Uzbekistan Needs More Action on Human Trafficking
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||13 January 2011|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Uzbekistan Needs More Action on Human Trafficking, 13 January 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4d3533641e.html [accessed 22 July 2014]|
The Uzbek government has just completed a two-year programme to combat human trafficking, but little information has been released about its success.
The US State Department's report on human trafficking for 2010 says that in 2009, Uzbekistan convicted 1,200 traffickers, a 150 per cent increase on the previous year.
For an independent view of the issue, NBCentralAsia spoke to Abdusalom Ergashev, who contributed to a non-government report on human trafficking in Uzbekistan.
NBCentralAsia: How would you describe the effectiveness f the two-year National Plan to Combat Human Trafficking?
Abdusalom Ergashev: I would say it is unsatisfactory because in spite of it, the scale of human trafficking has increased rather than declined; I am talking about human trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation.
But there are also positive elements. For example, in the region where I live [Fergana], action has been taken against the organisers of human trafficking, and some have been convicted. Among them were police officers, including even the head of the human trafficking department. Some individuals were organising criminal activity instead of fighting it.
The trial was naturally for public consumption; the authorities were using it to show what they had been doing.
NBCentralAsia: An inter-agency anti-trafficking commission has been meeting every six months. Do you know anything about what it's achieved?
Ergashev: As you'll be aware, the reports haven't been published. The commission has held meetings but hasn't published hard facts. We have tried to obtain the data but to no avail; we weren't able to.
NBCentralAsia: Why are the reports confidential?
Ergashev: Because the reporting in no way reflects reality. For some reason, it's become the norm to underreport this kind of crime in Uzbekistan. No one will give you accurate data.
NBCentralAsia: The State Department on human trafficking says 1,198 traffickers were convicted in Uzbekistan in 2009, almost two-and-a-half times more than in 2008. What statistics do you have?
Ergashev: I recently saw a statement by Yelena Urlaeva of the Human Rights Alliance regarding human trafficking. There are also reports by the Rapid Response Group [Uzbekistan-based NGO]. And that's all there is.
The figures differ – the official ones are always lower; you can easily double or treble them.
NBCentralAsia: Why is human trafficking on the increase, in your view?
Ergashev: I think the reason comes down to corruption in state institutions.
The interior ministry launched a service to fight human trafficking some years ago. The rule is that when women under 30 apply to the police for an exit permit, they should be called in and warned of the risks. It's no secret that many of the young women who go to Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and India are deceived – they are promised a job in a shop but end up in the sex industry. A specialist [policeman] should be able to tell whether a woman is being deceived, and prevent her from going. But the convicted police officers I mentioned handed over large sums of money for exit visas to be issued to these women.
Secondly, I think social problems are causing an increase in human trafficking. It's quite hard to earn a living in Uzbekistan and we have high rates of unemployment.
NBCentralAsia: Uzbekistan officially declared war on the traffickers with the passing of a law in 2008. In your opinion, to what extent do the current laws address the problem?
Ergashev: Legislation can't do it. Unless and until there is rule of law in Uzbekistan, nothing's going to change. We have laws that comply with international standards, but if they aren't observed, nothing will change.
NBCentralAsia: Are there any outreach organisations in Uzbekistan?
Ergashev: Yes, there are such organisations. There are many advertisements about human trafficking, there's a lot of information posted up in apartment blocks, banners hanging in public places, and leaflets are distributed. There are press articles, programmes and films on the subject.
NBCentralAsia: What countries present the highest risk for victims of human trafficking in Uzbekistan?
Ergashev: Countries to which our citizens are trafficked for various purposes include Kazakstan and Russia, for both labour and sexual exploitation; and Turkey, Malaysia, India and the United Arab Emirates solely for sexual exploitation.
NBCentralAsia: What's the solution?
Ergashev: The solution lies in establishing rule of law.
This article was produced as part of IWPR's News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.