Country Study
16 of 167Prevalence Index Rank


  • 1,048,500 Estimate number living in Modern Slavery
  • 0.73% Estimate percentage of population living in Modern Slavery
  • 43.45/100 Vulnerability to Modern Slavery
  • CC Government Response Rating
  • 143,335,000 Population
  • $25,636 GDP (PPP)


How many people are in modern slavery in Russia?

The 2016 Global Slavery Index estimates 1,048,500 people or 0.73% of the total population live in conditions of modern slavery in Russia. This is based on a random-sample, nationallyrepresentative survey undertaken in 2014, that sought to identify instances of both forced marriage and forced labour within the general population (surveys conducted in Russian language).

Country Findings of Prevalence


Estimate number enslaved

Forced labour

With 98 percent of cases in the survey in forced labour, our data suggests that construction (55 percent), drug production (14 percent), maufacturing (6 percent), and domestic work (2 percent) are sectors of concern. Research suggests that Russian and foreign workers, particularly from former Soviet Union states such as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan, and neighbouring Ukraine and North Korea have experienced labour practices that amounted to modern slavery in Russia. There are reported instances and victims of modern slavery in the agricultural and construction sector, within factories (garment factories predominantly, also brick factories) and private homes, in salvage/trash, forestry (gathering of berries/nuts/flowers or illegal logging), automotives and fishing.[1] Victims from Ukraine have also experienced forced labour in the fisheries and seafaring sectors, with the alleged complicity of recruitment agencies,[2] as well as forced labour in clothes sorting, illegal vodka packaging and domestic servitude.[3]

In response to the shooting down of a Russian jet on the SyrianTurkish border, Russia announced economic sanctions against Turkey.[4] Turkish companies operating in Russia, including the Turkish workforce numbering around 90,000, will now face operational restrictions.[5] Experts have raised concerns that Turkish employees will be substituted with more vulnerable and less qualified workers.[6]

There is some evidence that Russians are being trafficked abroad and exploited. Russian nationals predominantly move to nearby Eastern European countries such as the Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus, but sizeable populations are also present in Israel and across Western Europe.[7] Distinct trafficking routes have been identified with victims being taken to (or tricked into going to) Greece and Cyprus, the Middle East, Egypt and Israel, China and the Mediterranean including Spain and Malta.[8] In 2013, a high-profile trafficker was exposed after it was proven that he and his associates had trafficked their victims from villages and towns in Russia with promises of jobs as dancers and waitresses in Israel.[9]

There is some evidence to suggest conscripted soldiers are exploited by their commanders or someone who their commander has rented them to. There are also cases in which people in positions of power, including prison officials, heads of state orphanages, etc., unlawfully use the labour of people under their care. Due to the position of dependence and power imbalance between victims and perpetrators, these situations can be characterised as highly exploitative. When soldiers try to escape the situation and return home, the military usually charges them with desertion.[10]

Commercial sexual exploitation

Evidence of Russian women being commercially sexually exploited in prostitution and pornography abroad, as well as local and foreign women sexually exploited within Russia, persisted throughout 2015. Russian victims of forced prostitution have been identified in EU countries (Spain, Germany, Italy, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Cyprus, Malta), the Middle East (UAE, Turkey, Bahrain, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon) and the Far East (China, South Korea, Kazakhstan).[11] Foreign women from across the globe—Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Tajikistan, Vietnam and various countries in Africa—have been identified as CSE victims in the Russian sex industry.[12]

The profile of Russian victims vulnerable to CSE abroad is shifting from well-educated women looking for economic opportunities abroad to impoverished women, frequently with dysfunctional family backgrounds or from state orphanage facilities, seeking to escape their current situation.[13] The lure of lucrative employment, coupled with a new location increases the vulnerability of women. Targeting women who are unlikely to be missed or turn to the police also reduces the likelihood of detection for the small, local, organised crime groups facilitating CSE in Russia.[14]

Despite existing literature giving evidence of CSE cases in Russia, the Walk Free survey did not identify any victims in this sector. The survey result may not indicate an absence of cases but possibly a lack of willingness to self-identify or report this issue. We will continue to work with experts to identify the most robust ways to ensure the issue of sexual exploitation is fully accounted for in our survey results in future.

