[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

ARMENIA (TIER 2)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Armenia is primarily a source country for women and girls trafficked to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Turkey for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Armenian men and women are trafficked to Russia for the purpose of forced labor. NGOs reported that Armenian women were also trafficked to Turkey for the purpose of forced labor. Women from Ukraine and Russia are trafficked to Armenia for the purpose of forced labor. Victims trafficked to the UAE usually fly to Dubai from Yerevan or via cities in Russia; the trafficking route to Turkey is generally via bus through Georgia. A small number of Armenian girls and boys are trafficked internally for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced begging.

The Government of Armenia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. In December 2008, the government reopened its investigation into a well-documented 2006 case in which a convicted trafficker was released from prison and escaped the country allegedly with the assistance of various government officials; this was an important step forward and results of this investigation warrant future monitoring. The government also allocated $55,000 to partially fund an NGO-run trafficking shelter in 2009. In November 2008, the government began implementing its national referral mechanism for victims. Although these efforts demonstrated genuine progress over the reporting period, victim assistance remained a challenge -- especially in the provision of long-term assistance and social reintegration -- and the number of traffickers convicted decreased.

Recommendations for Armenia: Continue to address trafficking-related corruption through the vigorous investigation, prosecution, and conviction of complicit officials; improve the new national victim-referral mechanism, ensuring that victims are provided with legally mandated assistance (medical, legal, primary needs, and shelter) at all three stages of the victim assistance process that is not conditioned on victims' cooperation with law enforcement investigations; ensure that police and law enforcement receive trafficking-specific investigative training to increase the number of traffickers who are prosecuted and successfully convicted; continue to ensure a majority of convicted traffickers serve time in prison; ensure that all funding allocated for anti-trafficking programs and victim assistance is spent on designated programs; increase the number of victims identified and referred for assistance; and continue efforts to raise awareness about both sex and labor trafficking.

The Armenian government continued its law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Armenia prohibits trafficking in persons for both labor and sexual exploitation through Article 132 of its penal code, which prescribes penalties of 3 to 15 years’ imprisonment – penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes. The government investigated 13 cases of trafficking, compared to 14 investigations in 2007. Armenia prosecuted eight individuals for trafficking, the same number as in 2007. Authorities convicted only four traffickers in 2008, a decrease from 11 convictions in 2007. All traffickers convicted in 2008 were given prison sentences ranging from 2 to 7.5 years; no traffickers received suspended sentences. In addition to reopening the investigation into a well-documented 2006 corruption case, Armenia also investigated the deputy principal of a public school who forced two special needs students to beg on the street during the reporting period. The government did not report additional efforts to prosecute, convict, or sentence government officials complicit in trafficking.

A lack of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey hampered Armenia’s ability to investigate the trafficking of Armenian nationals to Turkey; however, police were in contact with Turkish law enforcement through Interpol in an attempt to investigate trafficking from Armenia. During the reporting period, Armenia waited for Turkey to respond to a repatriation request for an identified Armenian trafficking victim in the Turkish region of Antalia.

The Government of Armenia demonstrated modest progress to protect and assist victims of trafficking during the reporting period. The government allocated $55,000 to support an NGO-run trafficking shelter and $7,000 to fund medical care for trafficking victims. In November 2008, the government began implementing its national referral mechanism; however, the fact that all intermediate and long-term assistance provided by the government is conditioned upon victims' cooperation with law enforcement investigations is an issue of concern that should be revisited. The government identified 34 victims in 2008 and police referred 20 victims for assistance, an increase from 17 victims referred in 2007. Foreign-funded NGOs assisted 24 victims in 2008. Victims were encouraged to cooperate with law enforcement bodies; in 2008, all 34 victims assisted police with trafficking investigations. The government did not penalize victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The lack of appropriate victim witness protection continued to be an issue of concern; this may have hampered Armenia's prosecution efforts.

Armenia demonstrated improved efforts to raise awareness about trafficking during the reporting period. The government conducted an awareness campaign targeted at adolescents, helping to encourage discussion among peers about the dangers of trafficking. The government allocated $53,000 for trafficking prevention efforts, compared to $33,000 allocated in 2007. Border officials did not specifically monitor emigration and immigration patterns for evidence of trafficking, and the government made no discernable efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts.