ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Human trafficking in Kazakhstan is a major issue, with the country acting as a destination, transit and source nation for traffickers. People from poorer Central Asian countries come to the country looking for better jobs, and it also serves as a middle point for people being moved from Central Asia to Europe.
Many people are also trafficked out of the country to Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.
Internally, rural to urban trafficking is also a pressing issue. Individuals from rural parts of the country, attracted to the better economic opportunities offered in the city, often fall victim to labor and sex trafficking.
Human trafficking violates human rights and exploits people by forcing them to work for no money. In Kazakhstan, it often takes the form of domestic service, agriculture or prostitution. Traffickers frequently take the victims’ passports, withhold wages and use threats to keep people from leaving.
For trafficked women specifically, it is estimated that 80 percent of them are sexually exploited.
The International Organization for Migration, along with other NGOs, is taking a stand against this practice. With the slogan ‘Beware of Human Trafficking: Let’s Stop Trafficking,’ the organization is leading awareness and education-based initiatives across the country.
The campaign emphasizes prevention and protection, and receives funding from USAID.
IOM and its partners have also gone outside of Kazakhstan to reach Central Asian countries including Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan with the human trafficking education project.
The initiative specifically seeks to engage young people, those who are most often victims, and government and media agencies, to help spread awareness. The initiative also targets its outreach to society’s marginalized populations, like single mothers and orphans, who are the most desperate for money and often the most vulnerable.
While human trafficking is illegal in Kazakhstan, the government fails to meet the international minimum standards for elimination, according to IOM.
Government officials’ complicity and involvement in trafficking is also a serious contributing factor to its prevalence in the country. While hundreds of trafficking cases are opened each year, the vast majority of perpetrators are never prosecuted.
The initiative’s involvement with Kazakhstan’s government is critical to creating change.
So far, the campaign has been able to foster effective collaboration between civil society and the government to raise awareness about the human trafficking problem.
For example, IOM’s partner, Women Private Entrepreneurs Community, uses members’ law enforcement and the media to assist in Kazakhstan’s youth training. The training involves warning youths about questionable employment offers.
Workers from the country’s newspaper, Chas Pik, regularly take part in IOM’s events and publish articles regarding the problem of human trafficking.
Since its inception three years ago, the education campaign against human trafficking has held over 2,000 training events across the country and has reached approximately 75,000 young people. While human trafficking is a multidimensional and international problem, the education provided by IOM and its partners help people to avoid trafficking schemes.
– Kathleen Egan
Sources: IOM, U.S. Embassy, USAID