I was hopeful about Kazakhstan’s future when I taught in university classrooms in both Almaty and Astana. Want to see a funny video clip where I worked for 2 ½ years in Almaty? Next, is a promo clip meant to impress about the NEW university in Astana where I taught for one year. Hard to believe it was a year ago that I was in Astana, but I still recognize many of the young Kazakh students. I LOVED teaching these energetic, serious, fun loving students in both cities. Little did I know that some of the new buildings we were privileged to work in were probably built by exploited people from other countries.
As you can tell with my blog over the last year, I’m more interested in the International Organization of Migration and the progress they are making in countries like Kazakhstan. Supposedly, according to this link, Kazakhstan is fifth on the list for victims assisted. That’s a testimony to the work done to help those migrated victims trapped into being trafficked into Kazakhstan for manual labor or sexual exploitation. The data shows that in 2011 Kazakhstan assisted 265 victims.
Just the other day I read and found very interesting that Kazakhstan’s Ministry person responsible for building and construction in Kazakhstan is the husband of one of the daughters of the president of this country of Kazakhstan. But here’s a news flash I got yesterday, another daughter of the president, Dariga, is responsible for Migration of people into Kazakhstan. That should mean that trafficking will receive a higher priority from the Kazakh government. Let’s certainly hope so!
Maybe all the money the Kazakh government is paying former Prime Minister Tony Blair is paying off. Kazakhstan needs help from Blair to clean up its image (i.e. honoring contracts and not doing shady business with other countries who bring in these “slaves” to do the manual labor.) Some construction workers in Astana are paid very little, if anything at all.
The American Embassy website about Kazakhstan’s involvement on stopping human trafficking shared the following info about last year’s activities.
Trafficking in Persons Report 2011: Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan is a destination and to a lesser extent, source and transit country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking and for men, women, and children subjected to conditions of forced labor. Kazakhstani women and children are subjected to sex trafficking in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Russia, China, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Greece, Indonesia, and Israel. Women and girls from Uzbekistan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Moldova, and Ukraine are subjected to sex trafficking in Kazakhstan. Women and girls from rural Kazakhstan are subjected to sex trafficking in urban areas of the country. Kazakhstani men, women, and children as well as men from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, and Nigeria are subjected to conditions of forced labor in domestic service, cattle breeding and pasturing and also in the harvest of tobacco and cotton in Kazakhstan.
The Government of Kazakhstan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government significantly decreased the use of forced child labor in the cotton harvest, increased law enforcement efforts against human trafficking, passed a law strengthening penalties for convicted child sex trafficking offenders, and increased victim identification. However, it failed to effectively screen migrants for potential victims of trafficking and only identified two foreign victims of labor trafficking, despite being a significant destination country for foreign victims of forced labor.
Recommendations for Kazakhstan: Increase efforts to identify foreign victims of both forced prostitution and forced labor, including through expanded training of police officers and government officials in victim identification and assistance; work to ensure that foreign victims of trafficking receive assistance; increase efforts to identify labor trafficking victims, including by ensuring that authorities screen for potential victims of forced labor among those detained during immigration raids and refer those identified as victims for assistance; investigate and prosecute government officials suspected of being complicit in trafficking and convict and punish any complicit officials; continue efforts to prevent the use of forced labor during the cotton and tobacco harvests; continue to increase the number of victims who receive government-funded assistance by increasing funding to anti-trafficking NGOs; conduct trafficking awareness campaigns aimed at reducing the demand for both labor trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation; and continue to strengthen the capacity of police, prosecutors and judges to investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate trafficking cases.
The government of Kazakhstan demonstrated modest progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Kazakhstan prohibits trafficking in persons for both labor and sexual exploitation through Articles 128, 133, 125(3)(b), 126(3)(b), 270, and 132-1 of its penal code, which prescribe penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment – penalties sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Kazakhstan amended its penal code in 2010, adding Article 132-1 which strengthens punishments for child sex trafficking offenders. Police investigated 88 trafficking cases in 2010, a significant increase from 49 investigations in 2009. Authorities prosecuted 48 cases in 2010, compared with 35 prosecutions in 2009. A total of 32 trafficking offenders were convicted in 2010, an increase from 24 such convictions in 2009. The government convicted 29 offenders for sex trafficking offences in 2010, an increase from 21 sex trafficking convictions in 2009, and convicted three offenders for forced labor offences in 2010, the same number as in 2009. Five convicted traffickers received parole and served no time in prison. Twenty-seven convicted offenders received sentences ranging from two to 14 years’ imprisonment. The Kazakhstani police, in cooperation with foreign donors, provided training in trafficking investigation techniques and victim identification procedures for 79 migration and criminal police officers and provided training for Kazakhstani law enforcement officers in Mongolia, Russia, Qatar, Turkey, Austria, the UAE, Belarus, and Armenia. It also provided in-kind assistance for NGO trainings for government officials. Police jointly investigated two trafficking cases with Russia and one with the UAE. Despite anecdotal reports of individual police officers complicit in trafficking and with close associations with traffickers, the government did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking.
