Development of a comprehensive anti-trafficking response in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia

The project seeks to contribute to the progressive reduction of trafficking in human beings in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia through capacity building and empowerment of actual and potential victims.

Migration, trafficking and forced labour in Southern Caucasus

Migration from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia is a phenomenon of considerable size in all three countries. Major destination countries are the Russian Federation, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Greece, Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic. Many migrants from Southern Caucasus are working abroad without valid work permits. For example, for Armenia the estimated number of Armenians who want to migrate for work abroad is 105,000 - 140,000. Why do so many people from this region leave their homes to work abroad? Migration from the Southern Caucasus countries is due to two main factors: In countries of origin, the substantial higher wages paid in destination attract many workers from abroad. The attraction of working abroad is even higher in situations of widespread unemployment or underemployment in home countries of potential migrants. For many families in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, money sent home by migrants working abroad is an indispensable source of income to make ends meet. On the other end of the migration process - in countries of destination - employers’ demand for cheap and flexible workers to fill jobs that do not attract national workers fuel migration. Despite the demand for migrant labour in destination countries and the wish of workers from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to work abroad, there are very limited legal channels to do so. This contributes to migrant workers vulnerability in the migration process, along with the lack of access to trustworthy and realistic information about destination countries.

Migrants very often face poor living and working conditions in destination countries. The majority of migrant workers face hazardous working conditions where work accidents are frequent and medical aid insufficient. They have to work overtime without compensation and they are paid less money than agreed upon for their work. In the worst cases they are not paid at all or only paid in kind. Their freedom of movement is restricted and workers who dare to complain are threatened to be reported to the authorities and deported. As many migrant workers make debts in order to pay for the travel and related expenses, they are under hard pressure to pay back their debts in time. This is why many migrant want to avoid losing their job by any means and submit to exploitive employers. Their vulnerability is aggravated by the fact that most migrants do not know about access to assistance and support in destination countries and possibilities to claim their rights.

Trafficking in human beings is the consequence of largely irregular and unprotected labour migration flows, poverty, high unemployment, gender discrimination and corruption in the region. Traffickers derive high profits from the deception and exploitation of irregular migrants. In terms of trafficking, the region is primarily a source and to a lesser extent transit and destination point of victims trafficked for the purpose of sexual and labour exploitation. They often target impoverished communities, bribe law enforcement authorities and then move people into exploitative employment relationships. Trafficking also occurs in a far less organized way, with recruiters, transporters and employers acting independently from each other and exploiting workers for short-term gain. However, it is important to note that even migrants who were not trafficked can become victims of labour exploitation in a later stage of their migration. According to ILO estimates, there are at least 200,000 victims of trafficking in transition countries, including countries of the South Caucasus, at any given point in time. Nationals of all three countries are among the victims as well as among intermediaries trafficking people into various economic sectors. In Georgia, a survey with returned migrants found that about half of them have been trafficked for sexual or labour exploitation. For women and children from Azerbaijan, Turkey is major destination country of trafficking for sexual exploitation as well as for begging or other purposes. The number of identified and assisted victims in each country is, however, still very low.

The project

The project seeks to contribute to the progressive reduction of trafficking in human beings (THB) in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia through capacity building and empowerment of actual and potential victims. Since human trafficking mainly occurs in the context of irregular migration, the project proposes a range of measures that aim at promoting legal migration. It will contribute to increased dialogue and cooperation among government agencies, social partners and NGOs in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia as well as major destination countries. It further aims to improve protection mechanisms for irregular migrants and identified victims of trafficking for sexual or labour exploitation.

Main objectives of the project:

  • To revise and enhance National Action Plans (NAP) against THB in all three countries as well as to establish a supporting framework necessary for their implementation, including regional and international cooperation.
  • To prevent THB through awareness raising and the involvement of labour market institutions in preventive action.
  • To increase the capacity of national authorities to detect criminal activities linked to THB, based on a victim-centred approach of investigation and prosecution.
  • To improve identification, protection and assistance, including socio-economic reintegration measures, of victims trafficked for the purpose of sexual as well as labour exploitation.

Expected results

  • Enhanced National Action Plans against human trafficking, migration policies, legislation and administrative regulations
  • Increased number of prosecutions of trafficking and related offences, including abusive recruitment practices
  • Potential migrants have wider access to migration-related information and legal channels of migration
  • Increased number of trafficking victims referred to assistance, including opportunities for compensation and socio-economic reintegration

Main activities

  • Assess current implementation of NAPs and training needs for law enforcement agencies, judges etc.
  • Translate, adapt and publish ICMPD, OSCE and ILO training and guidance tools
  • Organise national workshops to build the capacity of national stakeholders, to revise and implement NAPs and to discuss changes/implementation of national laws on THB
  • Support the development of a data collection mechanism on THB
  • Support establishment of a fully functioning National Referral Mechanism based on standard operational procedures (including study tour to Czech Republic)
  • Organise training and sensitisation seminars with law enforcement, trade unions, employers’ organisations and NGOs
  • Improve regulation and monitoring of private employment agencies, including agencies recruiting under disguise
  • Organise regional workshop and conference
  • Develop awareness raising material for potential migrants that will be disseminated through government agencies, trade unions and NGOs in a sustained manner
  • Develop vocational training modules/SIYB tools suitable for trafficked victims and help selecting beneficiaries for the training

Project partners

The International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) is an inter-governmental organisation based in Vienna with a mandate to prevent irregular migration and promote dialogue on migration. ICMPD will bring in its expertise in the areas of illegal migration and trafficking, especially with regards to training of law enforcement (police, prosecutors) and judges and will have the main responsibility for activities related to National Action Plans against Human Trafficking, and for the dissemination of project results.

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has field presences in all three South Caucasus countries, where it implements various capacity building interventions across its comprehensive mandate. It has an extensive experience in work with various actors in the three South Caucasus countries and engages in policy consultations, legislative expertise and delivery of technical assistance projects.

The Ministries of Labour in all three project countries will be actively involved in all labour market based interventions, including awareness raising through public employment service, vocational training and labour inspection.

Activities in all project countries will be closely coordinated with other relevant organisations, such as IOM and UNDP as well as national government authorities, social partners and civil society organisations. In Armenia, the project will be also linked to the ongoing ILO project “Towards Sustainable Partnerships for the Effective Governance of Labour Migration in the Russian Federation, the Caucasus and Central Asia” and will complement several activities on labour migration governance and protection of migrant workers’ rights foreseen under the ongoing project.