Commercial sexual exploitation - children

Russian children are reportedly trafficked through St. Petersburg to Europe and from smaller towns and villages to larger cities throughout Russia for CSE.[15] Russian law does not prohibit the possession of child pornography,[16] and reports of children, particularly orphans, street children and migrant children being used in the production of pornography persisted in 2015.[17] Russia continues to host foreign sex tourists, some of whom target children. This has been identified in the north-west regions of Russia (Karelia, Vyborg, Murmansk) which are close to Europe and also in the Far East (Vladivostok) which is close to China.[18]

Forced recruitment - children

There are reports of children being used by combined Russianseparatist forces in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.[19] The United States (US) Government has reported that children have received arms in Russian-occupied Crimea or military training in Russianoccupied South Ossetia,[20] however, limited verified information exists on the involvement of children in the conflict.

Forced begging

Adults and children, including the disabled, are recruited from the smaller towns and provinces with promises of jobs, brought to larger cities and stationed in the metro or on the street to beg.They are expected to reach a certain quota of money each day and are punished by their traffickers when they do not.[21]

Forced marriage

In the 2014 survey, Walk Free found two percent of cases involved forced marriage. Evidence suggests that the problem of forced marriage in Russia is concentrated in regions where there is a strongly patriarchal view of marriage, primarily in Chechnya and Dagestan. However, there is limited research on forced marriages in Russia to confirm this.[22] Some female migrants in Russia, particularly those from Central Asia, may have experienced forced marriages in their country of origin and have since migrated to Russia with their husbands.

Uzbekistan is the world’s sixth largest producer of cotton. During the annual cotton harvest, citizens are subjected to statesanctioned forced labour. Monitoring by international organisations has meant the government has begun to take steps to improve the situation, however, reports from the 2015 harvest estimate that over one million people were forced to work.

Photo credit, Simon Buxton/Anti-Slavery International


What factors explain or predict the prevalence of modern slavery in Russia?

Continuing economic decline coupled with ongoing regional instability and cross-border migration flows has created new pockets of vulnerability among both Russian citizens and migrants. Among Russian citizens, increased unemployment, poverty, demands for cheap labour in unregulated markets and a lack of social safety nets creates opportunities for labour exploitation. This is especially true for those residing outside the major regional centres with limited employment prospects who are forced to travel for employment.

Average Vulnerability Score


CountryCivil & Political ProtectionsSocial, Health, & Economic RightsPersonal SecurityRefugees & ConflictMean

Russia is the second largest migrant receiving country in the world,[23] with approximately seven million or more said to have irregular employment or living status.[24]

Irregular migrants who are willing to engage in high-risk social behaviour, including illegal migration and informal work, are susceptible to human trafficking and forced labour into and within Russia.

In some cases, these are not active decisions by migrant groups, but rather attributed to a lack of general education on safe migration and deceptive recruitment. Persistent conflict in neighbouring Ukraine has entrenched a fertile passage for human traffickers from both countries to flourish. As the second poorest country in Europe by GDP,[25] Ukrainian citizens are desperately seeking employment, often compromising the need for employment contracts. Although Russia, as an employment destination country for Ukrainians, has declined since the conflict,[26] it was still within the top five destination choices for Ukrainians in 2015.[27] Some 41 percent of Ukrainian's abroad remained engaged in unofficial work in 2015 compared to 28 percent in 2011.[28]

This reflects patterns among other migrant groups who are willing to accept jobs without knowing exactly what work and conditions they are committing to. Migrant workers in Russia often rely on underground networks and intermediaries (generally within the diaspora) to get work permits and registration which often operate outside of formal channels. Once operating outside of regulated channels, irregular migrants and their families face few opportunities for recourse. Children of irregular migrants thus lack the documentation needed to access education and social services, exacerbating their likelihood of participation in the informal labour force.

Refugees crossing into Russia are often met by a deficient processing system, leaving asylum seekers without robust protection systems. The complex asylum process has seen refugees in recent months continuously crossing borders with little confirmation from the government on if/how asylum claims will be processed. This lack of assurance and protection mechanisms places refugees in Russia at risk. As of January 2016, up to 5,500 mainly Syrian refugees who crossed the border from Russia to Norway on bike began being transported back to Russia.[29]

Negative or indifferent societal attitudes toward immigration do little to bolster support or promote government action on the issue. Indeed, corrupt law enforcement officials enable trafficking networks to operate, both in situations of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation.

