Cablegate: Turkey/Tip: Strong Commitment, Uneven

Published: Wed 31 Dec 2008 02:05 PM
DE RUEHAK #2194/01 3661405
P 311405Z DEC 08
E.O. 12958: N/A
B. ANKARA 1956
1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified. Not for internet
2. (SBU) SUMMARY: GOT, NGO, and IOM experts discussed with
visiting G/TIP Foreign Affairs Officer Jennifer Donnelly
December 15-17 the considerable progress Turkey has made in
the fight against trafficking in persons (TIP) since the
issue first appeared on the GOT agenda in 2002:
-- A national action plan was adopted;
-- Forced prostitution and TIP were criminalized specifically
with penalties of eight to twelve years;
-- An interagency taskforce was convened;
-- A victim referral mechanism was developed in partnership
with IOM and NGOs;
-- Two dedicated TIP shelters and a helpline were established;
-- International cooperation was strengthened;
-- Extensive and ongoing training for law enforcement and
judicial personnel have been provided.
Yet recent progress has been uneven and GOT efforts are
characterized by key NGO/IGO contacts as stalled or even
backsliding: a second national action plan remains unsigned;
the shelters face a continued struggle to secure long-term,
dedicated funding; and the overall number of victims
identified and assisted has dropped for a second year in a
row. The GOT has taken measures to reduce demand for
commercial sex acts by closing some legal brothels, but the
impact on Turkish women in prostitution may be negative, as
more prostitutes are forced to work on the street, subject to
abuse, including from local police. More positively, GOT
officials provided data reporting an increased number of
police officials prosecuted for participating in TIP,
underscoring the GOT's zero tolerance for official
involvement in TIP. The GOT has also implemented a second
EU-funded nationwide public awareness campaign and continued
to strengthen international anti-TIP cooperation. END
3. (SBU) G/TIP Foreign Affairs Officer Jennifer Donnelly
visited Istanbul (December 15-16) and Ankara (December 16-17)
for meetings with senior Turkish National Police (TNP),
Jandarma, MFA and Ministry of Justice (MOJ) officials, the
IOM Turkey Chief of Mission, and the International Blue
Crescent Secretary General. Donnelly met with the
presidents, administrators and staff of the two NGOs
operating Turkey's two dedicated TIP shelters, in Ankara and
Istanbul, and visited the Istanbul shelter, where she had the
opportunity to meet with two assisted victims. Donnelly also
discussed prostitution in Turkey with current and former sex
workers and activists seeking to advance the rights and
protections of Turkish sex workers.
4. (SBU) MFA Acting Depart Head for Asylum and Illegal
Migration Nilufer Kaygisiz gave an overview of GOT efforts to
combat TIP. MFA leads the interagency TIP taskforce, which
has grown to include dozens of agencies, municipalities and
NGO participants. The taskforce now meets bi-monthly. GOT
agencies have approved a second National Action Plan (NAP),
which is presently awaiting the Interior Minister's signature
before it can be forwarded to the PM. According to Kaygisiz,
the delay (nearly one year) is a function of competing
demands on the minister; there is no political-level
objection to the NAP's content. Kaygisiz emphasized that
implementation of the second NAP, with the support of the
EU's two-year, three million Euro anti-TIP project, has
already begun. She outlined its six sectoral plans:
-- Policy and Strategy;
-- Awareness Raising;
-- Expanded Victim Support and Assistance;
-- Legal and Administrative Revisions;
-- Institutional Cooperation;
-- Technical, Equipment and Quality Control.
