Trafficking in Persons
There are no laws that specifically prohibit trafficking in persons, although traffickers may be prosecuted under articles prohibiting forced prostitution, forced labor, and forgery of travel documents; trafficking in persons remained a problem. There were unconfirmed reports that corruption by officials facilitated trafficking.
Under the Criminal Code, the act of forcing an individual into prostitution carries a 10- to 15-year jail term, which is a harsher sentence than in the previous code. The Criminal Code provides penalties for persons who enslave, rape, or coerce children into prostitution. The Criminal Code is not limited to citizens, but it has no extra-territorial effect. The October presidential election slowed the response of the presidential administration to begin modifying the Criminal Code to include anti-trafficking legislation in compliance with the Protocol.
During the year, there were 17 cases of “coercion into prostitution” and 3 cases of “coercion of minors into prostitution or immoral activities” referred to the courts. In 2002, four persons whom international organizations considered to be traffickers were prosecuted under forgery laws in the Criminal Code.
According to the IOM, the country was primarily a country of origin and a transit point for trafficked women, men, and children. In a 2002 report, the IOM documented approximately 32 cases of trafficking victims from the country. The IOM reported that Azeri, Russian, and Georgian women were most often trafficked from, or via, the country to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Turkey for work in the sex industry. There were also reports of internal trafficking from the rural regions to the capital of Baku. Primarily Iranians, Iraqis, Afghans, and migrants from south Asia were smuggled via the country to Europe–particularly Germany, Sweden, France, and the Netherlands–and possibly the United States, where they may have had their passports confiscated, been subjected to forced labor, and/or sought asylum. Traffickers generally targeted women; however, there also were cases in which men and children were victims of trafficking.
Traffickers identified by the IOM were either foreigners or ethnic Azerbaijanis who acted in loose international networks, probably without central coordination. Victims were approached directly and indirectly through friends and relatives. Traffickers also used newspaper advertisements offering false work abroad. According to the Society for the Defense of Women’s Rights, draft-age men seeking to escape military service in 2000 were invited by local traffickers to work in the hotel industry in Turkey, but ended up in male brothels; however, the IOM was not aware of such reports. Another NGO reported that families of young women had been approached by individuals claiming that visiting Iranian businessmen had seen their daughters and wished to marry them. Following parental permission for such marriages, the women were transported to Iran to work as prostitutes. According to the IOM, families sometimes willingly married their daughters to wealthy men in Iran and turned a blind eye to their outcomes.
There was no evidence of government complicity in the facilitation of the trafficking of persons; however, NGOs suspected that lower-level civil servants accepted bribes from traffickers in exchange for overlooking to their activities.
The MIA, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, the Ministry of National Security, and the Border Guards were responsible for antitrafficking efforts. There were no government antitrafficking campaigns. There was no mechanism to return trafficked women to Azerbaijan; according to the IOM, there were deportations of Azerbaijani and third country nationals back to the country for trafficking or prostitution, particularly by Turkey and UAE, but the Government had no program to assist trafficked victims who were returned to the country, pending implementation of the national plan of action.
Several NGOs and the State Committee for Women’s Issues dealt with the problems of trafficking in women and prostitution. The IOM provided training to domestic NGOs to operate emergency hotlines and secure accommodations for trafficking victims and conducted awareness campaigns; in 2002, it completed a study of trafficking in the country.