The government demonstrated efforts to address the allegations of forced child labor in the 2010 TIP Report. The South Kazakhstan oblast government – the region in Kazakhstan where the majority of cotton is grown – issued several directives that explicitly prohibited the use of child labor (including forced child labor) during the 2010 fall cotton harvest. The Department of Education also inspected local schools to ensure they were not closed by local officials during the cotton harvest. Labor inspectors conducted inspection checks of cotton and tobacco fields and found no evidence of forced labor. NGOs in the region reported that the use of forced child and forced adult labor decreased significantly from the previous year. There were no reports of government officials complicit in forced labor in the cotton or tobacco harvests in 2010; however, the government did not pursue any prosecutions or convictions of government officials complicit in forced labor in the cotton or tobacco harvests of 2009.
The Government of Kazakhstan made some progress in identifying and protecting trafficking victims in 2010; however, the government identified only one foreign labor trafficking victim, despite being a recognized destination for foreign victims of forced labor. Although migration police reported screening illegal migrants detained during immigration raids, these efforts did not result in the identification of any trafficking victims. In 2010, thousands of migrants were deported without being screened for potential victims of trafficking. In 2010, the government identified 82 victims of trafficking, including 13 victims of forced labor, compared with 59 victims of trafficking, including 12 labor trafficking victims, identified in 2009. Of those identified, nine were foreign victims, including two victims of forced labor, an increase from three foreign victims identified in 2009. The government provided funding in the amount of $ 70,000 for the provision of food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and other services for all identified victims; this was a decrease from the $84,000 in funding the government provided for the same purposes in 2009. In total, 134 trafficking victims, including 49 victims of forced labor, were assisted by IOM, privately funded NGOs, and government-funded programs in 2010. The government fully funds one NGO-run shelter for trafficking victims, which assisted 40 victims, including nine foreign victims, in 2010. The local government of Almaty partially funds another NGO-run shelter, which assisted 33 trafficking victims, including 18 foreign trafficking victims. Shelters are open to all trafficking victims and provide legal, psychological, and medical assistance; however, some foreign victims of trafficking are unable to access medical assistance due to a lack of health insurance or temporary residency permits. Adult trafficking victims were permitted to freely enter and leave the shelters. Some child trafficking victims were held in juvenile detention centers until they were cleared of charges. In 2010, the government adopted a measure that permitted victims of serious crimes, including trafficking victims, to receive government compensation. The government encouraged victims to participate in trafficking investigations and prosecutions. Foreign victims who agreed to cooperate with law enforcement were permitted to remain in Kazakhstan for the duration of the criminal investigation; this temporary residency status did not permit trafficking victims to work during the investigation. The government did not report how many foreign victims received temporary residence permits in 2010. The government did not offer victims longer-term residency; all victims were forcibly repatriated, either after a short recuperation period or after their service as a prosecution witness was completed. Although some victims cooperated with authorities during the initial investigation, some victims refused to testify in court for fear of retribution from traffickers. There were no reports of victims punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; however, unidentified victims may have been deported or prosecuted for immigration or other violations. Authorities provided one victim with repatriation assistance in 2010, a result of a joint investigation with law enforcement officials in the UAE.
The government increased its prevention efforts during the reporting period, including an awareness campaign by local officials targeted at employers in the cotton or tobacco harvests. The government supported a number of anti-trafficking efforts, including at least 191 newspaper articles and 73 videos on human trafficking. The government ran anti-trafficking campaigns on passenger trains and a hotline for trafficking victims. NGOs received $64,200 from the national government and $11,800 from local governments for trafficking prevention activities, including a second trafficking hotline. This represents an overall increase from $63,000 provided to NGOs for prevention activities in 2009. The government provided in-kind contributions for a program designed to reduce demand for sex trafficking.
I’m still wondering how the American Peace Corps volunteers might have continued their work in Kazakhstan. Unfortunately the PCVs were quickly dispatched to leave the country hastily last fall. There was a FREE labor force that was disbanded because supposedly the country of Kazakhstan is wealthy enough, they don’t need help like other third world nations do. Supposedly Kazakhstan does not need the stigma of having American PCVs come help and volunteer their time and effort anymore. That was a sudden and non transparent move with Peace Corps decision to leave Kazakhstan so abruptly last fall.
Now I believe there will be even MORE internal migration going on where unsuspecting people from the rural areas of Kazakhstan (the vast country that it is) are being manipulated and used in human trafficking. Promised a salary to do manual labor but once in the big city, things change. I don’t know what goes on in the farming areas where tobacco and cotton need to be planted and harvested. However, during my 3 1/2 years in two big cities, I saw a LOT of manpower go into making Astana, Kazakhstan appear very impressive. “You can’t always judge a book by its cover.” or “You can’t judge a university by its shiny, new building structure.”