Moldova (Tier 2)
Moldova is a source and, to a lesser extent, a transit and destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking, and for men, women, and children subjected to conditions of forced labor. Moldovan women are subjected to forced prostitution in Turkey, Russia, Cyprus, Bulgaria, the UAE, Kosovo, Israel, Indonesia, Malaysia, Lebanon, Italy, Greece, Ukraine, Czech Republic, and Romania. Men, women, and children are subjected to conditions of forced labor in Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, UAE, Israel, and Greece in the construction, agriculture, and service sectors. Men, women, and children are also subjected to conditions of forced labor and sexual exploitation in Slovenia, Spain, and the Netherlands. Some children from Moldova are subjected to conditions of forced begging in some neighboring countries. Victims of forced prostitution found in Chisinau include Ukrainian women and Moldovan girls and women from rural areas. Victims from Azerbaijan are subjected to forced labor in Moldova. Men and women are subjected to forced labor within Moldova. Moldovan victims of trafficking have been subjected to retrafficking after return to Moldova. Victims from Moldova are often recruited by individuals they trust. In the past several years, there have been reported incidents of men from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey, and possibly Italy and Greece, traveling to Moldova for the purpose of sex tourism. The small breakaway region of Transnistria in eastern Moldova is outside the central government’s control and remained a source for victims of both forced labor and forced prostitution.
The Government of Moldova does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government has made progress over the past year in addressing the protection of victims and the prevention of trafficking. Specifically, NGO representatives reported that the government’s ability to identify and provide care for victims improved; it increased the participation of NGOs in the investigative process, including special provisions for child trafficking victims. The government expanded the National Referral System, a program lauded by NGOs and viewed as a model for other countries in the region. In addition, the government raised awareness through high-level attention to the issue. However, the government did not show sufficient progress in addressing complicity in trafficking by law enforcement and other government officials. Reports of widespread corruption in the police and judicial system persisted and no officials were prosecuted, convicted, or served time in prison for trafficking-related offenses. Furthermore, overall law enforcement efforts declined from the previous year and forced labor crimes were rarely investigated and prosecuted.
Recommendations for Moldova: Demonstrate vigorous efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict government officials complicit in trafficking, and seek criminal punishment of any guilty officials; ensure that convicted trafficking offenders serve time in prison; increase investigation, prosecution, and conviction of labor trafficking offenses; conduct awareness and prevention campaigns targeted at children living in orphanages – a population highly vulnerable to trafficking; further improve child trafficking victim protection by continuing to encourage law enforcement officials, in both urban and rural areas, to consult with NGO experts during the victim interview process; continue to improve cooperation between local anti-trafficking civil society groups and local law enforcement; continue efforts to provide anti-trafficking training to law enforcement and other government officials, including members of the judiciary; continue efforts to improve data collection on trafficking cases through all stages of the penal process including investigations, prosecutions, convictions, and sentences prescribed for convicted trafficking offenders; continue to provide funding for victim assistance and protection, paying particular attention to preventing any ongoing re-trafficking; continue efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims, including child and adult victims trafficked within Moldova; and use measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex, such as conducting awareness activities that target potential consumers of prostitution.
The Government of Moldova demonstrated minimal progress in its efforts to combat human trafficking during the reporting period. Of particular concern, it did not demonstrate significant efforts to prosecute, convict, or criminally punish government officials complicit in human trafficking. The government prohibits all forms of trafficking through Articles 165 and 206 of its criminal code, which prescribe penalties of five to 20 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government reported 161 trafficking investigations in 2010, down from 206 reported in 2009. Authorities reported prosecuting 55 individuals for trafficking offenses and convicting 47 trafficking offenders during 2010. The government did not report prosecuting or convicting any labor trafficking offenders in 2010. During the year, data on 2009 prosecutions and convictions were clarified; 110 individuals were prosecuted and 68 individuals were convicted in 2009. Although the government continued its efforts to improve the collection of trafficking statistics, concerns remained regarding the accuracy of data reported. Sentencing for trafficking crimes represents a problem for Moldova as punishments often were not commensurate with the crime. In 2010, 31 convicted offenders were prescribed sentences ranging from one to 17 years’ imprisonment. However, the remaining 16 convicted offenders received a suspended sentence or paid a fine and did not serve time in prison. The government’s five dedicated anti-trafficking prosecutors investigated and prosecuted cases largely relating to sex trafficking. Although the government has recognized labor trafficking as an issue of growing concern, forced labor cases were rarely investigated. The government provided anti-trafficking training in the police academy curriculum that is mandatory for police officers and investigators; it also held four anti-trafficking workshops which trained more than 100 police officers. Government officials also received specialized anti-trafficking training in regions across Moldova from international and nongovernmental sources. Judicial misunderstanding of trafficking may have contributed to reduced sentences or overturned convictions. Judicial hindrance of trafficking cases can include changing the threshold for prosecutions and refusing to honor decisions by other judges. During 2010, law enforcement officials worked with counterparts in Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Romania, Poland, and Lithuania to investigate transnational cases of human trafficking. Moldovan authorities uncovered a child sex tourism ring in 2010 operated by Moldovans, Greeks, and Italians.
