Posts tagged IOM

Kazakhstan’s Oil and Human Trafficking “Issues”

The following is what a fellow British teacher, who is teaching English in Astana, wrote on recent events in Kazakhstan.  He has been working non-stop to help those victims who come out of sex slavery or who have been trafficked for their labor.  Here is what he wrote:

“As you have all contributed to the funds that are held by IOM to be used on behalf of trafficking victims I am writing to inform you that I have today approved the use of the total held (102,000 kzt) for legal representation of a victim of sex trafficking. Please see below for details of this horrible case and I am sure you would approve this use of the money raised (absolutely the profile of need we identified that is NOT covered by IOM budgets) to support a young Kazakh women who has been grossly exploited (note by her FEMALE friend!)

Many thanks for all your efforts that have contributed to us being in a position to assist. I have asked to be kept informed of progress and will of course keep you informed. Thank you again for your support.

A year ago an eighteen-year-old Kazakh girl was trafficked from village in South Kazakhstan region to Shymkent city for sexual exploitation by her female friend. She spent several months in a brothel until she was rescued by police officer

A criminal case was initiated against her exploiters, however, all defendants were not arrested due to lack of evidence. Moreover, during preliminary court proceedings a prosecutor, instead of represent the victim’s position, accused the victim and tried to convince a judge that there was no reason to initiate this criminal case.

The NGO (in Shymkent) applied to IOM for additional funding to hire a lawyer to represent the victim’s rights during the court proceedings. The next court session is scheduled on Feb 14. The NGO has already identified a lawyer who has good experience in trafficking cases (he represented a victim a year ago and won the case)”


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British Teacher Combats H.T. in Kazakhstan

I haven’t written for a while in my blog and apologize for that to my avid readers. Instead of my stats diminishing, they have increased.  I guess I have ample material with enough keyword searches on the subject on Kazakhstan that I will continue to get “hits” whether I write much or not.

As an earlier blog indicated, I thought I was finally returning to Astana but it didn’t work out.  Hurricane Sandy had something to do with my passport being delayed so that I missed my first flight. My passport was stuck or held up for over a week in New York.  When I was ready to take my second, rescheduled flight once I DID get my passport back, the visa read: “NO RIGHT TO WORK.”  So, the whole point of my going to Astana was to teach English and I would have had to do it for FREE with that kind of bureaucratic stamp in my passport. Truth be told, I have felt like a “slave” in the past when I taught at a “westernized” university in Almaty.  Well, it wasn’t that bad, but as a professional I was not paid well and treated disrespectfully.  But I know I wasn’t singled out as an American, those  in “control” of teachers did the same to my colleagues, their own Kazakh teachers.

I am glad to read what a British teaching colleague is doing about human trafficking in Astana.  He has become very active in the movement and I KNOW he will leave a lasting impression on many he leaves behind.  The following is how David sees himself fighting the good fight against human trafficking in Kazakhstan. May his tribe increase so once he does leave Kazakhstan, there will be many more who follow in his footsteps combating human trafficking.

“It has long been my custom to give away clothes, etc when leaving any country I have been working in (Kz is the 10th I lived & worked in) to this end on my arrival in Astana, I searched for & found a charitable organization here in Astana and organized a clothes collection to pass on to them. The end of winter gave me the opportunity to de-clutter my colleagues’ wardrobe (ok, closet for Americans) and help those in need!

I have been involved in volunteering over many years both when I was younger in the UK with social causes (Adult Literacy, Youth work among other areas) and in more recent years in sport as a coach/referee (especially in fencing). I had never been involved in the area of trafficking & in all honesty knew little about it when I first became involved as I have begun to learn much more about the area I realize what a horrific crime against humanity it is & I should do what little I can.

The organization I became involved in is the International Organisation for Migration which deals with migration & human trafficking around the world. I visited the offices here in Astana & they are in need of clothes and/or domestic equipment. The majority of cases in Central Asia are concerned with labour trafficking & the majority of victims are men which is very different from the overall global picture! When someone is rescued from conditions of servitude/slavery they usually have nothing but the clothes they are wearing. IOM operates hostels for escaped/rescued victims around the country (Astana, Kokshetau, Petropavlosk & Almaty) which I have visited and can tell you, at first hand, how welcome our donations have been.

