TURKMENISTAN (Tier 2 Watch List)

Turkmenistan is a source, and to a lesser extent, destination, country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Men and women from Turkmenistan are subjected to forced labor after migrating abroad in search of employment, including in textile sweatshops, construction sites, and in domestic servitude. Some women and girls from Turkmenistan are subjected to sex trafficking abroad. Turkey remains the most frequent destination for identified Turkmen victims, followed by Russia; Turkmen victims have also been identified in the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Cyprus. An international organization estimates that there are between 10 and 25 trafficking victims who return to Turkmenistan each month. Trafficking occurring within the country is also a problem. Those who work in the construction industry are vulnerable to forced labor. In 2011, trafficking victims were identified in Turkmenistan from Uzbekistan, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan.

The Government of Turkmenistan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite this progress – including publicly acknowledging the existence of human trafficking within the country, convicting traffickers for the first time under its anti-trafficking statute, and formally registering an NGO-operated shelter – the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts in identifying and protecting victims and raising awareness of human trafficking over the previous year; therefore, Turkmenistan is placed on Tier 2 Watch List.

Recommendations for Turkmenistan: Improve implementation of the 2007 Law on Combating Trafficking in Persons; continue to use Article 129 to investigate and prosecute suspected trafficking offenses and convict and punish trafficking offenders; provide training for prosecutors and other relevant government authorities on the proper application of Article 129; develop systematic procedures to identify victims and refer them to protection services and train border guards, police, and other relevant government officials to use these procedures; provide financial or in-kind assistance to anti-trafficking organizations providing assistance to victims; establish safeguards and training procedures to ensure victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as migration violations and prostitution; conduct a trafficking awareness campaign to inform the general public about the dangers of trafficking; develop formal relationships with civil society groups to coordinate national anti-trafficking efforts; and develop a national action plan for countering trafficking in persons.


The Government of Turkmenistan demonstrated law enforcement progress during the reporting period. The government prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through Article 129 of its criminal code, which was adopted in May 2010 and went into effect in July 2010. It prescribes penalties ranging from four to 25 years' imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, this law releases the trafficking offender from criminal penalty if he or she voluntarily frees the victim, unless certain aggravating circumstances are present. The government did not provide anti-trafficking law enforcement data for inclusion in this report. At the same time, other sources verified reports that the government convicted several traffickers in three cases under Article 129(1) – the first convictions recorded under Turkmenistan's trafficking statute. In one case, the government sentenced two convicted traffickers from the eastern city of Mary to 13 years' imprisonment for sex trafficking. The government also sentenced an unspecified number of traffickers to nine years' imprisonment in two separate cases in the city of Turkmenabat in Lebap province, also for sex trafficking. A media outlet reported that the former director of a cotton spinning company was sentenced to three years' probation and a fine under a non-trafficking statute for offenses that included sex trafficking; numerous government officials were alleged to be among the clients. These law enforcement efforts represent an increase over those taken during the previous reporting period. There were no reports that the General Prosecutor's Office conducted trainings for law enforcement officials on implementing Article 129(1), as they did in the previous reporting period. Prosecutors reportedly continued to share information about trafficking with Turkish counterparts.


The Government of Turkmenistan demonstrated limited efforts to protect or assist victims during the reporting period, despite provisions in the 2007 anti-trafficking law for establishing victim care facilities and providing protection and assistance for victims of trafficking. The government did not provide services to victims of trafficking, nor did it fund international organizations or NGOs to provide such services to victims. However, the State Migration Service referred some victims to the NGO-run counter-trafficking hotline and shared some cases of potential victims returning from Turkey with an NGO. For the first time, in September 2011, the government formally registered an NGO-operated shelter for trafficking victims, though the shelter had operated since August 2010. In 2011, at least 50 victims were assisted by organizations that did not receive government funding, compared with 38 victims assisted by such organizations in 2010. The government employed no formal victim identification procedures and did not provide victim identification, referral, or sensitivity training to border guards or police. The government punished trafficking victims for crimes committed as a result of being trafficked; reports continued that the State Migration Service fined trafficking victims upon return to Turkmenistan for visa violations. Turkmen citizens deported from other countries – potentially including trafficking victims – are reportedly blocked by the State Migration Service from exiting Turkmenistan for a period of up to five years. The government made no attempts to identify sex trafficking victims among women arrested for engaging in prostitution. There was one report of five victims assisting in an investigation and receiving temporary police protection in return, although the government did not report encouraging victims to assist in trafficking investigations or prosecutions. Anecdotal information suggested, however, that many victims did not turn to the authorities for assistance.


The Government of Turkmenistan demonstrated some efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period. It jointly hosted an anti-trafficking conference in September 2011 with IOM and a foreign government, with participating experts drawn from seven countries and international organizations. State-owned television and print media provided extensive coverage of the event. In November 2011, a government delegation to the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural rights publicly acknowledged for the first time the existence of human trafficking in Turkmenistan by reporting the occurrence of trafficking convictions. The government did not fund or conduct any anti-trafficking awareness campaigns in 2011. The government did not provide assistance to any anti-trafficking NGOs, in contrast to 2010 when Turkmenistan provided in-kind assistance to two NGOs. The government continued to lack a coordinating body on human trafficking and a national anti-trafficking plan. Transparency in anti-trafficking efforts was poor, as the government did not report publicly on its anti-trafficking policies or activities. The stateless population in Turkmenistan is vulnerable to trafficking. The State Migration Service, jointly with UNHCR, registered approximately 8,000 people over the age of 18 who are considered at risk of statelessness and issued residency permits to many of them. The government also granted citizenship to 3,318 formerly stateless people through presidential decrees in July and October 2011.


This 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.