Curbing Human Trafficking in Kazakstan – Institute for War and Peace Reporting – P220

Posted: May 28, 2012 in Human Rights, International, Law, Politics, Region

People-smuggling and forced labour are thriving in Kazakstan, and lacklustre responses from government, police and the legal system are part of the problem, a leading anti-trafficking activist says.

Kazakstan’s geographical location as Central Asia’s gateway to Russia and other countries is being exploited by criminal groups. In its 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report, the US State Department said Kazakstan had become an end destination and, to a lesser extent, a source and transit country for victims of forced labour and sexual exploitation.

As a transit country, Kazakstan is a stopping-off point for people brought in from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and then then transported to destinations including Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Greece. Women may be tricked into making the trip and then forced into the sex industry in the country they end up in.

Forced labour is also a problem within Kazakstan itself, and while coercion into the sex trade is an issue, there are other forms such as people being effectively enslaved in farming or as domestic servants.

Activists say combating trafficking and forced labour is difficult because few people are aware of the problem, and corrupt police officers often turn a blind eye. Even when cases are reported, few ever make it to court.

IWPR discussed these issues with Nina Balabaeva, the head of Rodnik, a rescue and rehabilitation centre for women and children which runs a shelter for trafficking victims in Almaty. Balabaeva described how traffickers entrap people with offers of legitimate work, and how shortfalls in the law and a lack of specialist anti-trafficking police allow the trade to continue.

Nina Balabaeva: There is both labour and sexual exploitation here [in Central Asia generally]. People in search of an income accept tempting job offers and travel to other countries where they end up in the hands of the traffickers, who take their documents from them and can effectively do what they like with them.

There’s also domestic trafficking – from village to town, and also vice versa. In addition to the traditional scenario of unemployed villagers going off to town to earn money, there’s a reverse flow as well to the fields, farms, pasturelands, and peasant landholdings which are desperately short of labour.

Trends are changing in this country. The start of the 2000s saw a mass outflow of girls [from Kazakstan] abroad, to Turkey, the Emirates, Greece and elsewhere, but now Kazakstan is itself receiving illegal migrants from neighbouring states. Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan remain the same – people leave there to other countries. The direction of labour migration – for men – is to Russia, whereas for sexual exploitation it’s Turkey and the Emirates as before, and more recently the Philippines. The geographical reach is widening.

Our refuge was established in 2006 and since then it has helped up to 150 people, most of them women. The total includes 119 women aged between 18 and 30, and 31 men aged from 20 to 40. Of the total, 29 people were first coerced into labour while they were under 18.

Citizens of Uzbekistan made up the largest number, followed by Kazakstan nationals and then people from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. We’ve also had applications for help from individuals from Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Turkmenistan.

via Curbing Human Trafficking in Kazakstan – Institute for War and Peace Reporting – P220.

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