Government complicity in human trafficking remained a significant concern and no government officials were prosecuted or convicted for trafficking-related complicity in 2010. Updates of cases involving police officers, a mayor, a ministerial advisor, and employees of government-run institutions complicit in trafficking-related offenses illustrated weaknesses in the judiciary, including light sentences or fines given to convicted trafficking offenders. Some anti-trafficking experts noted concerns of complicity in human trafficking cases within the judicial branch. For example, NGOs have reported judges giving reduced sentences in exchange for monetary bribes. Some defendants were not required to remain in custody during the trial or investigation and as a result fled the country or remained to harass victims. The police also harassed at least one journalist for reporting on trafficking in persons. One police officer reportedly was fired for trafficking-related activity; the criminal investigation is ongoing. In March 2011, the government re-opened a high-profile trafficking complicity case involving the former director of a government anti-trafficking agency; however, at the time of the report, he had not yet been arrested and was still receiving a pension from the anti-trafficking unit.
Moldova continued to improve its victim protection efforts during the reporting period. The government provided approximately $48,000 in funding for a primary shelter operated jointly by the government and IOM for repatriated adult and child victims in 2010, compared with $50,700 in 2009. In 2010, the center provided temporary shelter, legal and medical assistance, psychological counseling, and vocational training to 104 trafficking victims. Victims are not detained in the shelter; they are permitted to freely enter and leave. Increasingly, local governments also provided assistance to trafficking victims and people vulnerable to trafficking through limited funding, specialized personnel, and rent-free facilities and utilities given to NGOs and shelters. In total, 139 victims were identified by the government and assisted by IOM and government authorities. The majority of Moldovan labor trafficking victims were only identified after deportation to Moldova. The government encouraged all victims to assist law enforcement with trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and did not make assistance contingent upon their cooperation; however, some victims were questioned over the course of several days before being delivered to a shelter. Moldovan law enforcement demonstrated efforts to protect and assist child victims of trafficking by more consistently involving NGO service providers early in the investigative process and adopting victim-centered interview techniques; however, in rural areas some children were still subjected to an unnecessarily large number of interviews and extensive questionings. Although general mistrust of the police remained high, 169 victims cooperated with law enforcement in 2010, compared with 189 victims in 2009. There were no reports of victims punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The government provided legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face retribution or hardship in the form of temporary residency permits, which can be extended as long as necessary.
The government increased its efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period. The majority of outreach and trafficking awareness efforts by the government were conducted in close coordination with NGOs at the national and regional levels. The government also raised public awareness of trafficking in persons through visible high-level attention and media interaction on the issue. The government-operated National Referral System (NRS) expanded to five more regions, bringing the total to 28 out of 32 regions in the country. Operating on a local level, NRS commissions consist of NGO representatives, social workers, medical personnel, police, prosecutors, and local public administration officials. The commissions met on a regular basis, usually once a month, to deal with trafficking issues, including organizing public awareness events, discussing reintegration efforts for victims, as well as updating their information about any possible cases. IOM and NGOs working in the field praised this system’s efforts to prevent trafficking and provide assistance to identified victims. Representatives from Belarus, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan traveled to Moldova in 2010 to learn how to implement a comparable system in their own countries. Additionally, efforts by border guards to identify potential victims were increasingly successful; in 2010, border guards reportedly identified 83 potential victims of trafficking. In 2010, members from the National Center for Combating Trafficking in Persons gave 22 interviews broadcast on radio and television, participated in five live television programs intended to increase trafficking awareness, and again conducted seminars on trafficking prevention in schools and universities.
In September 2010, the government produced a national plan of action on human trafficking for 2010-2011 and in December 2010 produced a supplemental plan of action. The government did not conduct awareness activities that targeted potential consumers of prostitution or use other measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.