TAJIKISTAN (TIER 2 Watch List)
Tajikistan is a source country for women trafficked to the UAE often through Kyrgyzstan and Russia, for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Some women are trafficked from Tajikistan to Russia, Turkey, Iran, and India for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Men are trafficked to Russia and, to a lesser extent, Kazakhstan for the purpose of forced labor, primarily in the construction and agricultural sectors. Children, men, and women are coerced by some local government authorities to harvest cotton. In 2008, a small number of Tajik men were trafficked to Poland for the purpose of forced labor. Boys and girls are trafficked internally for various purposes, including forced labor, forced begging, and commercial sexual exploitation.
The Government of Tajikistan 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 demonstrate progress in prosecuting and convicting officials complicit in trafficking and ensuring that victims have access to protection; therefore, Tajikistan is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. The government reported limited improvements in law enforcement efforts, although these efforts were overshadowed by the government's failures to address serious and systemic problems. The most significant of these problems were the government's failure to address trafficking corruption; poor coordination between law enforcement and security institutions with overlapping responsibilities; failure to adequately investigate allegations of security officials' abuse of victims; and excessive reliance on the international community to conduct trafficking awareness campaigns and to ensure victims have access to assistance and protection.
The government also failed to prevent local officials from compelling men, women and children – particularly in Khatlon and Sughd regions – to pick cotton during the annual cotton harvest. For the first time in 2008, local prosecutors initiated investigations into allegations that local officials and teachers forced children to pick cotton – although there were no convictions of officials for compelled labor during the reporting period. Forced labor in the cotton sector remained problematic because the Government of Tajikistan continued to set a fixed price for a small cadre of investors to purchase cotton from farmers. This fixed price is well below market value, making it difficult for farmers to pay workers to pick cotton. This undervaluing of labor, and consequent lack of voluntary laborers, leads local officials to compel people to participate in the cotton campaign.
Recommendations for Tajikistan: Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, especially those involving labor trafficking, and convict and punish trafficking offenders with imprisonment; ensure better coordination between law enforcement and security institutions, particularly the State Committee on National Security; prosecute and convict government officials who participate in or facilitate trafficking in persons and ensure they serve time in prison; ensure indentified victims are not assaulted or re-victimized by government officials and ensure such allegations of assault are fully investigated and culpable offenders are prosecuted and criminally punished; provide financial or in-kind assistance to existing trafficking shelters; be directly involved in trafficking awareness campaigns, and ensure anti-trafficking information appears in government media outlets; prohibit the forced or coerced labor of children and adults in the annual cotton harvest by monitoring school and university attendance, inspecting cotton fields during the harvest, and enforcing existing laws prohibiting the use of forced labor; make efforts to improve trafficking data collection and analysis; and develop a victim identification and referral mechanism.
The Government of Tajikistan reported increased but limited anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Article 130.1 of the criminal code prohibits both sexual exploitation and forced labor, and prescribes penalties of 5 to 15 years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent but are lower than penalties prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. Although it was added to the criminal code in 2003, officials have not successfully used the statute to prosecute trafficking offenders. However, officials have used other criminal provisions to address trafficking related crimes, and for the first time, authorities investigated suspected labor trafficking cases. In 2008, authorities reported investigating 23 individuals suspected of trafficking, an increase from 12 trafficking investigations in 2007. The government reported 23 prosecutions in 2008, compared to 19 reported in 2007. Courts convicted 17 traffickers in 2008, up from 11 convictions reported in 2007. The government reported that no convicted traffickers received suspended sentences or were granted amnesty in 2008; sentences for those serving time in prison ranged from six months to eight years' imprisonment. The government worked with Russian authorities to investigate two trafficking cases in 2008.
The government did not demonstrate significant efforts to address government complicity in trafficking during the reporting period. The State Committee on National Security did not vigorously investigate reports that three identified trafficking victims were sexually assaulted by its officers after they were repatriated to Tajikistan. There were unconfirmed reports that some government officials used their authority to stop trafficking investigations because of illicit ties to traffickers. Local officials in Sughd and Khatlon regions were directly involved in organizing and coercing students to participate in the annual cotton harvest and, despite widespread public reports of this forced labor, the Ministry of Labor did not deploy inspection teams to investigate them and Ministry of Education officials generally did not discipline teachers or local administrators who facilitated or directed such practices. However, after the conclusion of the harvest, government prosecutors in Khatlon investigated 12 local government officials and teachers for forcing school age and university students to pick cotton; some of the education officials were reprimanded for their actions, however no officials were convicted of criminal offenses during the reporting period.
The government demonstrated no efforts to assist trafficking victims during the reporting period. Virtually all victim assistance and protection including shelter, medical assistance, rehabilitative counseling, legal assistance, and vocational training was provided by foreign-funded shelters and NGOs; the government did not provide financial or in-kind assistance to any NGO or organization that provided victim assistance. In 2008, thirty-eight victims were provided with shelter and assistance by foreign-funded NGOs, compared to 46 victims in 2007. The government again made no efforts to develop and implement systematic victim identification procedures or a domestic mechanism to refer victims to care providers. Victims were encouraged to participate in trafficking investigations and prosecutions; however, many authorities remained untrained and unskilled on interviewing and caring for victims of trafficking. Although victims were generally not detained or punished, three female victims of sex trafficking alleged that border service officials sexually assaulted them upon their repatriation to Tajikistan.
Tajikistan again demonstrated limited prevention efforts during the reporting period. In October 2008, the government produced and broadcast television programs informing potential labor migrants of their rights and practical considerations for the migration process. In 2008, officials instituted monitoring and licensing requirements for travel firms to help detect or investigate firms suspected of labor trafficking complicity.