TAJIKISTAN (TIER 2 Watch List) [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]
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 identified 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 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.