5. (SBU) A new public awareness campaign was launched in June
(ref A), with a welcome focus on trafficking for labor
exploitation. Donnelly noted a poster in the Istanbul
airport with the "157" help-line number advertised
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prominently. The GOT also adopted in 2008 a witness
protection law. While not TIP-specific, the measure,
guaranteeing the confidentiality and security of witnesses,
should improve the rate of victim cooperation in TIP
prosecutions. The GOT has also commissioned a report on
demand for trafficking victims in Turkey. The taskforce is
expecting the report imminently; it should enhance, in
particular, understanding of domestic trafficking in Turkey
and how labor exploitation contributes to TIP. (NOTE: To
date, the GOT's efforts to combat TIP have focused on
international trafficking for sexual exploitation. END
NOTE.) In addition, the taskforce has also commissioned an
outside report, expected January 2009, on how to improve
institutional cooperation within Turkey in the fight against
TIP. The report will advise how the taskforce can improve
efficiency, how law enforcement agencies and units can
improve communication, and how NGO cooperation can be
strengthened further. (NOTE: Donnelly was scheduled to meet
with Middle East Technical University Professor Dr. Ayse
Ayata, who prepared the demand report, and is, we believe,
also leading the institutional assessment. Ayata canceled
due to illness; post TIP officer will follow-up and report
septel. END NOTE.)
6. (SBU) Kaygisiz, like her GOT counterparts, lamented that
the GOT has not reached a long-term, sustainable solution on
funding for the two NGO-run anti-trafficking shelters. As
reported in ref B, the EU funds supporting the shelters
presently will expire in May for the Ankara shelter and
September for the Istanbul shelter. Donnelly's GOT
interlocutors understood that the uncertainty facing the
shelters is an obstacle to Turkey's meeting the minimum
requirements for the elimination of TIP and reaching Tier 1.
To underscore its commitment to reaching a solution, MFA has
pledged $20,000 per shelter per year for three years, but
that is barely ten percent of the shelters' annual budgets.
Donnelly's GOT contacts said they are working hard to lobby
political contacts to make sure a solution is reached as soon
as possible. TNP Foreigners' Department Chief Mehmet
Terzioglu was largely alone, however, in expressing
confidence that a solution would be reached soon.
7. (SBU) Human Resource Development Foundation (HRDF)
President Turgut Tokus and Executive Director Berna Eren,
whose NGO runs the Istanbul shelter, told Donnelly that the
GOT's failure to provide consistent funding for the shelters
is the main problem in the effort against TIP. "We are going
in reverse on this issue and the government needs a warning,"
Tokus said. "There is no interest from the political side."
Following an audit of city finances, the Istanbul governor
informed the municipality that its provision of free rent to
the TIP shelter is unauthorized, despite the signing in 2003
of a protocol between HRDF and the city (witnessed by then-FM
Gul and former Secretary Powell). Eren explained that HRDF
learned in June of new legislation prohibiting the
municipality from funding NGOs of any stripe. HRDF has
maintained that the protocol is legally binding, but the
governor has retorted that the municipal council never
approved it. While the municipality is obliged legally to
provide shelter and care to people in need, the governor has
said each victim would have to apply individually for
assistance. (NOTE: The current Istanbul governor is
reportedly being reassigned as Turkey's Ambassador to the
"Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus." His successor may
take a more magnanimous view toward the protocol. In a
meeting with the Ambassador December 30, State Minister for
Women's and Children's Affairs Nimet Cubukcu promised to
raise the issue with the governor. END NOTE.)
8. (SBU) Tokus emphasized that money is not the problem.
While Turkey has a challenging budget environment, the
Istanbul shelter's rental costs, which HRDF has been assuming
since June, are a mere $35,000 out of an annual shelter
budget of only $180,000. The GOT's mentality is the problem,
Tokus maintained. Asked why this mentality has persisted
after five years of good progress on TIP, Tokus posited that
the bureaucrats might believe the problem is solved. The
numbers of victims assisted at the Istanbul shelter are down
substantially over the past two years. Indeed, Donnelly
visited the Istanbul shelter where, in addition to a
Russian-speaking caretaker, two trafficking victims were
resident: one minor trafficked from Uzbekistan for sexual
exploitation and an Indonesian woman trafficked through Dubai
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for domestic servitude. Including its current residents,
only six minors have stayed at the shelter in the last three
years. According to Eren, GOT victim identification
shortcomings have reduced the number of victims referred to
the shelters (see paragraph 17).
