KAZAKHSTAN: Tier 2
Kazakhstan is a destination and, to a lesser extent, a source and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Domestic trafficking is a consistent problem, accounting for most identified victims. Kazakhstani women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking in the Middle East, Europe, and United States. Women and girls from neighboring Central Asian and Eastern European countries, as well as from rural areas in Kazakhstan, are subjected to sex trafficking in Kazakhstan; in most cases, traffickers target young girls and women, luring them with promises of employment as waitresses, models, or nannies in large cities. The relative economic prosperity in the government capital Astana, the financial capital Almaty, and the western oil cities Aktau and Atyrau, attract large numbers of Kazakhstanis from rural villages, some of whom become victims of labor trafficking and sexual exploitation. Chinese, Kazakhstani, and other Central Asian nationals, in particular Uzbekistani men and women, are subjected to conditions of forced labor in domestic service, construction, and agriculture in Kazakhstan. Some children are forced to beg and others may be coerced into criminal behavior or pornography. Many victims indicate they were lured through fraud and deceit, sometimes by friends or acquaintances, and, at times, exploited by small organized criminal groups 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 demonstrated its commitment to combating trafficking in persons by improving its anti-trafficking legislation, continuing its training of law enforcement officials, and investigating and prosecuting suspected police officers complicit in trafficking offenses. The government significantly increased its funding for victim assistance and continued its robust partnership with international organizations and NGOs to protect victims and raise awareness of trafficking crimes. However, victim identification, investigations, and convictions decreased. The government’s long-term shelter capacity also remained insufficient and funding for awareness campaigns declined.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR KAZAKHSTAN:
Continue to improve efforts to identify trafficking victims—particularly foreign forced labor victims—among vulnerable populations and refer these victims for assistance; increase efforts to vigorously investigate and prosecute suspected trafficking cases, respecting due process; continue to increase the number of government-funded trafficking shelters; refrain from deporting victims; provide legal alternatives to forced repatriation; train labor inspectors to better identify victims of forced labor and report potential trafficking cases to the police; continue to investigate and prosecute police officers suspected of corruption; develop the mechanism to provide longer-term shelter and rehabilitation to trafficking victims; and provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for diplomatic personnel to prevent their engagement or facilitation of trafficking crimes.
The government maintained progress in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Kazakhstan prohibits all forms of sex and labor trafficking through Articles 128, 133, 125(3b), 126(3b), 270, and 132-1 of its penal code, prescribing penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Police investigated 82 trafficking cases in 2014, compared with 138 in 2013. Kazakhstani authorities completed 37 cases, resulting in 32 offenders convicted in 2014, a decrease from 43 convictions the previous year. Convicted offenders for sex and labor trafficking offenses received sentences ranging from one year of probation to 10 years’ imprisonment. Two police officers were convicted for abusing their professional roles and facilitating illegal migration and pimping; the officers received a 3-year and 5-year prison sentence, respectively.
The government continued to provide a variety of specialized training courses in the recognition, investigation, and prosecution of trafficking crimes for police, prosecutors, and judges and funded police participation in international anti-trafficking events. In 2014, the judicial institute conducted eight training sessions for 400 judges on the protection of trafficking victims during the criminal process. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) conducted five in-service training courses on victim identification and investigative techniques for 84 police officers, the migration police, community police, and school inspectors. During the reporting period, Kazakhstan jointly investigated 10 cases related to trafficking with other countries, including Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The government continued to investigate police officials allegedly complicit in trafficking and related offenses, including a case in Mangystau Oblast where officials protected a brothel owner, previously convicted of trafficking. Experts noted a recent decrease in the number of trafficking cases related to pimping and brothel maintenance after the maximum penalty for this crime increased to 10 years’ imprisonment and believe pimps are bribing low-ranking police officials to avoid such charges.
The government continued its efforts to protect victims, but the availability of long-term care and standard operating procedures for assistance to foreign victims remained lacking. In 2014, the government identified 74 trafficking victims, a decrease from 122 victims identified in the previous year. Of those victims, 58 were victims of sex trafficking and 16 were victims of forced labor. All six foreign victims were from Central Asia, and 68 Kazakhstani victims from rural areas were subjected to internal trafficking.
Kazakhstan has four NGO-operated trafficking shelters, which provide legal, psychological, and medical assistance and are accessible to all trafficking victims, regardless of citizenship, gender, or age. However, NGOs report foreign victims sometimes experience difficulties in accessing local medical facilities due to a lack of health insurance or residency permits. The government allocated 6,475,000 Kazakhstani Tenge (KZT) ($35,500), an increase from 4,625,000 KZT ($25,400) in 2013, to one NGO-run shelter for trafficking victims in Astana, which assisted 39 victims in 2014; however, it had not yet developed a mechanism to provide long-term assistance beyond this shelter. The MVD allocated 2,127,500 KZT ($11,700), an increase from 1,480,000 KZT ($8,100) in 2013, for victim assistance during investigations. In 2014, civil society groups and government-funded programs assisted a total of 161 potential trafficking victims, an increase from 100 in the previous year; 73 of which were referred by the government and an additional 88 victims referred by international organizations, embassies, NGOs and self-referral. Of the total number of trafficking victims assisted, 59 were Kazakhstani and 102 were foreigners; 46 were victims of sexual exploitation and 115 of forced labor; 54 were female and 107 male.
To formally entitle trafficking victims to receive care under the Special Social Services law, the government expanded the law’s definition of “victims of violence” to include trafficking victims. In January 2015, amendments to the penal procedural code, made in the previous reporting period, came into force, allowing for victims to seek compensation from a government fund. NGOs reported effective victim referral and police cooperation with anti-trafficking units assigned to each region. Law enforcement units mandated to address migration or trafficking issues have a formal system to guide officials in the proactive identification of trafficking victims among at-risk persons, such as undocumented migrants or persons engaged in prostitution. The government encouraged victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions by providing witness protection during court proceedings, access to pre-trial shelter services, and basic provisions such as food, clothing, and medical and legal assistance. Foreign victims were provided with legal protection and special temporary residency throughout the duration of their criminal investigation; however, if an investigation was not initiated, victims could not be given protective status. The government did not offer legal alternatives to removal of foreign victims; all victims were forcibly repatriated after expiration of their temporary residency rights. There were no reports of trafficking victims being criminally punished in 2014.
The government maintained modest prevention efforts, including efforts to educate children on potential dangers of human trafficking. MVD assumed leadership of the interagency Trafficking in Persons Working Group, now chaired by the minister; two meetings were held in 2014 with participation from multiple ministries, NGOs, and international organizations. Members of the working group drafted a national action plan for 2015-2017 and submitted it to the prime minister’s office, where it remained awaiting approval at the close of the reporting period. The government continued to fund anti-trafficking information and education campaigns targeting potential victims of trafficking, including children. The Ministry of Culture and Information funded radio and television programs, as well as the publication of newspaper articles and web-publications, designed to prevent trafficking by raising public awareness. The government allocated approximately 7,492,500 KZT ($41,100) to NGOs for prevention projects, which included advertisement of the police hotline, booklets with consular information for those traveling abroad, and anti-trafficking handouts. The government continued to provide in-kind contributions to an international organization program on demand reduction for commercial sexual acts, serving to facilitate engagement and discussion of school inspectors and child-protection officials with male students. The government did not take any actions to reduce the demand for forced labor. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.