6744.

[22] Tartu County Court. 20.02.2013 judgment in criminal case 1-13-1199 (12260104480).

[23] Harju County Court. 25.02.2013 judgment in criminal case 1-12-12472; Tallinn Circuit Court. 15.01.2013 judgment in criminal case 1-12-6744.

[24] U.S. Department of State, Diplomacy in Action. Trafficking in Persons Report. Available at: http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] The Embassy of the United States. Aruanne inimkaubitsemise kohta Eestis aastal 2013 [2013 Trafficking in Persons Report]. Available at: http://estonian.estonia.usembassy.gov/tipest_0713.html.

[28] Vägivalla vähendamise arengukava aastateks 2013-2014:  2013. a täitmise aruanne [development plan for reducing violence 2013-2014: implementation report]. (the document is not public).

[29] Põhikooli valdkonnaraamat. Sotsiaalained [Basic school guide. Social sciences]. Available at: http://www.oppekava.ee/index.php/P%C3%B5hikooli_valdkonnaraamat_SOTSIAALAINED.

[30] NGO Living for Tomorrow. Available at: http://lft.ee/admin/upload/files/Hotline%202013%20est.pdf.

[31] Vägivalla vähendamise arengukava aastateks 2013-2014:  2013. a täitmise aruanne [development plan for reducing violence 2013-2014: implementation report]. (the document is not public).

[32] Kressa, Kaarel. Eesti Päevaleht. 13.11.2013. „Inimkaubandus on teema ka jalgpallis“ [Human trafficking is also an issue in football]. Available at: http://epl.delfi.ee/news/kultuur/inimkaubandus-on-teema-ka-jalgpallis.d?id=67082504; Salu, Mikk. Postimees. 14.12.2013. „Eesti politsei peatas 31 noore Nigeeria „jalgpalluri“ Euroopasse smugeldamise“ [Estonian police stopped 31 young Nigerian “footballers” from being smugged into Europe]. Available at: http://www.postimees.ee/2631202/eesti-politsei-peatas-31-noore-nigeeria-jalgpalluri-euroopasse-smugeldamise.

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