I’m glad I was an active member of the International Women’s Club in Astana as well as in Almaty because this is where it all started for me…my interest in human trafficking. It IS an international problem. What is completely vexing and baffling to us as expats in Kazakhstan is that so few Kazakh people see it as a problem in their own country. Maybe if they DO know, they don’t want to admit that human trafficking is a problem. Or maybe those who are victims are powerless to say anything that is why we as expats need to keep this as a front burner issue by blogging about it or writing e-mails home to people in our respective countries.
The following is an e-mail that was sent by a British person after a visit to one of the 20 shelters which are situated throughout Kazakhstan. Thankfully, some things ARE being done to take care of this problem. However, MORE is needed to be done to make Kazakhs in the countryside aware of human trafficking. If you don’t read on, please at least go to this website Not for Sale – http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/ Also, check out http://www.free2work.org/companies But keep informed about what people are doing “on the ground” of Kazakhstan to help ease the burden, please read on…
“We visited a shelter for the victims of trafficking recently to see their work ‘in situ.’ It is a rented house in the countryside. Frankly, we probably could not find it again if we tried to return! They are working on plans to buy and equip their own place, but, for the moment, will continue to pay rent. The most notable thing about the outside is the number of ducklings they are currently feeding.
The house itself seems quite big and there are two main bedrooms that we saw with five beds in each. There was also a male resident, who we did not meet but who has a separate entrance. There are currently eight residents though this changes regularly and, on our visit, they came from various places (Ukraine, Uzbekhistan, Tajikstan, but also Kazakhs) The oldest was 46 (Ukrainian rescued from farm servitude) and the youngest 20 (a Kazakh who had been sexual trafficked).
On this occasion, in contrast to all I had read or been told, the majority were victims of sexual rather than labour trafficking, but this varies all the time, we were told the majority of the funding comes through the Ministry of Justice, who finance the house, utilities and salaries of those involved (currently five people) They also fund the reception centre in the centre of the city where all those newly rescued are first taken, usually by the police though perhaps in response to tip-offs.
Because of the possibility of legal proceedings, as threats are regularly made, the location of the centre is not divulged Currently, there is an on-going legal process involving one of the young women in which she will be a witness as well the ‘client’ who reported her being sexually trafficked! Yes, I was surprised too, but soliciting is not a crime in Kazakhstan though prostitution is! However, because of the difficulty of actually ‘proving’ trafficking the usual charge is kidnapping thus the need for the victim to be protected.
So, what happens when someone is rescued? They will stay at the shelter for therapy by trying to come to terms with and work through their trauma by use of both one-to-one and group therapy They are also encouraged to work out and/or externalize their anger through art (one of the girls seemed a very good draughtsperson) or use of models with the faces of their exploiter(s) As a rough guide, people stay for about half the time of their period of servitude though this, of course, varies according to the individual or their circumstances.
What happens when they have to leave the shelter at the end of their therapy? This also varies according to circumstances, as you might expect! Those who are non-Kazakh are eventually repatriated (imagine the bureaucracy!) with local contacts for the IOM (e.g. in Bishkek) which they are encouraged to use. However, this is rather more problematic in Kazakhstan as the family may have been involved with the original trafficking or the victim may not (for reasons I leave you to imagine!) In this case, (there is currently one young woman in the shelter in this situation), then alternative arrangements are made to assist re-settlement and re-integration into society.
So what can we do to help? Well, continue to donate clothes as their budget does not cover this type of expenditure, and I will be sending another email at the end of the month as you all pack & de-clutter ready for the new season! Btw what is the ‘in’ colour the autumn season? However, for some of you, that is a problem (you dress in a timeless fashion?). Also, they have requested any art materials: flipchart type paper as well as paints both oil- & water-based I will get some costing done and contact you again shortly if you would like to donate.”