U.S. Department of State 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report - Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan (Tier 3)

[*Please note: Uzbekistan was updated to Tier 2 per President George W. Bush, Presidential Determination No. 2003-35, September 9, 2003.]

Uzbekistan is primarily a source and to a lesser extent, a transit country for the purposes of prostitution and labor. 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. Known destinations are Kazakhstan, UAE, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Kosovo, and Israel. According to economists, 40-80% of the population has fallen into poverty in the eleven years since independence from the Soviet Union. Many of these newly poor earn less than $1 per day.

The Government of Uzbekistan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. The Government of Uzbekistan only recently recognized that it has a problem with trafficking in persons, and that trafficking could become a greater problem if left unchecked. During the spring of 2003, central government authorities showed a greater willingness to focus on the 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 government has thus far taken only limited preventive actions of its own. The government denies exit from Uzbekistan to young women and does not screen them to determine if they are victims and does not offer them preventive information on trafficking. The government worked alongside other organizations on prevention in some instances, such as the permission granted by the Ministry of Education to one NGO to conduct anti-trafficking programs in schools. Some regions have been more proactive than the central government, with the regional government's Women's Committee in Samarkand engaging with NGOs to establish information-sharing and referral for victims.


The criminal code does not contain an anti-trafficking law. Other criminal articles prohibit various aspects of trafficking in persons, and the government pursued some criminal investigations under these laws, but there have been no final prosecutions or convictions of traffickers in Uzbekistan. An organized trafficking ring from Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan was exposed in February 2003. Under international pressure, the government investigated this case and has expelled the two North Koreans responsible. However, 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. It is also investigating the case of a girl trafficked for sex to the UAE. Border guards reportedly harass returning victims and require pay-offs at the border for women possibly fitting the victim profile. While no actions against this corruption were reported for the period covered by this report, in early 2002 the government convicted two border guards on corruption charges for allowing people to be trafficked.


The government does not have a mechanism for screening, recognizing, sheltering or otherwise assisting victims, nor does it have a referral mechanism to victim-assistance NGOs. However, it is increasing its efforts at victim assistance and protection. In late spring 2003, the government began to share information with one victim-assistance NGO, and border officials informally agreed to provide that NGO greater access to returning victims at the airport. However, victims complain of harsh treatment by police and border agents when returning. The government continued to charge a $25 fee to victims abroad who are seeking new travel documents. Most victims were not able to pay this fee. NGOs were unable to secure effective assistance from consular officers in many cases throughout the year, but in spring of 2003, the government began to respond to some of the pleas of NGOs advocating for and assisting in the repatriation of victims, and it began using temporary travel documents to bring trafficking victims home from abroad. The government engaged in discussions with IOM regarding a repatriation program, but still has not entered into any agreement for such a project.


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