By Emil Danielyan
The United States has removed Armenia from the list of countries which could face U.S. sanctions for their alleged failure to prevent the forced transport of human beings from or through their territory.
An annual report by the U.S. State Department lists Armenia among 74 nations that are making “significant efforts” to comply with “minimum standards” for the elimination of human trafficking. Its name figured last year in the “Tier 3” group of states which the department believes are doing little to tackle the problem.
The 2003 report, released on Wednesday, says the Armenian authorities have acknowledged the need for urgent action and cracked down on some suspected traffickers over the past year.
“The Government of Armenia does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so,” the report says. “The government increased its focus on trafficking as a domestic and international issue, and focused more law enforcement resources on the problem.”
“Armenia is a country of origin for international trafficking of girls and women for the purposes of prostitution, to destination countries such as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Additional suspected destinations are Germany, Greece, the United States and various Western European countries.”
The State Department praised the authorities in Yerevan for responding to U.S. criticism and setting up a special government commission last October tasked with looking into the matter and suggesting appropriate measures. One of those resulted in the inclusion of a special clause against trafficking into Armenia’s new criminal code adopted by parliament last April.
The U.S. report further reveals that Armenian law-enforcement agencies have brought criminal charges against several individuals suspected of transporting women to the UAE for prostitution. “These four suspects reside in the UAE,” the report says. “The government is currently investigating several other suspected traffickers, three of whom trafficked women to the UAE.”
The report notes at the same time that government protection of Armenian victims of sex trafficking remains weak. “No shelters or other reintegration services exist for victims and many police still do not recognize trafficking victims as such,” it says. It adds that the Armenian Foreign Ministry took only “limited steps” to help several female victims return to Armenia from the UAE last year.
The latest U.S. blacklist includes 15 countries, including U.S. allies Greece and Turkey as well as neighboring Georgia and two other former Soviet republics.