BELARUS (Tier 3)
The Government of Belarus does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Belarus remained on Tier 3. The government decreased trafficking-related investigations and prosecutions and identified and referred to services fewer trafficking victims. The government did not report if it investigated, prosecuted, or convicted any traffickers under its trafficking statute and did not provide adequate protection services to trafficking victims. Media and NGO reports indicated authorities continued to heighten migrants’ trafficking vulnerabilities, including by facilitating the entry into Belarus and onward travel of many third-country migrants and asylum seekers who arrived in the country as part of the state-sponsored migration crisis, returning some of these migrants to their countries of origin without screening for trafficking; the government also did not report screening of Ukrainian refugees. Moreover, as part of its broader repression of civil society and independent, pro-democracy activism, the government widely limited the activities of civil society organizations, including organizations providing support to trafficking victims, and did not provide funding or in-kind assistance to NGOs. The government did not report conducting awareness raising activities, and its efforts to prevent labor trafficking remained inadequate. For the sixth consecutive year, the government did not report investigating or filing charges related to illegal recruitment of migrant workers.
- Increase resources devoted to trafficking victim assistance and protection within Belarus in such a manner that improves effectiveness, including for state-owned territorial centers for social services and for NGOs.
- Vigorously investigate and prosecute cases of forced labor and sex trafficking under Articles 181 and 181-1.
- Increase number of labor inspectors to identify internal forced labor and investigate illegal recruitment practices.
- Continue to proactively screen all vulnerable groups, including migrants and refugees, People’s Republic of China (PRC) nationals, and individuals in commercial sex, for indicators of trafficking.
- Raise awareness about the voluntary nature of subbotniks and increase training to government officials at both the national and regional level to ensure coercive measures are not used to elicit participation.
- Continue to expand trainings for all relevant officials on the national identification and referral mechanism (NRM) and allocate sufficient resources for its full implementation.
- Increase funding for services that provide child sex trafficking victims with services specialized to their needs, continue to refer all identified victims to care facilities, and ensure criminal justice actors use a trauma-informed approach in child trafficking cases.
- Increase victims’ access to free legal aid and ensure defense attorneys receive training on trafficking and a trauma-informed approach.
- Train judges on restitution in criminal cases, establish procedures to seize assets from traffickers, and create effective methods to allocate restitution to ensure victims receive restitution in a timely manner.
- Amend or repeal the penal provisions in sections 193(1), 339, 342, 367, 368, and 369(2) of the criminal code to clarify that no penalties involving compulsory labor may be imposed for the peaceful expression of political views and ensure that children are not subjected to compulsory labor as punishment.
You can find the entire report here: https://www.state.gov/reports/2023-trafficking-in-persons-report/