BAKU,

The OSCE Special Representative for Combating Human Trafficking, Eva Biaudet, commended Azerbaijan today for passing important anti-trafficking laws, and encouraged authorities to step up co-operation with non-governmental organizations to better identify victims.

“I was very pleased to hear that the Ministry of Interior soon will open four new regional shelters for trafficking victims,” said Biaudet on a visit to Baku. “However, more efficient victim identification will take place only through increased involvement of civil society institutions and by recognizing the crucial role NGOs play, especially in victim identification.” Special Representative Biaudet noted that unlike the situation in most OSCE countries, only a few victims in Azerbaijan are identified by NGOs.

“Experience from other OSCE countries show that victims of human trafficking often do not report to law enforcement authorities because of mistrust and fear of corruption. Therefore, States have to create National Referral Mechanisms enabling victims to come forward and receive assistance through other channels than reporting to the police,” she said.

During her visit, Biaudet met high-level officials and relevant authorities involved in combating human trafficking as well as representatives of NGOs and international organizations.

“My visit serves the purpose of continuing a political dialogue with Azerbaijani counterparts and intensifying the exchange of views on how to foster both international co-operation and national co-ordination between relevant anti-trafficking stakeholders,” said the Special Representative.

Biaudet also stressed the importance of raising awareness among the general population and of specific anti-trafficking training for law enforcement, labour inspectors and medical personnel likely to encounter victims.

“My general impression is that the Azerbaijani authorities are very committed to fighting human trafficking. I am, however, worried by reports of victims sometimes being treated as criminals and penalized and even being harassed and insulted by representatives of the judiciary. There seems to be a need for even more awareness-raising among judges and prosecutors,” she said.