Current Issues

Turkey ranks as a Tier 2 country for trafficking in persons according to the U.S. State Department, which means that it is among “countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards” (U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010, 2010). It is identified as both a destination and transit country for victims, the majority of whom come from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and who are most frequently are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation:


Typically, small networks of foreign nationals and citizens, relying on referrals and recruitment from friends and family members in the source country, trafficked foreign victims to the country. According to local experts and researchers, most victims arrived in the country knowing they would work in the sex industry but were subsequently threatened physically or emotionally and trapped. In fewer cases others were known to have arrived in the country to work as domestic servants and were exploited in that industry or trafficked into the commercial sex industry. In some cases traffickers reportedly continued to use physical force and threats to family members to force women into prostitution.


Government Response

The US State Department has lauded Turkey’s sustained and comprehensive efforts to combat trafficking. These include the following actions taken by the Turkish government:

·         Participation in international antitrafficking investigations

·         Meetings with neighboring countries and regional groups promoting cooperation in enforcing antitrafficking laws

·         Signing of bilateral agreements with countries where trafficking victims originate from, including Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Kyrgyzstan

·         Provision of free legal services to foreign victims who choose to remain in Turkey and testify against traffickers

·         Launch of a new international antitrafficking campaign with Russia and Moldova to promote public awareness through TV and radio ads

·         Provision of training courses to law enforcement officers, judges, and prosecutors

·         Insertion of anti-trafficking literature in passports reviewed by consular and border officials (U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 2009 Human Rights Report: Turkey, 11 March 2010).


However, both the CEDAW Committee and the State Department have stated that inadequate resources are an obstacle in Turkey’s efforts to prevent and combat trafficking. Though it welcomed the government’s adoption of the Second National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking, the CEDAW Committee expressed concern over “insufficient human and financial resources for its implementation, as well as the needed indicators to monitor its achievements.” It went on to note its concern that training and awareness-raising activities, along with the direct provision of services to trafficking victims, are carried out primarily by NGOs that require external funding (U.N. CEDAW Committee, Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW/C/TUR/CO/6, 30 July 2010). The State Department, although remarking that in 2009 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had provided approximately $20,000 to shelters for trafficking victims in Istanbul and Ankara, shares the CEDAW Committee’s concerns about resources, noting that both shelters depend on donor funding to remain in operation (U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010, 2010).  


In 2009, a third shelter for trafficking victims was established in Turkey in the city of Antalya through a joint agreement of the Turkish police, a local NGO, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Turkey’s toll-free hotline for trafficking is also run by the IOM; the government indicated in 2007 that it would take over the funding and operation of the hotline, but has yet to do so (U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010, 2010).


The European Union observed in its most recent progress report on Turkey that “no significant progress has been noted in the area of combating trafficking in human beings.” It also remarked that “the support mechanism envisaged to assist the national task force on the fight against human trafficking in its coordination tasks has not been established as of yet.” The report went on to call for improved management of the victims’ hotline and further work to bring Turkey’s legislation into line with the Council of Europe’s convention on trafficking (European Commission, Turkey 2010 Progress Report, 9 November 2010).