You should not compare the donation of clothes to victims here in Kz with giving clothes to a high street charity shop in the UK. All donations go directly to help victims (i.e. are NOT sold through a shop) so help to change lives & ‘re-humanise’ victims recovering from a traumatic situation. Even the donation of an old handbag will help give a victim some sense of self-worth as they have something that is ‘theirs’.The other area I have focused on is awareness raising at Nazarbayev University where I work as an English teacher. The students at NU are frequently told they are ‘the future leaders’ of the country and thus are the sort of people one needs to educate!

A series of film shows, seminars, lectures & other activities such as card making/bake sales have taken place over the last 18 months which has helped to make the students (& staff!) of NU much more aware of this issue than they were. NU has donated domestic equipment which had been written off (eg mattresses, towels, etc). Some of the students have responded magnificently as you can see from this video made after a student-organised run in aid of victims earlier in 2012.It is difficult to have more direct involvement as there is an obvious language barrier as well as the need for security in the healing process which is part of the 3 Rs approach (Rescue, Rehabilitation & Re-intgration).

I have to confess that the work has grown out of all proportion to what I had originally envisaged (there is a permanent large box in the student residence for donations that I clear very regularly) but awareness is growing (several students did research projects on aspects of trafficking year compared with none the previous year!  I suppose that when I finally leave Kz I will look back on this work with most pride & satisfaction.”

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Be Careful and Be Warned Anti-Abolitionists!!!

I don’t even know where to begin. Why are westerners complacent about human trafficking? Is it because they think slavery has been abolished and totally eradicated with the passing of time since the Civil War in America? Was that not a war worth fighting for? Some people in their ivory towers believe that we should NEVER, ever be in war, no matter what is at stake, even freedom for those less fortunate or less educated.  Apparently these same, self-acclaimed peace-niks believe they are absolved and have moved on to a higher plane with electing a “black” president. All past pain is forgiven and forgotten? But my question is: “Shouldn’t there be an all out war and campaign against human trafficking?”

Instead some “intelligent” people war with their words and put down our best efforts as abolitionists while we try to make others aware of the sin in our fallen world.  However, just because they don’t believe in sin or our fallen natures and they don’t believe in God either, they feel off the hook ethically and morally.  Twisted logic would have them parrot the following questions when they are caught in their painted-in corner, “Why does God allow suffering in the world?  OR Where is YOUR God now?” They have such audacity to ask these type of questions when they have no solution to help those who are not free to help themselves.

Who is morally outraged about the poor people in today’s world who are conscripted to work on ego building projects? Mere statistics who somehow disappear because these people are just numbers and not your own son or daughter, husband or wife.  How can insensitive people continue to laugh at sasha cohen who inflamed the honor and dignity of Kazakh people by filming his movie titled Barot? This despicable movie was actually filmed in Romania and NOT in Kazakhstan. Unfortunately, the Romanian people continue to suffer (read human trafficking BIG time in that last statement).  Please read this interesting blog about what the Romanians remember of their suffering under communism even 23 years after their “beloved” leader succumbed to the “people’s wishes.”

For now, I would hope that my dear Kazakhstan has not fallen into a similar plight that Romania was led down with all their building projects under a egomaniac. Trafficking has been rampant in both countries.  Yet I’m proud to report that there are some people in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital, who are trying to raise awareness, money and donations of clothes for those victims who are in transition in trafficking shelters.  Read the latest upbeat report about what just took place.

“NU hosted a concert in aid of human trafficking awareness on May 4 in the Atrium. NU has been active in collecting clothes for victims who have been rescued or escaped from conditions of sex or labour servitude which has been much appreciated by the organisations active in this area.  Adila and Medina, who are well known to many in NU, opened the concert before a short speech from Olga, the local organiser for the International Organisation for Migration thanking NU for its continuing assistance and interest, then Serik & Kana performed Russian Bard music   The evening finished with a collection in aid of a legal aid fund for rescued victims of trafficking in north Kazakhstan currently involved in a court case to which participants responded generously!”

