Human Trafficking in Lithuania

Minister’s Report

Lithuania’s minister of internal affairs Agnė Bilotaitė reported on the status of human trafficking in Lithuania and provided suggestions on risk reduction and more effective prevention. According to the minister, the efforts of government institutions and organizations must include protection for Ukrainian refugees, who are currently a group at risk.

Human trafficking is a complex problem, requiring a unified approach with close cooperation among responsible institutions. As a preventive measure, Lithuanian police officials interviewed 3,559 Ukrainian refugees, and have hired 13 Ukrainians who assist in trafficking prevention.

The minister proposed that by the end of this calendar year a model preventive program be established for municipalities to increase their involvement in local coordination of efforts. Lithuanian police and border services are urged to cooperate more extensively with non-governmental organizations.

Organizing preventive programs in Lithuanian communities in the UK, Spain, Norway and Ireland is assigned to the ministry of foreign affairs. The ministry of education, science and sports is responsible for the distribution of information on human trafficking, bullying, and the prevention of violence in schools.

The definition of human trafficking has not changed from earlier years – people being forced into criminal activities, enforced work, and sexual exploitation and solicitation. In 2021, seven new investigations into human trafficking were initiated – 44 percent fewer than in 2020, when 11 investigations were launched. Instances of human trafficking involving Lithuanians were discovered in Lithuania, Norway, the UK and Spain.

Surprisingly, contrary to trends in other EU nations, in Lithuania, men are more often victims of human trafficking than women. Victims are general aged 21 to 40, socially vulnerable, unemployed, minimally handicapped, homeless people living alone. Last year 26 persons were registered as victims of human trafficking, 10 women, 15 men, and one child. They were mostly recruited in person, and less often through advertisements or the internet. In 2021, 33 people and one corporation were charged. The tendency last year was to engage the victims in forced work (12 cases) or to appropriate their social benefits or lines of credit.

On May 11 of this year, the European Commission established a general plan to reduce the risk of human trafficking rising from the influx of refugees from Ukraine. The plan includes providing information to new arrivals, help lines, training for officials to recognize victims and inspections in high-risk areas.