NEW DELHI, India — With the government’s deficient efforts to diminish human trafficking in the country, the Republic of Kazakhstan remained in Tier 2 in 2022 according to the 2021 U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report on Kazakhstan. However, the government with the help of police investigation and collaboration with various non-government organizations is working towards anti-trafficking law enforcement and providing shelter to the victims of human trafficking in Kazakhstan in government-funded shelter homes.
It is mostly someone who knows the victim, either a relative, friend or family member who lures innocent and helpless people in the name of employment opportunities. Illegal migrants are also on the verge of falling prey to the hands of traffickers. The traffickers often tempt young girls and women coming from East Asian, Central Asian, Eastern European countries and rural areas of Kazakhstan for job or modeling opportunities in big cities. Once tricked, the traffickers force them into the sex industry. They put men and children into forced labor, begging and criminal activities.
Foreign victims often feel unsafe and have reported their exploitation after returning home. Some of them who had migrated illegally, are less likely to file a case against the trafficker as they are already a violator of migration laws. There have been some cases where police detained illegal migrant victims of human trafficking under migration violation laws.
Kazakhstan’s commissioner for human rights Elvira Azimova stated in a round table conference dedicated to the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on July 26, 2022, ”Unfortunately, in terms of human trafficking, people get into such situations not only against their will but also with their consent. Some people are trapped in forced labor or they work under dangerous conditions and commit violations themselves. No matter how the police work, the problem remains open. It relates to the issues of employment and social protection.”
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Kazakhstan has reported cases of cross-border trafficking of Kazakh nationals to Korea, Bahrain, UAE, Turkey and many other countries along with cases of domestic and migrant trafficking. Kazakhstan is also a destination country for human trafficking from Central Asia and other countries.
Every year there are more cases of human trafficking in Kazakhstan compared to criminal cases. Despite this, police investigations seem to be ineffective to identify and categorize trafficking. According to some non-government organizations, police are reluctant to investigate the trafficking cases of forced labor. They close the cases on behalf of lack of evidence despite the victim testimonies. The NGOs continued to report the ineffectiveness of police and how traffickers bribed low-ranking police officials to avoid punishment, according to the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report.
The government of Kazakhstan has made significant efforts in enforcing laws and improving them. The 2019 amendment to anti-trafficking law prescribed four to seven years of imprisonment for adult trafficking and five to nine years for child trafficking which could go up to 18 years under certain circumstances. The government amended Article 134 in 2021 under which the penalties for child trafficking were increased to three to six years. The government prosecuted 49 cases and convicted 23 sex traffickers in 2021, according to the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report.
The police in alliance with NGOs carried out a special investigative operation called “Stop Trafficking” that proved to be very beneficial last year. It was a three multi-day investigation where the NGOs interviewed the latent victims dwelling in brothels, massage parlors, construction sites and farms.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs keeps a close watch on trafficking with the cooperation of police and NGOs and provides protection to the victims and aids them with shelter, health, education and legal assistance, according to the same report.
In 2021 the Kazakhstan government has released an anti-trafficking fund of 148.9 million tenges ($340,830) for 2021-2023 which will give potential aid to the government-identified victims, shelter camps and funding to the NGOs.
Participation of NGOs
The NGOs are working functionally to end human trafficking in Kazakhstan with the collaboration of government and police operations. There are at least 17 NGOs currently working with the government in Kazakhstan to provide shelter, health facilities and legal assistance to the victims. They also organize awareness campaigns with the help of social media and the press to prevent trafficking.
NGOs like Sana Sezim and Rodnik have made essential efforts in providing all the required help to the victims of trafficking. The Sana Sezim Center has conducted many anti-trafficking projects like the re-socialization of victims in south Kazakhstan and provided legal and health assistance to them. The government of Kazakhstan rewarded Rodnik for its contribution to fighting for justice and made it the first government-funded shelter for human trafficking victims.
Civil society continues to report on trafficking and help those who have escaped exploitation. The government of Kazakhstan is working with international organizations too to deal with the issue and is seeking their suggestions for making better laws to prevent human trafficking.
– Aanchal Mishra