Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 August 2014, 14:57 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Afghanistan

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Afghanistan, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee9dc.html [accessed 28 August 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.

Afghanistan (Tier 2 Watch List)

Afghanistan is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. According to the Ministry of the Interior, trafficking within Afghanistan is more prevalent than transnational trafficking. The extent of the problem is not known due to weak governmental capacity, the result of 30 years of war. The majority of victims are children, and the Ministry of Interior reported that boys were more at risk for forced labor, commercial sexual exploitation, and forced drug smuggling, than girls. Some Afghan boys and girls are trafficked within the country, in forced prostitution, forced labor in carpet-making factories, and in forced domestic service. They also are taken to Saudi Arabia for forced begging and street vending. Forced begging is a growing problem in Afghanistan; mafia groups organize professional begging rings. Afghan boys are subjected to forced prostitution and forced labor in the drug smuggling industry in Pakistan and Iran. Some Afghan women and girls are subjected to forced prostitution, forced marriages – including through forced marriages in which husbands force their wives into prostitution, and where they are given by their families to settle debts or disputes – and involuntary domestic servitude in Pakistan and Iran, and possibly India. Some families knowingly sell their children for forced prostitution, including for bacha baazi – where wealthy men use groups of young boys for social and sexual entertainment. Other families send their children with brokers to gain employment. Many of these children end up in forced labor, particularly in Pakistani carpet factories. Families often sell their children to traffickers. Some Afghan families, including children, are trapped in debt bondage in the brick-making industry.

Many Afghan men are subjected to forced labor and debt bondage in the agriculture and construction sectors in Iran, Pakistan, Greece, the Gulf States, and possibly Southeast Asian countries. Under the pretense of high-paying employment opportunities, traffickers lure foreign workers, including those from Sri Lanka, Nepal, and India, to Afghanistan, and lure Afghan villagers to Afghan cities or India or Pakistan, then sometimes subject them to forced labor or forced prostitution subsequent to their arrival. At the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010, an increasing number of male migrants from Sri Lanka, Nepal, and India who migrated willingly to Afghanistan were later subjected to forced labor. The Ministry of Interior reports that male migrants from Nepal are forced to work in Afghanistan more than any other group of foreign workers. Some Afghan women and children are forced into prostitution in Iran and Slovenia. An increasing number of Afghan children and men are forced laborers in Greece; Afghan boys also are forced into prostitution in that country.

Women and girls from Iran, Tajikistan, and possibly Uganda and China are reportedly forced into prostitution in Afghanistan. Brothels and prostitution rings are sometimes run by foreigners, sometimes with links to larger criminal networks. Tajik women also are believed to be trafficked through Afghanistan to other countries for prostitution. Trafficked Iranian women transit Afghanistan en route to Pakistan. According to the government and the UN, the Taliban use children between 12 to 16 years old as suicide bombers. Some children have been tricked or forced to become suicide bombers. Others are heavily indoctrinated or are not aware that they are carrying explosives that are then set off remotely without their knowledge. Some child soldiers used by insurgent groups were sexually exploited. Boys are sometimes promised enrollment in Islamic schools in Pakistan and Iran, but instead are trafficked to camps for paramilitary training by extremist groups.

The Government of Afghanistan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these efforts, the government did not show evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous year; therefore, Afghanistan is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year. Specifically, the Afghan government did not prosecute or convict trafficking offenders under its 2008 law, and it reportedly punished victims of sex trafficking with imprisonment for adultery or prostitution. The government seems to seriously underestimate the significance of human trafficking within the country.

Recommendations for Afghanistan: Increase law enforcement activities against trafficking using the 2008 anti-trafficking law, including prosecuting suspected traffickers and convicting and imprisoning traffickers for acts of sex trafficking and forced labor, including debt bondage; ensure that victims of trafficking are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as prostitution or adultery; ensure that government actors no longer conflate the crimes of kidnapping, human trafficking, and human smuggling; collaborate with NGOs to ensure that all children, including boys over the age of 11 victimized by sex and labor trafficking receive protective services; strengthen the capacity of the anti-trafficking/smuggling unit, including by increasing the number of officials dedicated to anti-trafficking efforts, differentiating between smuggling and trafficking, and working across ministries; and undertake initiatives to prevent trafficking, such as running a public awareness campaign to warn at-risk populations of the dangers of trafficking.

