GRETA Publishes Report on Human Trafficking in Armenia

Despite progressive revisions to Armenia’s anti-trafficking legislation, the country still has to properly investigate human trafficking cases and offer better support to victims, experts on human trafficking said last week.

Human Trafficking HandsArmenia is expected to provide better support to human trafficking victims. (Photo: Global Panorama, Flickr, License)In a report published last week, the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) urged the country to “improve access to legal aid and psychological assistance” for human trafficking victims and “to effectively investigate offences of human trafficking for all forms of exploitation and promote reintegration of victims.”

A total of 68 victims were identified between 2017-2021, two thirds of which were women and girls. While human trafficking can subject its victims to a multitude of inhumane treatments, the prevailing ones here were sexual and labour exploitation.

Female human trafficking victims in particular face severe discrimination from gender stereotypes and patriarchal cultural norms, the report notes. This consequently has an adverse effect on their ability “to gain access to justice on an equal basis with men.”

Survivors can also expect to face stigma, prejudice, and gender-based violence, thereby further isolating them from those whom they are in need of the most.

Regrettably, the report highlights that certain groups of women may have an even slimmer chance of receiving justice should they belong to an ethnic minority or live with a disability.

Those from lower-tiered socio-economic strata may also lack the knowledge of how to pursue legal aid—or even an awareness of their legal rights—due to a lack of education and access to information.

Naturally, financial resources also factor into to what extent one may be able to pay for legal representation, judicial taxes, and child care while in court.

Children were also highlighted as an at-risk group in GRETA's report. Part of how GRETA urged Armenian authorities to better protect children from trafficking included paying particular attention to children from rural areas at risk of child labour, using girls from the Yezidi community (an ethnoreligious minority) and children placed in child-care institutions as examples.

Another recommendation aimed at combatting human trafficking was to enact measures that will lower the population’s poverty rates, as it would provide the parents with more time and resources to attentively watch over their children.

One distinct obstacle Armenian authorities are faced with is their ability to identify human trafficking victims and pursue their captors. GRETA argues that, by and large, “authorities largely relied on trafficking victims to self-identify and failed to detect victims through pro-active investigations.”

As with women, however, all victims were noted to express a degree of distrust towards police and feelings of shame for being a victim in the first place, thereby choosing to remain silent.

This distrust towards the authorities’ ability to deliver them justice can be better understood in the criminal investigations against traffickers. Between 2017 and 2021, “a total of 69 criminal investigations were conducted into human trafficking cases but only 13 cases were brought to trial and just six persons were convicted for trafficking,” the report found.

GRETA concludes its report by recommending that Armenia establish a bureau dedicated to monitoring human trafficking activities, as well as urging the country’s authorities to guarantee legal assistance to victims as soon as they have been properly identified as such.