In 2015, economic contraction in Russia slashed migrant job opportunities while depreciation of the ruble has reduced the real incomes of migrant workers.[30] This has had serious impacts on both migrant workers within Russia and their dependent families abroad - remittances to Ukraine declined by 27 percent, to Uzbekistan by 16 percent, Armenia by 11 percent and Tajikistan by 8 percent.[31] Job-poor Tajikistan is the most remittancedependent country in the world—the latest figures from 2013 reveal 49 percent of their GDP constituted remittances. In 2015, 25 percent of Tajik migrant workers in Russia were expected to return home despite having no job prospects,[32] creating increasingly dire options. The defection of Tajik special-forces commander Colonel Gumurod Khalimov to IS in 2015 resulted in him calling on Tajik migrant labourers in Russia to follow him.[33] IS are known to be offering significant sums of cash to desperate, unemployed workers in Russia. It remains to be seen whether the drop in remittances and economic recession will affect the prevalence of modern slavery; this will be essential to monitor over 2016.

From the 'Less than Human' series. A large cargo boat is seen in Songkla Port, Thailand. 09/03/2014. Photographer Chris Kelly worked undercover to expose the link between prawns being sold in big name supermarkets, and the slaves who live and work on Thai fishing boats miles out to sea.

Photo credit, Chris Kelly

Government Response

How is the Russia Government tackling modern slavery?

The Russian Government continues to make few efforts to address the exploitation of their own and foreign citizens. On 1 January 2015, a new migration law was implemented requiring foreign workers from countries outside the Eurasian economic union to pass Russian language and history tests, acquire expensive permits and pay steep monthly fees.[34] Furthermore, Tajik citizens who could previously travel in Russia using national identity cards will now have to produce an international passport[35] and many face a re-entry ban.[36] For those Tajik workers already in the country, this change of law gives workers neither the right to remain nor the right to leave.[37] There are concerns that this new law will further increase the vulnerability of workers in already precarious situations by facilitating their dependence on informal verbal agreements with traffickers and illegal brokers to secure visas and jobs in the informal market.

Government Response Rating


In June 2015, a new law on 'undesirable foreign organisations' came into force, authorising the extrajudicial banning of foreign or international groups which allegedly undermine Russia's security, defence, or constitutional order.[38] This follows enactment of the 2012 Law on Foreign Agents which demanded that many Russian civil society organisations register as 'foreign agents' if they engaged in political activities and accepted foreign funds. Amendments to the law in June 2014, which gave the Justice Ministry power to brand groups as 'foreign agents' without their consent, made the operation of many NGOs in Russia even more complicated and precarious.[39] These developments have made the operation of NGOs combating modern slavery and working with victims difficult. No NGO in Russia is currently devoted purely to anti-slavery efforts and no NGO working with victims of forced marriage exists. Government-funded care remains unavailable to victims of trafficking.[40]

Russia continues to lack a dedicated human trafficking law; however, modifications to the Russian Criminal Code, namely Articles 127.1 and 127.2, prohibit human trafficking and the use of slave labour. Articles 240 and 241 address the inducement to and organisation of prostitution, and are often used to prosecute offences.[41] A pending human trafficking law has yet to be passed.

There were several legislative developments in 2015. In July 2015, new amendments to the Administrative Code and the Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation entered into force.[42] These amendments now allow authorities to deport migrant workers if they work in a profession that is not indicated in their patent (work visa) and fine the employers for hiring such workers. Employees' visas will not be tied to their Russian employer and workers will be able to change the profession listed in their patent in some cases.[43] A draft article 10.13 for the new Administrative Code expected to be adopted in 2016 requires the government to shut down the activity of a legal entity if it created conditions for trafficking in minors and child pornography. Elena Mizulina, a Senator, also planned an amendment to the Criminal Code, article 127.1 Trafficking in Human Beings, prohibiting commercial surrogate motherhood.

A new amendment to the Labor Code, Tax Code and Federal Law on Employment limiting out-staffing (employment agency work) came into force on 1 January 2016. Out-staffing is work that an employee fulfils at his/her employer's instruction, but for an individual or legal entity, not his/her boss. Employment agencies were able to 'rent out' an employee to any enterprise, leaving them with fewer labour rights, creating loopholes for trafficking and increasing their vulnerability to slave-like practices.[44] Outsourcing now has strict provisions, including limitations on the duration people may be employed as out-staffers, equal pay to permanent workers in the same position and compensation for hazardous work.

