Authorities reportedly forced military conscripts to perform work unrelated to military service. Belarusian parents who have had their parental rights removed are subjected to compulsory labor, and the government retains 70 percent of their wages. Inmates of Belarusian prisons—including political prisoners—cannot choose the work they perform, nor can they refuse to undertake work. Students who receive their education for free are assigned to an obligatory one- or two-year work placement, as chosen by a state body upon graduation; students cannot appeal their job placements.
A presidential decree issued in December coerces workers in state-owned wood processing factories and construction workers employed in modernization projects at those factories from leaving their jobs. The decree provides monthly bonuses to these employees that must be paid back if the employees resign, and failure to return this money could result in a court order obligating employees to work for the original employers under law enforcement supervision.
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Employees are permitted to appeal a refusal to leave the job with the government-appointed provincial governor, but not to a judge. Since the decree came into force, there have been reports of a very limited number of workers who attempted and were barred from quitting. Belarusian officials have noted managers can also use the decree to talk employees out of quitting. The government has explained the decree is temporary in nature and workers are free not to sign new contracts required under the decree.
Republic of Belarus
However, the government also noted it could not remove the decree because it is necessary during the period of implementation of investment projects in the woodworking industry. The Government of Belarus does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and was placed on Tier 2 Watch List from to The Trafficking Victims Protection Act TVPA provides that a country may remain on Tier 2 Watch List for only two consecutive years, unless that restriction is waived because the government has a written plan to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
In the and TIP Reports, Belarus was granted consecutive waivers from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 on the basis of the government having a written plan to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The TVPA authorizes a maximum of two consecutive waivers. A waiver is no longer available to Belarus, which is therefore deemed not to be making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards and is placed on Tier 3.
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However, government efforts were inadequate to repeal state-sponsored forced labor policies and address trafficking within Belarus. Other forms of state-sponsored forced labor continued. Authorities did not convict any traffickers under the trafficking statute in or The number of investigations progressively declined in each of the past nine years, from 95 in to one in Of significant concern, Belarusian officials have cited the lack of trafficking investigations and convictions as justification that trafficking has been permanently eliminated from Belarus.
The government decreased law enforcement efforts. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government reported one trafficking investigation in under Article , compared with six in The one investigation in was later determined to be a case related to promoting prostitution rather than trafficking.
Belarusian authorities did not convict any traffickers under Article in or The absence of convictions under Article reflected a continuing decrease in law enforcement efforts, as authorities convicted one trafficker in , seven in , and 12 in Three individuals were charged for potential trafficking offenses under other articles in the criminal code in , compared with two individuals in The government sustained inadequate victim protection efforts. The government did not identify any trafficking victims under Article in , compared with six in and 12 in During the reporting period, the government continued to be a leader in multilateral efforts to combat trafficking.
However, these efforts were not matched by the government's work to combat trafficking and assist victims within Belarus. The government retained a decree forbidding thousands of workers in the wood processing industry from leaving their jobs in state-owned factories without their employers' permission. Authorities did not convict any traffickers under the trafficking statute and conducted the fewest number of investigations in at least four years.
Despite officials' claim that the prevalence of trafficking has decreased, observers identified hundreds of trafficked Belarusian citizens in , far more than the 20 victims the government identified in the course of trafficking investigations.
While the government operated non-trafficking-specific emergency shelters, they were reportedly poorly equipped and lacked trained caregivers. At the close of the reporting period, the government had not implemented a January law permitting state funding for NGOs providing services to victims.liodumissreca.gq
Republic of Belarus
The government continued its efforts to prevent trafficking through awareness campaigns, penalizing fraudulent labor recruitment, and operating a safe migration hotline. The government continued to offer trafficking-specific training to Belarusian and foreign officials through the police academy's training center. The Government of Belarus demonstrated decreased law enforcement efforts, as the government failed to convict any traffickers under its trafficking statute and retained a decree issued in December forbidding workers in state-owned wood processing factories from resigning without their employers' permission.
The decree applied to thousands of employees; employees are permitted to appeal any worker's proposed resignation to the government-appointed provincial governor, but not to a judge. At least one instance of a worker being barred from quitting occurred during the reporting period. The government has explained that the decree was temporary in nature and workers were free not to sign new contracts required under the decree.
Belarusian law prohibits both sex and labor trafficking through Article of its criminal code, which prescribes penalties ranging from five to 15 years' imprisonment in addition to the forfeiture of offenders' assets. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and are commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, the government was in the process of modifying the law's definition of trafficking, so that cases do not require the buying and selling of a person to be considered trafficking cases.
The government reported six trafficking investigations in under Article , compared to eight in , nine in , and 39 in All of the cases were related to sexual exploitation, not to labor trafficking. The government did not report whether elements of trafficking were present in investigations under non-trafficking statutes that criminalize pimping, engaging in prostitution, and profiting from servitude; in , the government reported eight trafficking investigations under these non-trafficking statutes.
Belarusian authorities did not convict any traffickers under Article in , despite identifying six trafficked victims in the course of investigations.
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The absence of convictions under Article reflects a continuing decrease in law enforcement efforts, as authorities convicted one trafficker in , seven in , and 12 in Observers noted that judges often required evidence of money transfers or the buying and selling of a person to prove human trafficking under Article , which may be one reason it was infrequently used.
Authorities reported two convictions under Article The police academy's international anti-trafficking training center, in partnership with civil society organizations, provided trafficking-specific training to Belarusian law enforcement officials. Law enforcement officials collaborated on transnational investigations with counterparts from France, Poland, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. The Government of Belarus did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.
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The government did not demonstrate improved protection efforts, as it did not provide adequate resources for public or private shelters. The government did not identify any labor trafficking victims in , though NGOs reported identifying hundreds of such victims. Belarusian authorities identified six victims of sex trafficking under Article , compared with 12 in , 14 in , and 64 in In addition, authorities identified 14 child victims of sex trafficking under other statutes. Experts observed that the number of trafficking victims identified by the government was far from commensurate with the number of Belarusian victims identified by NGOs and other sources outside of the country, particularly with regard to reports of increased labor trafficking of Belarusians in Russia.
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NGOs reported identifying and assisting trafficking victims in , more than the assisted in and assisted in The government reported that law enforcement officials had referred 36 of the victims cared for by NGOs. The government continued to lack a formal national victim identification and referral mechanism, though it established a taskforce for this purpose during the reporting period and continued to provide law enforcement officers with written procedures to identify trafficking victims.
The lack of a formal mechanism may have led to some sex trafficking victims being punished for acts directly resulting from their being trafficked.