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US Human Trafficking Report faults Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan

Publisher EurasiaNet
Publication Date 21 August 2003
Cite as EurasiaNet, US Human Trafficking Report faults Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan, 21 August 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/46a485201e.html [accessed 18 September 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.

8/21/03

An annual report on human trafficking issued by the US State Department identifies Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan as among the worst nations in the world in preventing forced prostitution and slave labor.

Overall, 15 nations were designated as "Tier 3" countries in the State Department's Trafficking in Persons report, released in June. According to the State Department, nations in the Tier 3 category failed to meet minimum standards outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, passed by the US Congress in 2000. In addition, Tier 3 states are "not making significant efforts to eliminate human trafficking and bondage," the report said.

Concerning Georgia, the report said the country is "a source country for women trafficked primarily to Turkey, Greece, and the UAE, with smaller numbers trafficked to Israel, Spain, Portugal and the United States for purposes of sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and forced labor." It expressed special concern that "thousands of children living in the streets and in orphanages" were vulnerable to trafficking.

Kazakhstan received a Tier 3 designation largely because of authorities' diminished response to the human trafficking issue over the past year. Though Kazakh law forbids "illicit migration" and officials investigated several reports of trafficking, no cases have yet gone to court. However the reported noted that the government "presented to Parliament long-awaited draft anti-trafficking legislation, which passed the lower house of Parliament on May 15."

The report described Turkey as "a destination country for persons trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and labor." It also said Turkey served as a transit country for women and girls being trafficked to Western Europe. Most women and girls trafficked to or via Turkey come from the former Soviet Union, according to the report. It went on to note that the Turkish government "does not have a system for victim identification and protection."

The State Department called Uzbekistan "primarily a source, and to a lesser extent, a transit country" for trafficked individuals. "Confirmed information on the extent of trafficking from Uzbekistan only recently emerged, and there is a concern that the deterioration in the economy may lead to a growing problem," the report said.

The human-trafficking report asserts that between 40 percent and 80 percent of Uzbeks have slipped into poverty since 1991. "Trafficking could become a greater problem if left unchecked," the report added. It went on to note that during the first half of 2003, Uzbek authorities "showed a greater willingness to focus on the [trafficking] issue, especially through improved dialogue with victim assistance NGOs. This recognition came late in the reporting period, and now its treatment of known victims and of women fitting the victim profile must be improved."

The State Department has authority to suspend aid (except aid termed "humanitarian, trade-related, or ... development-related") to countries that show no meaningful efforts to stop human trafficking. It remains to be seen, however, whether the US government would actually move to suspend such aid to Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

Georgia and Uzbekistan have emerged as key US strategic allies in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Although Turkish ties with the United States have been strained since Ankara declined to host temporary US bases to support the invasion of Iraq, Ankara nevertheless remains a key component in regional stabilization efforts. [For additional information see the EurasiaNet archive]. Meanwhile, close US-Kazakhstani cooperation on oil and gas development projects would appear to preclude American sanctions over Astana's lax approach on human trafficking.

In Uzbekistan's case, the government is reportedly trying to make it easier for victims to return from abroad, said the report, and has allowed some anti-trafficking groups to give lessons in public schools. Law enforcement has shown some improvement as well, the State Department says. "The Prosecutor General has taken actions against illegal recruitment, especially through marriage agencies and tourist firms and is pursuing a case involving 56 men who may have been labor trafficking victims in Siberia," the report notes. "It is also investigating the case of a girl trafficked for sex to the United Arab Emirates."

State-controlled media in Uzbekistan is giving increasing coverage to the trafficking issue. Human trafficking stories have appeared on state television, and some NGOs are conducting programs to raise awareness about trafficking-related issues. [See related story].

An article published August 5 in the Qishloq Hayoti newspaper indicated that human traffickers were taking advantage of the desperate circumstances confronted by many Uzbeks. "There are many cases of unemployment and low salaries in the country's labor market," the newspaper said. "It is not a secret that, as a result of such economic disparity, false entrepreneurs, who are involved in such illegal activities as theft, violence and fraud, are using people as a labor force, as well as pushing women into prostitution. They are deriving considerable profit from this."

On August 1, Pravda Vostoka published a long article that hinted a government crackdown against human trafficking. "Those who are engaged in the human trafficking business should know that they will not escape punishment," the article warned. The article also cautioned those seeking ways to find work in foreign countries that "you should never rely on advice given by your friends who have been abroad. They could turn out to be recruiters of labor and sex traffickers."

The State Department report said Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan were "making significant efforts" to comply with US mandates to curb trafficking. The countries were designated "Tier 2," meaning they have serious trafficking problems but have increased their attention over the past year to addressing the issue. The report did not evaluate trafficking conditions concerning Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

Posted August 21, 2003 © Eurasianet

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