In 2015, a shelter for victims of modern slavery was not identified nor was a national coordinator on trafficking in human beings. The government has failed to develop a national referral mechanism that would allow formerly-enslaved persons to receive adequate medical, social, judicial and other types of assistance after being discovered by law enforcement.

The Federal Law on Government Protection of Victims, Witnesses and other Participants of Criminal Proceedings provides for the protection of "victims, witnesses and other participants in criminal court proceedings", but the protection is only offered on a caseby-case basis, and the programme suffers from a lack of funding. There do not seem to be protocols in place to ensure that victims of trafficking are not prosecuted for crimes committed as a result of being trafficked. Migrant victims are not offered reflection periods or residence permits, however, if a victim cooperates with law enforcement, he/she may be granted temporary residence, security and legal aid, but these agreements are informal and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, aside from established deportation procedures for migrants who have been found in violation of immigration law,[45] Russia continues to rely on international organisations to safely repatriate victims to their country of origin or social reintegration in Russia.[46]

Rajshahi, Bangladesh, January 2013. Dipa is 13 years old and has been engaged in prostitution for five months. She used to go to school, but stopped in class three after her family could no longer afford to send her. Her two sisters are also engaged in prostitution, but clients prefer to visit Dipa as she is the youngest of the three. She gets between four or five clients and earns about 1,200 Taka (US$15) a day.

Photo credit, Pep Bonet/ NOOR


What do we recommend


  • Draft and approve a comprehensive law on human trafficking, using international definitions.
  • Train law enforcement personnel on human trafficking, with a particular focus on attitudinal change.
  • Criminalise the possession of child pornography.
  • Sign and ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, and other international treaties and conventions.
  • Establish a national referral mechanism for identification of human trafficking victims.
  • Provide the financial and human resources to strengthen the capacity for the Labour Inspectorate to conduct rigorous onsite inspections.
  • Allocate funding for the creation of shelters and other outreach centres that can assist in identifying and referring victims and providing them with direct services.
  • Publically report statistics on the number of identified victims, prosecutions and court outcomes related to modern slavery.
  • Ensure that forced labour and human trafficking are prevented in the construction of FIFA sites in Russia and during the games themselves.


  • Develop a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.
  • Ensure that migrant workers have legal documentation to work in Russia.
  • Ensure that migrant workers have full access to their identity documents, safe accommodation and receive a fair and full payment. In cases of non-compliance, companies must work with suppliers to compensate workers, including payment of overtime allowance.


