[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

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

Turkey is a destination and, to a lesser extent, transit country for women and children predominately from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union trafficked primarily for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation and, to a lesser degree, for the purpose of forced labor. Source countries for identified trafficking victims in 2008 included: Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Romania, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Indonesia, and Morocco. According to Armenian NGOs and the Government of Armenia, the trafficking of Armenian women to Turkey for the purpose of sexual exploitation continued to be a problem, although the Government of Turkey did not identify any such victims in 2008. Four foreign child victims were documented over the last year. The number of Uzbek and Turkmen victims increased in 2008. Some victims are reportedly trafficked through Turkey to the area administered by Turkish Cypriots for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Although a much smaller problem, some internal trafficking involving Turkish citizens in both the legal and illegal prostitution sectors is believed to occur.

The Government of Turkey does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Law enforcement continued to successfully target and disrupt trafficking networks and the government improved its prosecution of trafficking offenders in 2008. The government’s anti-trafficking efforts were constrained, however, by inconsistent identification, referral, protection, and assistance to trafficking victims in Turkey.

Recommendations for Turkey: Ensure consistent and sustained assistance for trafficking victims, including adequate government funding of shelters in Ankara and Istanbul; expand shelter capacity for victims; consider including NGOs and international organizations more consistently in the identification and interviewing process; take steps to identify trafficking victims within vulnerable populations in Turkey; continue to vigorously prosecute trafficking offenses and convict public officials complicit in trafficking; and expand awareness efforts to educate the public about the demand for commercial sex acts and its links to trafficking.

The Government of Turkey sustained vigorous anti-trafficking law enforcement and prosecutorial efforts in 2008. Article 80 of the Penal Code prohibits trafficking for both sexual exploitation and forced labor, and prescribes penalties of from 8 to 12 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other grave crimes, such as sexual assault. The Government of Turkey prosecuted 69 cases involving 273 suspected traffickers in 2008, a significant increase from 160 suspected traffickers prosecuted in 2007. The government reported securing the convictions of 58 trafficking offenders in 2008. The government expanded its use of Article 80 in 2008, convicting 13 traffickers under the trafficking-specific article, a three-fold increase from 2007. The 13 convicted traffickers received sentences averaging eight years’ imprisonment. Other trafficking offenders were convicted using Article 227, an older anti-trafficking statute. Penalties imposed on traffickers convicted under Article 227 averaged three to four years’ imprisonment. Six traffickers convicted under other related articles received a sentence of two to four years’ imprisonment. The government continued to institutionalize and implement comprehensive law enforcement training in 2008. The government reported investigating 25 security officials for trafficking-related complicity in 2008. In January 2008, the government secured the conviction of a Court of Appeals Judge for aiding traffickers; he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, although the court subsequently reduced the sentence to probation and a prison term of one year and eight months. In June 2008, the government obtained the conviction of a judicial hall employee to one year and six months’ imprisonment and barred him from public service for one year for trafficking-related complicity. Turkish law, however, allows for the suspension of prison sentences of two years or less under certain conditions. The government continued an investigation of a prison warden who was arrested and jailed in February 2007 for facilitating trafficking activities. The government reported improvements in anti-trafficking cooperation with some governments during the reporting period. Lack of cooperation with other source countries, however, hampered the government’s ability to investigate and prosecute some traffickers.

The government’s overall protection efforts for victims of trafficking did not improve during the reporting period. Turkey failed to provide adequate direct funding for its two trafficking shelters and the overall number of trafficking victims identified dropped for a second consecutive year. In June 2008, Istanbul’s municipal government suspended the provision of free rent to Istanbul’s shelter, despite a signed protocol between the municipality and the shelter stipulating otherwise. Although the government continues to report that it is focused on finding a long-term financial solution to this problem, it has yet to commit adequate funding to either of its shelters in Ankara and Istanbul. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has pledged and begun disbursing approximately $20,000 per year to each shelter for three years beginning in 2009. Both shelters continue to require perennial outside donor funding. These two NGO-run shelters provided care to 83 trafficking victims, a decline from 109 in 2007. In 2008, the government identified a total of 118 trafficking victims, a decline from 148 in 2007; IOM facilitated the repatriation of 78 of these victims.

Due to inconsistent implementation of the government’s referral mechanism, some victims are not identified prior to being deported. Gaps in the referral process also resulted in some victims not receiving adequate care and assistance after providing information about their traffickers to law enforcement. While the government encouraged victims to participate in trafficking investigations and prosecutions, very few trafficking victims choose to testify in court cases against their traffickers, possibly because they feared retribution from their traffickers, but also because court proceedings are lengthy. The government also reported that many victims from neighboring source countries request to immediately return to their country of origin. During the reporting period, the government passed a general witness protection law, which may encourage more trafficking victims to testify against their traffickers. The government offers victims legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they would face retribution or hardship. Foreign victims may apply for humanitarian visas and remain in Turkey up to six months with the option to extend for an additional six months. Few such visas are issued, however; the government issued only two in 2008.

The government sustained its anti-trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period. The government’s interagency task force met more frequently in 2008 and assumed a stronger role in coordinating the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. In 2008, the government published its second annual report on combating human trafficking and, with EU and IOM support, planned and supported via state TV and other free advertising, a campaign aimed at raising awareness of the national anti-trafficking (“157”) hotline. However, it failed to adopt a new National Action Plan; the plan has awaited formal adoption for over a year. Although the government signaled in 2007 that it would take over funding and operation of the “157” hotline from IOM, it has yet to do so. The Turkish government provided anti-trafficking training to its military personnel prior to their deployment aboard for peacekeeping duties. The government did not report any measurable steps to reduce demand for commercial sex acts during the year.