My last plea would be to those smart, but godless, people who think they know so much about how to solve the world’s problems without God. They seem to believe that certain leaders in our world can save us from ourselves, but just look at the recent history of Mao Tse Tung, Lenin, Stalin AND of course Hitler.  We, as Christians, understand that the Bible has valuable lessons recorded from ancient history so we can learn about what effective leaders and selfish leaders did.  King David was a man after God’s own heart but he eventually sinned, he fell from God’s grace and paid for the consequences.

Hopefully our nation of the U.S. will not have to pay similar penalties for its willful ignorance about slavery (sex trafficking) going on in the rest of the world and in our own country.  I challenge the agnostics and atheists who read my blog to give me an answer to why they do NOTHING to help others out of slavery while blaming God (who they don’t believe in) for the problem. Spit in the eye of freedom because Someone else died for you so that you can be hasty in your judgment of me as a Christian abolitionist.  Be careful and be warned.

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Hope in Kazakhstan’s Education, BUT What About Human Trafficking?

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.”

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Former Kazakh Police Officer Writes about Human Trafficking

I LOVE getting comments from my blog readers! Today’s is very well informed about human trafficking in Kazakhstan.  The following is from a Kazakh person who used to be a police officer in Almaty.

“I have a passion for what I am doing with human trafficking, and I am so happy to meet the person like you, who has a passion for what she is doing.

First time I dealt with a trafficking case in 1996, when I used to work as a police officer. I knew that three victims were trafficked to Emirates and forced to prostitution. I knew who the traffickers were. And I couldn’t do anything, because there was no article in the national Penal Code to charge for trafficking in persons, and the victims were imprisoned abroad for prostitution although they were initially forced to prostitution! And my colleagues and I couldn’t help these young ladies to return, just because there was not any agreement of legal assistance between the Emirates and Kazakhstan…

When these ladies served their sentences and returned to Kazakhstan, they rejected any cooperation with the police and didn’t want their traffickers to be charged. They just wanted no one and nothing to remind them about what happened to them in Emirates… I understood them and respected their choice. But I was really stung… Why was I wearing my uniform if I couldn’t protect these ladies?…

In a few years, I left the police force because I had reached my glass ceiling in that career, and also for family reasons, and started working as a lawyer in a defense lawyers’ office. But very soon I realized that I was still stung with that case of 1996, and, as soon as IOM advertized a position of counter-trafficking program coordinator for Central Asia I applied, and was selected for this position. This was really an opportunity for me to contribute into combating human trafficking much more than I could when used to be just a police officer!

Here’s another comment that I could NOT ignore…

“You wrote earlier in your blog that the shelter for victims of trafficking in Amaty “is funded by the Almaty City government”. I am sorry but this is NOT correct, as this statement makes an impression that the city administration (of government, as you like) is covering all the costs of the shelter. This is not true… The only support the shelter in Almaty ever received from the city administration were very modest salaries for some of its staff. These salaries were provided to the shelter staff who were registered as unemployed at the district administrations at the places of their dwelling in Almaty. The city administration just considered the employment of these individuals in the shelter to be a part of solution of the unemployment problem in the city. So, the issue was that the shelter had employed a few citizens who were unemployed before. The role of the shelter as a place to assist the victims of trafficking was not specially considered by the city administration. Moreover, the shelter director never knows whether the city administration would or would not support these salaries in the next year. And, taking in account that these salaries are extremely modest, she needs to look for more funding to cover the whole amount of her staff salaries.

All the other funding is provided to the shelter by non-governmental donors rather than the city administration.  Some of these donors are: IOM, Almaty International Women’s Club (AIWC), and US Embassy to Kazakhstan.
Of course it is good that the Almaty city administration is supporting the shelter. But please take in account this is a minimal possible support.

There are currently three shelters for victims of human trafficking in Kazakhstan. I think people who told you so meant exactly the shelters which serve ONLY victims of trafficking. And there are many other shelters in Kazakhstan, which serve victims of domestic violence, homeless people and other vulnerable individuals. These might be 20 or even more such shelters. Some of these “other shelters” do serve victims of trafficking if this kind of victim is referred to these shelters.  However, in my and my colleagues’ understanding, the nature of the crime of trafficking results in a very serious and specific traumatization, and victims of this crime need very special treatment.