  1. Elena Maltseva, Lauren McCarthy, Maria Mokhova, Dmitry Poletaev and Caress Schenk, Country Strategy Report: Modern Slavery Landscape in Russia, (draft), (Walk Free Foundation, 2014). 
  2. Rebecca Surtees, Trafficked at Sea. The Exploitation of Ukrainian Seafarers and Fishers, (International Organisation for Migration, 2013), pp. 15–18, accessed 28/02/14:
  3. Maxim Tucker, 'Sex, Lies and Psychological Scars: Inside Ukraine’s Human Trafficking Crisis', The Guardian, February 4, 2016, accessed 07/02/2016:
  4. Elena Platonova, 'In the New Year Without Turks', Gazeta, January 11, 2016, accessed 10/03/2016:
  5. Lin Jenkins, 'Vladimir Putin Announces Russian Sanctions Against Turkey', The Guardian, November 29, 2015, accessed 10/03/2016:
  6. Personal communication. 
  7. "Where We’re From", International Organisation for Migration, accessed 9/08/14:
  8. Country Profiles - Europe and Central Asia, (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2012), p. 99, accessed 08/09/14:
  9. Sharon Shpurer, 'Biggest Trafficker of Women in Israeli History Finally Exposed', Haaretz, February 4, 2013, accessed 11/07/14:
  10. Elena Maltseva, Lauren McCarthy, Maria Mokhova, Dmitry Poletaev and Caress Schenk, Country Strategy Report: Modern Slavery Landscape in Russia, (draft), (Walk Free Foundation, 2014) 
  11. As above. 
  12. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Trafficking in Persons Report 2015: Russia Country Narrative, (United States Department of State, 2015) accessed 10/03/2016:
  13. Elena Maltseva, Lauren McCarthy, Maria Mokhova, Dmitry Poletaev and Caress Schenk, Country Strategy Report: Modern Slavery Landscape in Russia, (draft), (Walk Free Foundation, 2014) 
  14. As above. 
  15. As above. 
  16. However the law specifically prohibits benefitting from the proceeds of child prostitution. See: Government of the Russian Federation, Public Law No 63 of 1996, 'Criminal Code of the Russian Federation', February 29, 2012, Art242.1, accessed 10/03/2016:
  17. Bureau of International Labor Affairs, Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor: Russia, (United States Department of Labor, 2014), accessed 05/01/2016:
  18. Elena Maltseva, Lauren McCarthy, Maria Mokhova, Dmitry Poletaev and Caress Schenk, Country Strategy Report: Modern Slavery Landscape in Russia, (draft), (Walk Free Foundation, 2014) 
  19. Vitalu Shevchenko, 'Ukraine Conflict: Child Soldiers Join the Fight', BBC News, November 26, 2016, accessed 10/03/2016:
  20. Bureau of International Labor Affairs, Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor: Russia, (United States Department of Labor, 2014), accessed 05/01/2016:
  21. Elena Maltseva, Lauren McCarthy, Maria Mokhova, Dmitry Poletaev and Caress Schenk, Country Strategy Report: Modern Slavery Landscape in Russia, (draft), (Walk Free Foundation, 2014) 
  22. As above. 
  23. Personal communication 
  24. Steven Eke, 'Russia: new rules hit foreign workers', BBC World Service, accessed 06/02/16:
  25. "GDP per capita", The World Bank, accessed 07/02/2016:
  26. GFK Ukraine, Human Trafficking Survey: Ukraine, (International Labor Organisation, 2015), accessed 07/02/2016:
  27. It is necessary to differentiate between West and Eastern Ukraine. Eastern Ukraine, being predominantly Russian speaking, saw many flee to Russia during the conflict and considered ʻrefugeesʼ although they were not necessarily given such official status. 
  28. GFK Ukraine, Human Trafficking Survey: Ukraine, (International Labour Organization, 2015), accessed 07/02/2016:
  29. 'Norway Sends Syrian Refugees Back to Russia', EuroNews, January 20, 2016, accessed 10/03/2016:
  30. 'Remittances Growth to Slow Sharply in 2015, as Europe and Russia Stay Weak; Pick Up Expected Next Year', The World Bank, April 13, 2015, accessed 10/03/2015:
  31. As above. 
  32. David Trilling, 'Tajikistan: Remittances to Plunge 40% – World Bank', Central Asia Today, May 26, 2015, accessed 10/03/2016:
  33. Karoun Demirjian, 'New Russian Migration Law Boosts Islamic State Recruitment in Tajikistan', The Guardian, July 14, 2015, accessed 10/03/2016:
  34. As above. 
  35. Kommersant, 'Russia Toughens Migration Policy for CIS Citizens', Russia Beyond the Headlines, June 24, 2014, available at:
  36. Personal communication. 
  37. Matthew Luxmoore, 'Ruble Ripple: New Russian Laws Make Life Difficult for Migrant Workers', Al Jazeera, February 27, 2015, accessed 10/03/2016:
  38. World Report 2016: Russia Narrative, (Human Rights Watch, 2016), accessed 10/03/2016:
  39. Elena Maltseva, Lauren McCarthy, Maria Mokhova, Dmitry Poletaev and Caress Schenk, Country Strategy Report: Modern Slavery Landscape in Russia, (draft), (Walk Free Foundation, 2014) 
  40. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Trafficking in Persons Report 2015: Russia Country Narrative, (United States Department of State, 2015), accessed 10/03/2016:
  41. As above. 
  42. 'Putin Allowed to Expel From Russia Are Not Working in the Specialty of Migrants', Rosbalt, July 1, 2015, accessed 10/03/2016:
  43. As above. 
  44. Catherine Chevalier, 'What is Contingent Labor and Why It Was Banned?', AIF.RU, accessed 10/03/2016:
  45. Russia’s deportation procedure can be reviewed here (in Russian): Postanovlenie RF ot 30.12.2013 No. 1306 "Ob Utverzhdenii Pravil Soderzhaniia (Prebyvaniia) v Spetsialnykh Uchrezhdeniiakh Federalnoi Migratsionnoi Sluzhby Inostrannyh Grazhdan" [Decree of the Russian Federation No. 1306 passed on 30 December 2013 'On Approval of the Rules of (stay) in Institutions of the Federal Migration Service of Foreign Citizens']
  46. Personal communication. 


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