9. (SBU) According to Gulsen Ulker Al, President of the
Foundation for Women's Solidarity (FWS), which runs the
Ankara shelter, and her team of administrators, the Ankara
shelter faces similar problems. While the Ankara
municipality provides the building free of charge and pays
for gas (the city had paid for water too, but FWS has had to
assume that charge recently, with no explanation), and the
Ministry of Health free medical care, FWS does not know from
where it will receive its operating funds after May 2009. It
too fears that it will be more difficult to secure funding
when the shelter is operating way below capacity, caring for
only one guest presently when it is equipped to care for
twelve at a time. The numbers of victims assisted by FWS
this year will be barely one third the number in 2006, but
the operating expenses -- mostly staff costs -- are largely
fixed. Asked why the number of victims assisted is down, FWS
staff surmised that changes in the traffickers' methodologies
-- such as paying trafficking victims small amounts of money
-- have resulted in fewer identifications. Terzioglu
suggested effective law enforcement has also deterred
traffickers, resulting in fewer victims trafficked; Istanbul
prosecutor Faruk Kurtoglu opined that enhanced media focus on
TIP has helped reduce the number of women victimized.
10. (SBU) The GOT is emphasizing its commitment to ensuring
victim protection by working to establish a new trafficking
shelter in Antalya, a trafficking hotspot. Terzioglu told
Donnelly that the shelter should be open before local
elections in March 2009. The Antalya mayor, he said, is
expected to win re-election, but he does not wish to leave it
to chance. Tokus told us that he traveled recently to
Antalya with Terzioglu, whom he praised as hard-working and
sincere, to lobby the mayor and that he has offered to train
an Antalya-based NGO to operate the new shelter. While the
utility of a new shelter is questionable given the existing
shelters' spare capacity, an Antalya-based shelter should
reduce the amount of time before a victim rescued in southern
Turkey can be screened and transferred out of a detention
facility and into a shelter.
--------------------------------------------- --
11. (SBU) Kaygisiz and Terzioglu, along with IOM Chief of
Mission Maurizio Busatti and Senior Researcher Meltem Ersoy,
confirmed that measures are in place to transfer the
operation of the "157" helpline from IOM to TNP. As reported
in ref B, with the EU guaranteeing funding through the end of
2009, it is unlikely TNP will take the helpline over earlier.
The Ministry of Finance has already guaranteed funding for
the helpline and Terzioglu sought to assure Donnelly that
there will be money in his budget in 2010; he has already
begun interviewing staff. IOM is working with TNP to assure
that the handover does not result in service gaps or weaken
the helpline's effectiveness.
12. (SBU) Another issue high on the taskforce's agenda is
signing the Council Of Europe anti-TIP convention. Kaygisiz
predicted that Turkey will sign the convention "very soon."
The GOT wants to make sure Turkey is prepared to ratify and
implement the convention's provisions upon signing. (NOTE:
While Turkey supports the convention's compensation mechanism
in principle, it has had some concerns about it being abused
by source countries. Nevertheless, GOT officials have told
us the convention could provide a means through which source
countries and Turkey reconcile their respective definitions
of who is a victim; Turkey maintains that its law tracks the
Palermo Convention definition closely (see ref B). END NOTE.)
13. (SBU) GOT contacts reported continued efforts to
strengthen international cooperation with source countries.
Turkey has signed bilateral protocols with Georgia, Moldova,
Ukraine, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan. Kaygisiz said improving
these protocols is a key element of the second NAP, though
she emphasized that bilateral cooperation is already strong.
The GOT regularly exchanges expert delegations with
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neighboring countries, such as Georgia and Moldova; a
Moldovan consular delegation visited three weeks ago and TIP
was on the agenda. Istanbul Foreigners' Police Unit Head
Ilhami Huner, however, said cooperation with Moldovan and
Belarussian authorities is not as strong as with Ukraine, and
contended that Russia appeared to care little about the
14. (SBU) A growing trend toward victims originating from the
Turkic Republics of Central Asia and Azerbaijan has prompted
the GOT to plan to propose new protocols with, in particular,
Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. (Terzioglu opined
that this trend may be the result of Turkey having recently
waived the tourist visa requirements for Azerbaijani and
Central Asian nationals.) During a meeting with sex workers
and advocates, one sex worker told Donnelly that she had
witnessed Iraqi refugees beginning to be trafficked to Turkey
for sexual exploitation, but GOT contacts did not confirm
this. The sex workers also observed a growing number of
Azerbaijani and Armenian women in prostitution. Istanbul
contacts maintained that Azerbaijanis are not usually
trafficked, but rather arrive and operate independently, as
they know the language. Eren told Donnelly that, while her
NGO contacts in Armenia maintain a high number of Armenian
women trafficked to Turkey, HRDF has only seen five Armenian
victims in the last three years. She considered the number
of Armenians to be comparatively small.
