Conference Marks UN World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

ASTANA – Ambassadors and representatives of nongovernmental organisations and the United Nations discussed the state of slavery, trafficking in persons and ongoing efforts to combat both during a July 30 conference hosted by Astana’s Kazakh State Juridical University. The conference was held to mark the first UN World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

The UN General Assembly declared July 30 World Day Against Trafficking in Persons with its resolution 68/192 of last December, which marks the date of adoption of the UN Global Plan of Action Against Trafficking in Persons in 2010. At the conference, organised by the United Nations Office in Kazakhstan and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Coordination Office for Central Asia in Kazakhstan with the support of the Embassies of South Africa, the United States of America and Belarus, speakers reviewed efforts to eradicate trafficking in their countries and Kazakhstan’s achievements and challenges in migration and trafficking.

“The damage from human trafficking is not only to the individuals involved, but to the whole society,” said UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Permanent Resident in Kazakhstan Stephen Tull, opening the conference. Fighting it requires a comprehensive approach. “Kazakhstan has been fairly good at putting the right laws in place, but of course now we need to make sure that there is properly disseminated information on these laws, so the rights and obligations of everybody are clear.”

In fulfilling its goal of building a more inclusive society, Tull said, Kazakhstan will also help address the complex issue of trafficking.

The U.S. takes human trafficking very seriously, said U.S. Charge de Affaires ad interim John Ordway. By some estimates, some 20 million people live in conditions like slavery today, he said. “But because this is truly a global problem, we can only solve it by working together, which is why our successful and long-standing partnership with the government of Kazakhstan against trafficking in persons is so very important.” One result of the partnership is a training centre for police in Karaganda that opened in 2008 and has trained 500 officers to identify and investigate human trafficking cases.

“Kazakhstan has made great progress in recent years in fighting human trafficking,” Ordway said. “In Kazakhstan, however, as in all countries, including the United States, there is still a lot of work to do.”

Most of the trafficking victims within Kazakhstan are Kazakh citizens trafficked within the country, an IOM press release on the conference stated, and every seventh is a minor. Most are trafficked for their labour.

Kazakhstan has made progress in combating trafficking in persons, passing amendments to its anti-trafficking legislation in 2013 that increased penalties for trafficking in persons and aligned its definition of human trafficking with the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children of the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, the press release said.

“The country has been ranked Tier 2 in the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report as a country which is making significant efforts to combat human trafficking, but not fully compliant with minimum standards,” it continued. Recommendations for Kazakhstan include improving efforts to identify and assist victims, offering temporary legal status to foreign trafficking victims and providing legal alternatives to forced repatriation, developing ways to provide longer-term shelter and rehabilitation to victims, increasing the number of victims who receive government-funded assistance by funding additional trafficking shelters and strengthening the capacity of police, prosecutors, and judges to investigate trafficking cases.

The IOM is currently working with other stakeholders to help the government enhance its legislation on these issues, the IOM stated. The final documents will be presented at the national dialogue in September 2014.

In August 2014, IOM and partner government agencies will launch a project on improving identification and referral of victims of trafficking, including comprehensive training for those who might encounter trafficking victims. It will also support the Human Rights Commission under the President of Kazakhstan preparing a Special Report on Combating Trafficking in Persons in Kazakhstan, which will provide recommendations on strengthening anti-trafficking measures.

Dejan Keserovic, IOM coordinator for Central Asia and chief of Mission in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, noted that “The government of Kazakhstan is very open to the [UN Special] rapporteurs, they’re coming more and more frequently to visit Kazakhstan and [working on] how to move forward to enhance and strengthen cooperation on trafficking in human beings.”

South African Ambassador to Kazakhstan Shirish Manaklal Soni noted that his country has long been a hub for trafficking in persons. Within the country, the focus is on awareness-raising to prevent trafficking. Campaigns target educational institutions.

“The scourge of trafficking in persons calls for coherent and concise global effort by the member states of the United Nations and other stakeholders in partnership with UN agencies, international organisations, civil society, nongovernmental organisations, the private sector and the media to effectively combat it. South Africa advocates international and regional cooperation as effective ways to deal with transnational crimes.”

Dmitry Zorin, Charge d’ Affaires of the Embassy of Belarus in Kazakhstan, spoke about Belarus’s efforts to combat human trafficking, including conducting national anti-trafficking campaigns, organising international events against slavery and trafficking in persons and participating in UN anti-trafficking programmes. UN Resolution 68/192 addresses the need to build capacity and international cooperation, he said, and holding annual events to mark it will raise awareness of the problem and draw attention to victims’ rights. “Nowadays, the main task of each country is to elaborate an efficient national mechanism of implementation and to ensure fulfilment of global solutions, including the UN resolution 68/192,” he concluded.

Anna Ryl, director of Astana’s Komek shelter for victims of trafficking, reported on the work of the shelter, which provides housing, training and legal and social assistance to victims. Three other shelters are located around the country.

The conference concluded with a short film about sex trafficking.


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