Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July 2014, 15:15 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Uzbekistan

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Uzbekistan, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee382d.html [accessed 31 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Uzbekistan (Tier 2 Watch List)

Uzbekistan is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to conditions of forced labor and women and children subjected to sex trafficking. Uzbek men who have emigrated in search of work are forced to labor in Kazakhstan and Russia in the construction, cotton, and tobacco industries. Women and children are subjected to sex trafficking, often through fraudulent offers of employment, in the United Arab Emirates, India, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkey, Thailand, Israel, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, China, Indonesia, and also within Uzbekistan. Men and women from Uzbekistan are subjected to domestic servitude and forced labor in the agricultural and construction industries in Russia. Domestic forced labor remains prevalent during the annual cotton harvest, when many school-age children, college students, and adults are forced to pick cotton.

The Government of Uzbekistan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The Uzbek government demonstrated negligible progress in ceasing forced labor, including forced child labor, in the annual cotton harvest and did not make efforts to investigate or prosecute government officials suspected to be complicit in forced labor; therefore, Uzbekistan is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a fourth consecutive year. Uzbekistan was not placed on Tier 3 per Section 107 of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, however, as the government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. As in previous years, the government set a quota for national cotton production and paid farmers artificially low prices for the cotton produced, making it almost impossible for Uzbek farmers to pay wages that would attract a consenting workforce. Provincial governors were held personally responsible for ensuring that the quota was met; they in turn passed along this pressure to local officials, who organized and forced school children, university students, faculty, and other government employees to pick cotton. The government permitted UNICEF to assess child labor in all 12 regions of the country. The government did not conduct any awareness campaigns regarding forced labor in the annual cotton harvest or other internal trafficking, but did continue its previous awareness campaigns about the dangers of transnational trafficking.

Recommendations for Uzbekistan: Take substantive action to end the use of forced labor during the annual cotton harvest; investigate and prosecute government officials suspected to be complicit in trafficking, particularly those who force children and adults to pick cotton during the annual harvest, and convict and punish complicit officials; allow international experts, such as the ILO, to conduct an independent assessment of the use of forced labor during the annual cotton harvest; provide financial support and continue to provide in-kind support to anti-trafficking NGOs to assist and shelter victims; take steps to establish additional shelters outside of Tashkent; continue efforts to investigate and prosecute suspected trafficking offenses and convict and punish trafficking offenders; require officials from the Ministry of Labor and Social Responsibility or the Ministry of Education to monitor school attendance and ensure that schools are not closed during the harvest; work to ensure that identified victims are not punished for acts committed as a result of being trafficked; and continue efforts to improve the collection of law enforcement trafficking data.

Prosecution

The Government of Uzbekistan demonstrated mixed law enforcement efforts, including sustained efforts to combat sex and international labor trafficking and a lack of efforts to address forced labor in the cotton harvest during the reporting period. The Government of Uzbekistan did not demonstrate efforts to investigate or prosecute government officials suspected to be complicit in the use of forced adult and forced child labor during the 2010 cotton harvest, nor did they convict or punish any complicit government officials involved in transnational trafficking. Article 135 of the criminal code prohibits both forced prostitution and forced labor, and prescribes penalties of three to 12 years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2010, law enforcement agencies reported conducting 529 trafficking investigations, including 399 labor trafficking and 123 sex trafficking investigations, compared with 1,978 investigations in 2009. Authorities reported prosecuting 632 trafficking cases involving 801 individuals in 2010, compared with 815 trafficking cases in 2009. Authorities reported convicting 736 trafficking offenders in 2010, compared with 1,198 in 2009. The government reported that 476 convicted trafficking offenders were sentenced to time in prison, compared with approximately 960 convicted offenders sentenced to some time in prison in 2009. The government provided in-kind support to NGOs and international organizations for training of government officials including law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and government employees in education, health, border control, and labor and social protection agencies. The government continued its partnership with UNODC to maintain a centralized database of anti-trafficking law enforcement activities and reported increased success working with law enforcement in the UAE, though bureaucratic hurdles frequently prevented the data from being easily shared with other countries in a timely manner.