15. (SBU) The GOT has also remained engaged multilaterally,
elevating TIP awareness through its past chairmanship of the
Budapest Process working group on TIP and of the Black Sea
Economic Cooperation (BSEC) Organization. MFA and MOJ
contacts informed Donnelly that Turkey, with IOM support,
hosted an international legal assistance cooperation
conference with source country representatives in November in
Istanbul (meeting report e-mailed to G/TIP), while the Prime
Ministry Women's Directorate just hosted a regional NGO TIP
conference in Ankara.
--------------------------------------------- --
16. (SBU) Law enforcement contacts stressed to Donnelly their
commitment to the fight against trafficking. Jandarma
Organized Crime and Smuggling Department Commander Ferhat
Konya described the challenges his agency, which has
responsibility for 92 percent of Turkish territory, including
the land border with Iraq and part of Iran, faces in the
fight against TIP. He stressed his agency's continuing
efforts to raise awareness of TIP and the expanded training
of Jandarma personnel throughout the agency's 14 regional
commands. He lauded the success Jandarma has had
apprehending traffickers and praised cooperation with TNP,
IOM and the NGOs. In the first half of 2008, Jandarma
disrupted 21 trafficking incidents (eight tied to organized
crime), apprehended 117 traffickers, and saved 77 trafficking
victims. Konya described in detail the Jandarma's rescue in
October 2008 of 26 victims from Turkmenistan, Georgia,
Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, trafficked by an
illegal employment agency to Ankara (where they were held in
safe houses in the immediate neighborhood of the U.S.
Embassy) for domestic servitude. Konya shared with Donnelly
surveillance photographs and other materials from the file
that illustrated the complexity of and role of technology in
a successful anti-trafficking operation. (NOTE: Donnelly did
not have an opportunity to discuss in detail the status of
these particular victims with the TNP Foreigners' Police,
which would have had responsibility for them once they were
rescued and transferred by Jandarma; it is unclear why the
victims do not appear to have been transferred ultimately to
the shelters. Post TIP officer will follow-up. END NOTE.)
17. (SBU) Terzioglu discussed elements of Turkey's referral
mechanism with Donnelly. The TNP Foreigners' Department, he
noted, is authorized to determine who is a victim. Jandarma
transfers foreigners to the TNP per a long-standing MOU.
While one agency (or department within TNP) might identify a
certain number of victims in an operation, the TNP
Foreigners' Department could identify another, perhaps lower
number. TNP works in partnership with IOM and NGOs on victim
identification and referral, and with IOM on repatriation of
victims (where there is a bilateral protocol), but
cooperation with NGOs and IOM on victim identification is
inconsistent, according to NGO and IOM interlocutors. HRDF
staff said significant gaps remain in the referral mechanism;
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they were sure some victims are not being identified and thus
deported. Indeed, Busatti noted that IOM data on victims in
source countries, e.g., Ukraine and Moldova, does not match
Turkish figures. Moreover, non-identified victims who are
re-trafficked to Turkey are much less likely to be identified
by the TNP if screened a second time.
18. (SBU) Terzioglu said that if a victim wishes to remain in
Turkey for an extended period of time, she may be issued a
humanitarian visa (valid for six months and renewable for
another six). But FWS Ankara shelter staff informed Donnelly
that humanitarian visas are, in fact, often difficult to
secure, as the GOT requires the applicant to have proof of
employment in Turkey. One FWS staffer asked how a
trafficking victim without an existing visa could hope to
have secured employment in Turkey. Moreover, how long and
where potential victims are held before they are screened and
while they provide testimony to law enforcement remains
uncertain. The two shelters are often far from a police or
Jandarma operation and Turkey lacks facilities to house
irregular migrants. In one case, Konya told Donnelly the
Jandarma housed a trafficking victim in its own offices.
