General information: situation on trafficking in human beings
In international assessments, Estonia is considered a source, transit and destination country for trafficking in human beings. Organised crime, including trafficking in human beings is a priority in combating crime-it is included both in the criminal policy development plan 2030 adopted by the parliament in 2020, and the violence prevention agreement adopted by the government in 2021.
For Estonia, the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings entered into force on 1 June 2015. The first evaluation visit of the evaluation round by GRETA took place in May 2017.
During the last 10 years, the number of crimes of trafficking in human beings have been quite stable, but there are some minor changes in statistics on a yearly basis.
Crimes of and related to trafficking in human beings are the following:
- Penal Code section 133: Trafficking in human beings (inimkaubandus)
- Penal Code section 133 subsection 1: Support to human trafficking (inimkaubanduse toetamine)
- Penal Code section 133 subsection 2: Pimping (kupeldamine)
- Penal Code section 133 subsection 3: Aiding prostitution (prostitutsioonile kaasaaitamine)
- Penal Code section 175: Human trafficking in order to take advantage of minors (inimkaubandus alaealiste ärakasutamise eesmärgil)
Institutional, legal and policy framework to address trafficking in human beings
Under Estonian law, trafficking in human beings is defined in section 133 of the Penal Code as follows:
Section 133: Trafficking in human beings
(1) Placing a person, for the purpose of gaining economic benefits or without it, in a situation where he or she is forced to marry, work under unusual conditions, engage in prostitution, beg, commit a criminal offence or perform other disagreeable duties, and keeping a person in such a situation, if such act is performed through deprivation of liberty, violence, deceit, threatening to cause damage, by taking advantage of dependence of another person, helpless or vulnerable situation of the person, is punishable by one to seven years’ imprisonment.
(2) The same act if:
1) committed against two or more persons;
2) committed against a person of less than eighteen years of age;
3) committed against a person in a helpless situation;
4) committed in a torturous or cruel manner;
5) serious health damage is caused thereby;
6) danger to life is caused thereby;
7) committed by a group;
8) committed by taking advantage of official position,
9) serious consequences are caused thereby;
10) committed by a person who has previously committed a criminal offence provided for in this section or in sections 1331, 1332, 1333 or 175; is punishable by three to fifteen years of imprisonment.
(3) An act provided in subsection (1) or (2) of this section, if committed by a legal person, is punishable by a pecuniary punishment.
(3¹) In the case of any criminal offence provided in this section, if committed by a person who has previously been punished for a crime provided in this section or sections 1331, 1332, 1333 or 175 of this Code, the sentence imposed shall not be suspended in full.
(4) For the criminal offence provided for in this section, the court may impose extended confiscation of assets or property acquired by the criminal offence pursuant to the provisions of section 832 of this Code.
(5) For the purposes of this section, vulnerable situation is a situation where a person lacks an actual or acceptable opportunity not to commit any of the acts specified in subsection (1) of this section.
Protection of victims and access to victim’s rights
Victim support is organised on the state level by the Social Insurance Board and regulated in the Victim Support Act. Definition of a victim of trafficking in human beings (both presumed and identified) is stated in the Victim Support Act as follows:
(11) For the purposes of this Act, a victim of trafficking in human beings is a person in the case of whom criminal proceedings have been initiated with regard to the criminal offence committed against him or her based on the elements of criminal offence provided for in sections 133 to 1333, 138 to 140 or 175 of the Penal Code or based on the elements of criminal offence provided in any other similar foreign penal code.
(12) For the purposes of this Act, an alleged/presumed victim of trafficking in human beings is a person:
1) who has been preliminarily identified in Estonia by an organisation engaged in helping of victims of trafficking in human beings and filed information with the Estonian National Social Insurance Board about a suspicion that the person may be a victim of trafficking in human beings; or
2) in respect of whom a competent foreign authority has submitted information to the Estonian National Social Insurance Board about falling victim of trafficking in human beings in that state.
Assistance from the Social Insurance Board (SIB)
Services for helping victims of trafficking in human beings are coordinated through the Social Insurance Board (SIB). SIB is a state authority organising support for families, children, and also special services for victims of trafficking in human beings, sexually abused children, and for victims of domestic violence.
- shelter services
- services for persons engaged into prostitution organised by the NGO Lifeline (Eluliin)
- a help hotline
Support services for victims of THB are regulated in the Victim Support Act.
Prosecution of traffickers and perpetrators
There are no special anti-trafficking units in place to investigating agencies, but in the police and prosecutor’s offices there are specialists whose main responsibilities are to deal with trafficking in human beings cases. For example, it has been agreed, that in the Northern Prosecutor Office there is one specialized prosecutor working on trafficking in human beings cases.
Investigators who investigate trafficking in human beings cases also work with other organised crime cases on the regional level of police and prosecutors offices, and also on the central level. In Estonia, there are four regional (North, South, East and West) Police and Border Guard Boards, the same number of Prosecution Offices and, in addition to these offices, one central body on state level.
Most of anti-trafficking actions, including prevention and trainings, are organised by governmental bodies and partners. They are described in the Violence Prevention Agreement for the years 2021-2025, where chapter 7 is devoted to trafficking in human beings.
A number of awareness raising activities in recent years were done within international projects.
A project with the Swedish Government and Institute, together with the Council of Baltic Sea States, called HOF-BSR.