Moreover, the security measures must be doubled for them, in comparison with battered women and other beneficiaries of the “other shelters”. So serving victims of trafficking in a specialized shelter is the best solution for them, while receiving and serving them in the “other shelters” might contribute to their traumatization and vulnerability instead of rehabilitating them.”

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Shelters for Victims of Human Trafficking in Kazakhstan

The following is written by a British person I know who has the courage to help where the need is so great in Kazakhstan.  If you read my blog written by the same person, you will see this person is impassioned to DO something on a practical level to help alleviate the pain that victims go through in trying to have a “normal” life again.

“I mentioned before that I was going to meet the staff at the centre concerned with the actual ‘treatment’ of trafficking victims and the process of re-integration into society (Kz or other) which I did a few weeks ago.

Before writing about that, I would like to give you some more background as context. There are shelters throughout Kazakhstan that are all funded differently and are independent. ‘Ours’ is funded by the Ministry of Justice, which also funds the centre we met in. Another place was a feminist women’s shelter which has become a shelter for trafficking victims and is currently run by the IOM with Swedish & Dutch NGO funding and Almaty is funded by the Almaty City government.  Therefore there is no national ‘chain’ though they work quite closely together.

At the centre I met Aliya, the director (not sure of her exact title) of the shelter, and Zoya, their psychologist, who has been working there for nearly 5 years as well as Aigerim, an English teacher, who very kindly translated for us.  I asked about the process of rehabilitation & re-integration of their different residents.  The whole talk lasted about two hours so this is, of necessity, a shortened version. I hope it is a fair summary of what I was told.

According to Aliya, there are different ‘seasons’ for different residents: labour trafficked victims usually come in Autumn after crops have been gathered in (relaxation on the part of the exploiter?) whereas sex trafficked women seem to come in Winter (presumably the cold deters a chase), the summer is, it seems, a quiet time for new victims
Furthermore, Aliya told me later, in response to a question about the changing profile of victim, that there seemed to be a trend towards more Kazakh young women being sex trafficked in Astana in the three years she has been there. She did not know if this applied to the other shelters; I had also been told this by the IOM as the growth of Astana as a meeting, conference and business centre stimulated demand in the hotel sector and the attendant ‘service’ sector.

So, what happens to a new ‘entrant’?  When someone is admitted to the centre, there is a social worker assessment to identify his/her needs before Zoya becomes involved.  She stressed the absolute priority is to build up trust and confidence between her, the social worker and the new ‘client’ (the term they use) in order to progress  Consequently, she could not give an ‘average’ time for this process as it was individual – it varied enormously and the shortest time was around six weeks but that was exceptional.  I had been told by IOM that a guideline was half the period of slavery/servitude (eg 1 year in servitude roughly equalled 6 months rehabilitation)

Once trust had been established, they then started to work on the areas identified by the initial assessment.  These very often involved what we might term ‘life skills’ at a very basic level such as personal hygiene (eg the correct way to wash your own hair) moving onto such things as learning to wash clothes or perform other domestic tasks before trying to inculcate social skills such as are needed when living in a group environment (the girls share a 5-bed room)  All of which could frequently be difficult with the residents with the background they had and the difficulty in forming any new relationship (especially with males.)

While all this was happening there could also be the legal process involved in either a court case here in Kazakhstan or obtaining new documents to enable repatriation for non Kazakhs (often Uzbeks I was told) Documentation could also be a problem for Kazakh citizens if they had lost or been robbed of their own documents, especially if they were to be reunited with their families (assuming they were not involved in the original trafficking)  Relocation would not be the end for a client as they would have a local phone number for continued support as well as being able to call the shelter here to talk to Aliya who said she puts a strict limit on how long that may last

Zoya is of the ‘nurture’ school as she heavily emphasized the role of early childhood in the life path that a client ends up on (“choice “not really being an appropriate word).  She felt from her 5-year experience that very early childhood experience in the form of affection/love (or more likely, lack of either) formed the person and it was very difficult to change that (at least in Kazakhstan).  Aliya added from her experience prior to the shelter when she worked in a refuge for victims of domestic violence (a big problem in Kazakhstan) that a cycle of abuse and/or neglect was often
created and became generational. This is without the sort of bond that might be created between exploiter and exploited of which they gave me some instances…”

(to be continued)

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Human Trafficking (Part IV)

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 – Also, check out  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.”