Many victims thus may be providing evidence to law
enforcement under duress, before they have a chance to
recover from their trauma, and may be less likely to
cooperate against their exploiters. Busatti said
establishing non-detention facilities for potential victims
would also help address victim identification problems.
Huner explained that the Istanbul Foreigners' Police housed
potential victims in police foreigners' guesthouses/detention
centers while awaiting their status. He underscored the
Istanbul Foreigners' Police Unit's commitment to victim
sensitivity, noting that it has 211 officers, of which 100
are trained in anti-trafficking issues. Huner explained that
six female officers are designated to interact with female
trafficking victims and that he would like to hire more
female officers to further assist.
19. (SBU) MOJ Judges Gokcen Turker and Tufhan Turan recounted
the steps Turkey has taken to expand training of judges and
prosecutors and to develop a sound legal framework to fight
TIP. The key element is the 2006 amendment of Turkish Penal
Code Article 80, which added forced prostitution to the
statute criminalizing TIP with penalties of 8-12 years plus
fines. Turker informed Donnelly that, due to the severe
penalties, Article 80 convictions remain difficult to secure,
particularly without victim testimony in court. The
testimony victims provide to law enforcement may be enough to
bust a trafficking ring, but it is not always enough to
secure an Article 80 conviction. The newly-adopted witness
protection law (see paragraph 5), she believes, will help
encourage more victims to testify against suspected
traffickers. So far this year, two Article 80 convictions
have been handed down. Each suspect was sentenced to eight
years and $75,000 in fines. Turker emphasized, however, that
there are other routes to securing a conviction; a Turkish
judge retains the discretion to use another article, such as
the forced prostitution Article 227, to convict a suspect if
the judge believes an Article 80 conviction might not be
achievable. The penalties are less, however, averaging about
three years.
20. (SBU) Turker provided information on the convictions in
June 2008 of a police officer and police clerk (these appear
to be the same individuals noted in post's 2008 TIP Report
submission) under the statutes for mediating prostitution,
assisting an illegal organization, and sharing state secrets.
Both officials are in prison. Turker informed us that the
MOJ is developing a database to compile statistics on public
servants prosecuted and convicted for trafficking offenses.
Terzioglu later handed Donnelly data (in Turkish; post will
translate) specifying the convictions and sentences of 38
public servant traffickers in 2008, underscoring that the
police will not tolerate official involvement in trafficking.
21. (SBU) Donnelly met in Istanbul with Ayse Tukrukcu, a
former sex worker and parliamentary candidate, and, in
Ankara, with Oksam Oztok, President of the Association to
Support Human Life, an NGO advocating for rights of
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transgender people and prostitutes. Oztok was joined by two
current sex workers and other staff and associates. While
concerned about the plight of trafficked women in Turkey,
these sex workers and advocates emphasized the need for
protection, fair housing and respect for Turkey's
prostitutes, who are often abused by residents, clients and
police. The ruling Justice and Development Party, which
governs Istanbul, Ankara and most other large cities,
disapproves of brothels and has closed many. Only about two
thousand sex workers remain in Turkey's remaining legal
brothels, while some 35,000 have petitioned to be registered
to work legally as prostitutes. A legal brothel may offer
some protection -- HIV testing and the opportunity to collect
a social security pension upon retirement -- but the
situation is hardly less exploitative. Many legal sex
workers find themselves indebted to the brothel owner for
most of their careers and, because brothel owners often pay
social security only occasionally, many legal sex workers do
not have the luxury of a secure retirement. Some of these
legal sex workers may also have been sold by their families
into this career. Foreign women are not permitted to work in
legal brothels, and our contacts did not suggest legal
brothels contribute substantially to TIP. Most foreign
trafficked women work in hotels or in rented houses where
they are "bought" or "rented" by wealthier Turkish clients.
Foreign women rarely work on Turkish streets, though one sex
worker observed that some work along Turkish highways,
catering to truck drivers. Istanbul is Turkey's largest
prostitution center, followed by Antalya, Mugla (Bodrum) and
Trabzon. Ankara has comparatively few prostitutes.
22. (U) Donnelly cleared this message.
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