Prosecution

The Government of Afghanistan made no discernible anti-human trafficking law enforcement efforts over the reporting period. Afghanistan's Law Countering Abduction and Human Trafficking (2008) prescribes penalties of life imprisonment for sex trafficking and "maximum term" imprisonment for labor trafficking, which in practice is between eight and 15 years. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and exceed those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law, enacted in July 2009, supersedes other laws and can be used to decrease the penalties outlined in Afghanistan's anti-trafficking law. The prescribed penalty for a convicted offender who abducts a victim and subjects her or him to forced labor is short-term imprisonment not to exceed six months, and a fine, and the prescribed penalty for an offender who forces an adult woman into prostitution is at least seven years. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of human trafficking offenses and offenders in the reporting period. Government officials reported that some victims of abuse were identified in the reporting period, but could not clarify which of those cases were trafficking, nor could they clarify the disposition of those cases. Local NGOs continued to assert that Afghan government personnel persisted in confusing trafficking with smuggling, abductions, abuse, and other issues, and the government did not take steps to end this confusion. There was no evidence that the government made any efforts to investigate, arrest, or prosecute government officials facilitating trafficking offenses, despite reports of national and border police and workers in government-run orphanages who facilitated trafficking or raped sex trafficking victims. One government official noted that traffickers bribe Afghan officials to ensure their release from imprisonment via a conviction; in other situations, prosecutions are stalled with no action taken. Both the UN and local NGOs have cited isolated reports of the sexual abuse of boys – including bacha baazi – by members of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The Government of Afghanistan and UN officials co-signed a UN-sponsored action plan to address, among other issues, the use of bacha baazi by the ANSF. Living conditions in government-run orphanages are extremely poor and some corrupt officials may have sexually abused children and forced them into prostitution. International organizations and NGOs provided some training to police and prosecutors on identifying and investigating trafficking cases. Training noted in the 2010 Report did not appear to increase law enforcement efforts.

Protection

The Government of Afghanistan did not make progress in protecting victims of trafficking. Afghanistan did not have a formal procedure to identify victims of trafficking. IOM reported that international organizations and NGOs referred 21 victims to shelters, and that the government referred 15 victims to shelters, during the reporting period. Under a formalized referral agreement established in late 2007, Afghan police continued to refer women victimized by violence to the Ministry of Women's Affairs, UN Women (formerly UNIFEM), IOM, and NGOs. The government lacked resources to provide victims with protective services directly; NGOs operated the country's shelters and provided the vast majority of victim assistance, but some faced hardships due to threats from the local community, particularly when assisting in cases that involved perceived "honor" crimes, such as rape. Some organizations running care facilities for trafficking victims continued to report generally adequate coordination with government officials.

In December, IOM officially handed over two shelters, in Kabul and Herat, to the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs, and Disabled. These shelters provide assistance to trafficking victims, as well as victims of other crimes. The IOM continues to run the shelters and offer direct assistance, as well as vocational and educational training, but the shelters are now registered by the ministry. There are no facilities in Afghanistan to provide shelter or specific protective services to male trafficking victims above the age of 11. During the reporting period, some trafficked boys were placed in government-run orphanages or a facility for juvenile criminals while their cases were being investigated, while adult men are kept in detention centers or hotels during investigation, according to NGO sources. The anti-trafficking law permits foreign victims to remain in Afghanistan for at least six months; there were no reports of foreign victims making use of this provision for immigration relief.

Government officials were sometimes reported to have punished victims of trafficking for acts they may have committed as a direct result of being trafficked. In some cases, trafficking victims were jailed pending resolution of their legal cases, despite their recognized victim status. Female trafficking victims continued to be arrested and imprisoned or otherwise punished for prostitution and fleeing forced marriages for trafficking purposes, problems the Afghan government has acknowledged. In other cases, women who fled their homes to escape these types of forced marriages reported being raped by police or treated by police as criminals simply for not being chaperoned. Victimized women who could not find place in a shelter often ended up in prison; some women chose to go to prison for protection from male family members.

There is no evidence that the government encouraged victims to assist in investigations of their traffickers during the reporting period. Female victims' attempts to seek redress were impeded in part because an Afghan victim would be in grave danger for simply identifying her or his assailant. Authorities arrested several would-be child suicide attackers after they were reportedly psychologically coerced, trained, and equipped in Pakistan by armed opposition groups.

Prevention

During the reporting period, the Government of Afghanistan made no discernible progress in preventing human trafficking. The government formed an anti-trafficking and anti-smuggling unit in the Ministry of Interior in 2008, but only seven officers cover the entire country, and other investigative sections often borrow members of the unit to conduct different types of investigations. NGO sources asserted there was a lack of coordination among government ministries on trafficking issues. The government did not undertake initiatives to prevent trafficking, such as public awareness campaigns to warn at-risk populations of the danger of trafficking. While the government issued some birth certificates and marriage certificates, many citizens in rural areas do not request or obtain these documents. In fact, fewer than 10 percent of children are registered at birth. The government did not take steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor during the reporting period. Afghanistan is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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