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“Two Kyrgyz Women” (Part II)

I’m glad I had a chance to finish reading both stories about women from Kyrgyzstan who were part of a terrible mis-adventure of human trafficking.  They managed to escape their tormented lives where they were sent to “work” and told their stories to a very good writer. I wrote some of the quotes from the earlier part of the book in yesterday’s blog. I thought the author, Marinka Franulovic, did a nice job of portraying Kyrgyz customs of marriage, funerals, rituals before leaving home to another place, babies’ celebration etc. The traditions have been built into the villagers who have carried them down from generation to generation.  What these two people were NOT ready for is trusting someone to give them a better job and a promise of a better life but it turned out that they and many others had been duped.

The following is from p. 157 of “Two Kyrgyz Women” and I think the statistics speak for themselves.  Remember behind every number there are human souls who have encountered unspeakable tragedies.  Slavery is not dead, it is alive and well for those who make a profit and among those who seek to gain a fortune off of the desparate.  Often it seems that the Kyrgyz people are unwittingly deceived to believe they will get their dreams to come true if they work hard.

“According to IOM (Intl. Organization of Migration) research, an estimated 5,000 people are annually trafficked from Kyrgyzstan to third countries.  Each year, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders worldwide.  Out of this number approximately 80 percent are women and girls, and up to 50 percent are minors.”

p. 158. “Victims of human trafficking pay a horrible price.  Psychological and physical harm, including disease and stunted growth, often have permanent effects.  In many cases the exploitation of trafficking victims is progressive- a child trafficked into one form of labor may be further abused in another.  Another brutal reality of the modern-day slave trade is that its victims are frequently bought and sold many times over, often sold initially by family members, relatives or acquaintances.

Victims forced into sex slavery can be subdued with drugs and subjected to extreme violence…The causes of human trafficking are complex. Looking at human trafficking as a global market, the victims constitute the supply and abusive employers or sexual exploiters represent the demand.  The supply of victims is encouraged by many factors, including: poverty; the attraction of perceived higher standards of living elsewhere; lack of employment opportunities, organized crime; violence against women and children; discrimination against women; government corruption; political instability and armed conflict.

On the demand side, factors driving human trafficking include sex industry and the growing demand for exploitable labor.  Sex tourism and child pornography have become worldwide industries, facilitated by technologies such as the Internet, which vastly expand the choices available to “consumers” and permit instant and nearly undetectable transactions.  Trafficking is also driven by the demand for cheap, vulnerable and illegal labor.

IOM’s programs against trafficking target both the supply side and the demand side.”

That is the mission of IOM and to read this book packs a powerful punch about showing what these poor ladies went through.  May this never happen to anyone you know.  One last story I have to share.  A student of mine at the other university I taught at last year in Almaty told me about her friend from h.s. who was a very good dancer.  She was approached by a man who said he could get her to the U.S. to be in a dancing troupe.  She had beautiful, blonde hair and really thought that what she had been told was true.

No, she and 10 other girls were thrown into a basement once they got to the U.S. and had their passports taken away.  Somehow this Kazakhstani girl was able to call her uncle in Germany and he was able to get word out that his niece was in this terrible situation.  It ended well for her and another girl who walked away from this basement, but whatever happened to the 8 she left behind?  They are probably worn out prostitutes if not drugged and dead already.

I had a young female student in Ukraine who might have gotten messed up in something similar.  She was the brightest amongst her classmates as she had studied in Texas. She supposedly got “married” to a German guy but then she unexpectedly returned to Ukraine and would not talk about her “ordeal.”  Particularly true of Central Asian women who do not talk about such matters if it is anything to do with the sex trade.  They would be so full of shame that they would just typically bury it.  I’m glad these two Kyrgyz women were brave enough to get their story out there for the rest of the world to know the torment and suffering they and too many others are going through right now, even as you read this.

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