Although the government did not report investigations or prosecutions of any incidents of official complicity in trafficking or trafficking-related activities, media reports indicated that there were some convictions of Ministry of Labor officials accepting bribes in exchange for coordinating illegal employment overseas. The government did not, however, investigate or prosecute any government officials suspected of forcing children and adults to work the fields during the annual cotton harvest, nor did it convict or punish any officials complicit in such forced labor. Local government officials in regions where cotton is grown closed rural schools and forced children to go to the fields to pick cotton. There were some reports of government officials threatening students with retaliation if they did not work or achieve designated quotas. Teachers were often held accountable by local officials for student cotton quotas; there were reports of repercussions if public employees or students refused to work in the fields, including reports of beatings, expulsion, and threats of employment termination. There were reports that government officials withheld social benefit payments to mothers and the elderly until they picked a designated amount of cotton. Additionally, there were reports of border guards and low-level police officers involved in the fraudulent issuance of exit visas, as well as allegations of individual police officers accepting bribes from traffickers. The government did not report investigation or prosecution of acts of public officials' suspected complicity in trafficking during the reporting period.

Protection

The Government of Uzbekistan demonstrated mixed efforts to identify, assist, and protect victims of trafficking, including sustained efforts to assist victims of sex and international labor trafficking, but no efforts to assist victims of forced labor in the cotton harvest. The government operates a shelter for male, female, and child trafficking victims that assisted 225 victims in 2010, including 101 victims of sexual exploitation and 124 victims of forced labor. In 2010, the shelter expanded available psychological services, legal assistance, and vocational training opportunities to victims of trafficking. Victims are not detained in the shelter; they may freely enter and leave, including to pursue employment outside the shelter. Privately-funded NGOs ran two additional shelters in the country that provided assistance to 148 female trafficking victims in 2010; these shelters received some in-kind assistance from the government and victims were eligible for medical assistance from the government. The government identified 2,325 victims, a decrease from 4,660 victims identified in 2009. The leading NGO identified and assisted 612 victims in 2010. Officials did not provide information on a national referral mechanism. NGOs provided repatriation assistance to 261 Uzbek victims of trafficking in 2010; the government provided child victims of trafficking with a small amount of money upon repatriation. The national government reported providing local governments with financial assistance for the long-term reintegration of victims. NGOs report that victims who cooperate with law enforcement receive some protection during the trial process; however, the government does not have a formal program to provide protections for witnesses. Though the law prohibits victims of trafficking from being punished for acts committed as a result of being trafficked; these laws were not uniformly enforced during the period. NGOs reported that when they appealed immigration charges against victims, these charges were often dropped; however these charges were less likely to be dropped if the victim refused to cooperate with a trafficking investigation.

Prevention

The government continued its transnational labor and sex trafficking awareness efforts; however, it did not make efforts to prevent the use of forced labor of adults and children during the annual cotton harvest. Although the government did not respond to the international community's calls for an independent assessment of the use of both forced adult and forced child labor during the 2010 cotton harvest, it again permitted UNICEF to conduct some monitoring of forced child labor during the harvest. The Ministry of Labor reported distributing 10,000 trafficking-awareness brochures in 2010. The Ministry of Labor also sponsored 26 radio broadcasts, 16 articles in the mass media, and six television programs to raise awareness on trafficking in persons. The government ran an awareness campaign entitled "Don't be Deceived," which included a radio program and poster distribution. The government reports that over 85 percent of Uzbeks are aware of the threat of transnational sex and labor trafficking. The government also provided venues for NGO training programs and awareness-raising activities and granted permission for an anti-trafficking NGO to expand its awareness campaign to include child labor.

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