This is a transnational project. It aims to develop the Baltic Sea Region as a model region in identification and provision of comprehensive and sustainable assistance to victims of human trafficking, while focusing on maximising the effectiveness and unifying practical cooperation among experts involved in the fight against human trafficking. This is done by developing a Transnational Referral Mechanism in the Baltic Sea Region, also addressing the gender dimension of human trafficking and victim-blaming stereotypical attitudes by providing mass media with knowledge and tools needed to report on human trafficking cases.
Estonia produced media guidelines and also a glossary of trafficking in human beings terminology through this project. Two seminars were organised for journalists to introduce both items from the projects.
Project FLOW, funded by EU’s Internal Security Fund, promotes a holistic approach to preventing and investigating trafficking in human beings, also in connection with economic crime and engages businesses in the prevention process.
Several seminars were held with stakeholders engaged into the work against labour exploitation, including enterprises from the construction sector. Also, guidance was communicated to enterprises and law enforcement agencies. For example, in May 2018 a seminar was organised for construction, fast food and cleaning companies, and a plan was discussed how businesses can act responsibly and create circumstances which prevent labour exploitation.
Collaboration project with EUCPN and EMPACT
Estonia participated in the European Crime Prevention Network and EMPACT campaign related to the EU Policy Cycle and dedicated to support assistance of victims in contact with law enforcement agencies.
The campaign in Estonia was carried out by the Social Insurance Board and in regional offices for the support of victims. During the project campaign materials and videos were produced. In addition, Estonia began with e-learning courses. Also, in 2020, the Social Insurance Board devoted two podcast recordings on the topic of trafficking in human beings in Estonian and in Russian.
E-learning videos for school children
As a response to the situation triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, special e-learning courses about sexual exploitation and also trafficking have been implemented by specialists for school children in Estonia:
- Kelle nägu on seksuaalvägivald Eestis? Kai Part (23 min)
- Kuidas ära tunda kohtinguvägivalda? Tiivi Pihla (22 min)
- Millised on minu võimalused vältida seksuaalset väärkohtlemist? Anna Frank-Viron (22 min)
- Millised on minu võimalused vältida ebameeldivaid seksuaalkogemusi? Kai Hallik (23 min)
- Как я могу избежать неприятного сексуального опыта?, Lilia Tkatš (25 min)
- Sexual violence crisis centre video: kriisiabikeskusi tutvustavat videot.
- Miks puudutab inimkaubandus mind? Sirle Blumberg (20min), in Russian
- Miks puudutab inimkaubandus mind? Sirle Blumberg (20min), in Estonian
The migration advice project
In 2017, the Police and Border Guard Board began with the migration advice project. Through this project foreigners can seek advice and help about possible cases of trafficking in human beings.
Migration advisers provide the service in three languages: Estonian, Russian and English. It is possible to get advice via e-mail, phone, Skype and face-to-face meetings. Migration advisers consult foreigners, employers and all who seek information about legal rules on the stay and work in Estonia. Advisers also provide information about different support systems and contacts, if people need assistance. On average, a migration adviser has 1500 consultation cases each month.
National action plan
Since 2006, Estonia has a national policy and a strategic development plan for combating trafficking in human beings which is developed by the Estonian government. The latest agreement on government level was reached in July 2021. The Violence Prevention Agreement for the years 2021-2025 devotes a special chapter for trafficking in human beings. The action plan is still in implementation.
In recent years there are some items of research which correlate to trafficking in human beings matters and give a wider understanding of sexual and labour exploitation issues. Below is an overview of these reports and studies:
- In 2017, the National Health Institute carried out a research about health of women engaged into prostitution.
- In 2020, a research about children and youth sexual exploitation was released.
- Estonian experts regularly cooperate with the European Institute for Crime Prevention and control – HEUNI. HEUNI issues reports on different topics related to trafficking in human beings.
- In 2014 and in 2016, the research company TNS EMOR studied the population’s awareness of trafficking. The first report and second reports offers a more detailed look at labour exploitation.
- TNS EMOR also studied the awareness of trafficking in human beings among youngsters, minors from the 10th, 11th and to 12th grade.
Relevant links to national authorities, institutions websites and other relevant contacts
The Human trafficking prevention and victims assistance counselling line, telephone number +3726607320, is state financed and organised. The graph below shows statistics of the number of received calls from 2009 to 2020.
National rapporteur or equivalent mechanism
The Criminal Policy Department at the Ministry of Justice holds the post of the National Coordinator for Trafficking in Human Beings in Estonia. There is one adviser in the Analysis Division who devotes half of his work time to this job.
The National Coordinator is Estonia’s equivalent mechanism to the National Rapporteur. It:
- coordinates the implementation of anti-trafficking policies
- organises meetings with stakeholders
- analyses crime statistics
- collects data
- reports to agencies requesting information about the situation of trafficking in human beings
Work on the National Strategy and Action Plan
The National Coordinator is responsible for setting the agenda for the meetings of the National Coordination network, which monitors the implementation of the National Strategy and its Action Plan (NAP). The National Coordinator gathers information on the status of implementation of the measures foreseen by NAP and collects input and suggestions from different stakeholders for the yearly report on NAP implementation for the government.
The National Coordinator also organizes different prevention activities, also is engaged in the trainings organized by other authorities, including other ministries. Training activities are done either on the local, regional or state level.
National Coordinator represents Estonia in the European Commission’s work group of national co-ordinators and independent rapporteurs and in the Task Force against Trafficking in Human Beings under the Council of the Baltic Sea States. It is also the contact point for the Council of Europe and coordinates other internal or international cooperation in the field of trafficking in human beings, when the need arises.