Posts tagged Ministry of Justice

Shelters for Victims of Human Trafficking in Kazakhstan (Part II)

Here is the continuation of a westerner’s experience at a shelter for victims of human trafficking in Kazakhstan.  Quite revealing about a vicious cycle that needs to be broken.  Awareness and education in the rural areas is the key to make the traffickers and exploiters go away from this great land.

“A concrete example might be of interest at this juncture: Natasha, who I have met, was ‘sold’ by her mother, an alcoholic, to buy drink after years of neglect and abuse, both physical and psychological.  Her school attendance was extremely poor and, when she was there, could not understand what was being taught with the consequences you can imagine.  Both neighbours and teachers must have been aware of the situation, but did nothing to help; an attitude that is not exactly unknown in our own countries!  Natasha was ‘sold’ and brought to Astana to be a sex worker before finally escaping She hopes to start some kind of vocational training in September (paid for by the Ministry of Justice)  Her one talent seems to be in art – she was the young woman I mentioned previously as having a talent for drawing and entirely self-taught; so at least one happy ending in sight one hopes!

Not all are so fortunate; the Ukranian woman I had also previously mentioned had, apparently, been in bonded labour/servitude since Soviet times – she did not even know what a tenge was!  As you may imagine, readjustment for her has been very difficult as her ‘certainties’ in life have been removed and she is much older so it is hard to see what she might do – even back in her own country  I was told that the age profile for bonded labour/trafficking is generally older as younger people cannot physically withstand the nature of the work hence women tend to be late 20s or early 30s though men may be slightly younger

I should tell a little about the centre I mentioned earlier.  The money collected earlier in the term went to buy art material & also sports equipment for the young people who have to go there  It is also funded by the Ministry of Justice and is quite separate from the shelter.  Its purpose is for the re-education of young people who have got into trouble
or ‘bad company’ (to use a translated phrase) so includes some from orphanages, juvenile delinquents, behavioural problems as well as the local equivalent of ASBOs.  Attendance is obligatory though for its duration varies; Aigerim teaches an English class there, but we are talking about young people who do not have particularly good study habits or motivation.  There are full-time staff but also volunteers who are university students.

I went again on a Saturday with Connie and her daughter, Sandy, at Aigerim’s invitation to show the class some pictures of Brighton, Edinburgh and other parts of the UK. It should be said the kids were rather intimidated in class, but we went outside to play with the sports equipment we had bought: volleyball with the boys at first, but the girls rather liked the hula hoops and skipping ropes (great suggestions from Sandy).   In the end, we all played a sort of ‘piggy in the middle’ volleyball together which was fun.

So  a worthwhile couple of visits where I learned a lot and gained an insight into the difficulties of rehabilitation for those unfortunate enough to have been victims of trafficking  I hope that this has been worthwhile for you too and I also attach a report from the US Government on the scale of trafficking in Kazakhstan, which you might find of interest.  Should you wish to learn more or help more directly, you might like to look at the website  www.free2work.org which rates companies on their attitudes to labour trafficking or child labour (eg Gap) which might inform your next shopping spree!

Many thanks are due to Aigerim for the terrific work she did as a translator/interpreter (if you have ever done any you know how tiring it can be). Any questions please do not hesitate to contact me & I hope to enlist your support again in the new academic year.”

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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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