Estonia, Belarus put on human trafficking watchlist

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The United States on Monday put Estonia and Belarus on a human trafficking watchlist, alleging they failed in the last year to step up efforts to fight prostitution and forced labor.

In its 2011 annual Global Trafficking in Persons Report, the State Department also maintained Russia on the list for the eighth consecutive year for the same alleged failures.

"Estonia is a source, transit, and destination country for women subjected to forced prostitution, and for men and women subjected to conditions of forced labor," the State Department said.

Not only are Estonian women from the countryside forced into prostitution in the capital Tallinn, they also end up in the sex trafficking trade in Finland, the Netherlands, Britain, Germany and Italy, it said.

Both men and women from Estonia are also "subjected to conditions of forced labor" in Spain, Sweden, Norway, and Finland, according to the 2011 Global Trafficking in Persons Report.

"The government of Estonia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so," the report said.

"Despite these efforts, the government did not demonstrate evidence of increasing efforts over the previous reporting period," it added, placing Estonia on the Tier 2 watchlist.

Belarus was put on the list for the same reason, with the report charging that the government in Minsk "demonstrated decreased law enforcement efforts" while the report was being conducted.

The report said women and children are sold into the sex trade in Russia, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates.

There were also continuing reports of women from poor families forced into prostitution in the capital Minsk.

"Belarussian men, women, and children are found in forced begging, as well as in forced labor in the construction industry and other sectors in Russia and Belarus," it said.

The State Department also reprimanded Russia once again.

Citing the Migration Research Center, it said around one million people in Russia are exploited by business leaders who withhold their documents, fail to pay for services, physically abuse them and deny them proper living conditions.

Abuses occurred in the construction, manufacturing, agriculture and domestic services industries, it added.

"There are reports of many men and women from North Korea subjected to conditions of forced labor in the logging industry in the Russian Far East," it said.

"There are also reports of exploitation of children, including child prostitution in large Russian cities and forced begging," it added.

"Russian women were reported to be victims of sex trafficking in many countries, including in Northeast Asia, Europe, and throughout the Middle East," it said.

It said that because it had a written plan, Russia was not dropped to the lowest Tier 3 group, countries which are deemed not to be making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards of fighting trafficking.

"Russia is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan," it said.

Tier 3 countries may "be subject to certain sanctions, whereby the US government may withhold or withdraw nonhumanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance," the State Department said.

© 2011 AFP

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