World Day Against Trafficking in Persons is celebrated annually on July 30. Alas, it will be utopic to commemorate the Day of Ending Human Trafficking one day.
Human trafficking is a crime that should cease to exist. Nobody deserves to be a victim of human trafficking. But we also understand that this is a business-based crime. According to the UN Secretary General’s report of 7 September 2020, human trafficking generates approximately $150 billion in global profits for traffickers a year, $99 billion of which comes from commercial sexual exploitation.
It is a prominent criminal business comparable to drug and arms trafficking in terms of profitability. The decision-makers and the public must understand, accept the existence of this problem and fight against it.
In Kazakhstan, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, human rights organizations, parliament, the ombudsman, and the judiciary are involved in combating trafficking in persons. Moreover, this issue is discussed at the level of a head of state, and it is a top priority.
IOM Kazakhstan is also part of the interdepartmental commission. The commission implements the action plan. For example, we are now providing support to strengthen the fight by improving the legal framework. Namely, we are developing a new draft law that will meet modern challenges and consider aspects of combating human trafficking.
One of the innovations introduced this year in Kazakhstan is mobile working groups that respond to any reports related to human trafficking. The pilot program operates in three regions – Mangistau, Turkistan, and Karaganda. The group consists of representatives from non-governmental organizations and law enforcement agencies, and social workers. The victim receives assistance, and investigative measures are taken right away, cutting some excessive bureaucratic procedures.
Much remains to be done in the area ofcriminal prosecution. In Kazakhstan, as in many other countries, criminal prosecution requires thorough development. It often turns out that the case does not go to court, or it is reclassified into a lighter one, and the criminals do not receive proper punishment. This is one of our priority areas in which we will work with partners.
Additionally, in Kazakhstan, labor exploitation dominates among all other exploitation methods. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of people participating in the migration process, and with this, there is always a high risk of human trafficking.
Society itself must reject human trafficking. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go to achieve the unacceptance of human trafficking. However, I am pleased to see that there is a recognition of the human trafficking problem at the highest level in the government.
In addition, Kazakhstan began to take concrete measures, such as financing activities to combat trafficking in persons. Even though the funding is not ample, it is still a critical step. Hopefully, responsible government agencies would include in the budget permanent items of expenditure for assisting victims of human trafficking.
The role of non-governmental organizations is essential in this matter. As practice shows, vulnerable groups are more inclined to trust and work with non-governmental organizations.
Everyone should be aware of the problem and risks associated with human trafficking. I encourage everyone to pay attention to social videos and not to ignore the problem. If there are any suspicions, then report to the responsible authorities. Everyone can take part in the fight against human trafficking by showing participation and consideration.
If a crime has been committed, then there must be a case solution. In addition, people must be sure that the state protects them. If a crime entails severe punishment, then the number of people willing to engage in criminal business will decrease. I think that criminal cases and court decisions of this kind should be widely publicized so that everyone knows that the crime of human trafficking is punishable by law. There is no doubt that the law must be harsh. In this case, it will be possible to minimize the problem of human trafficking.
In recent years, we have seen a toxic and harmful narrative around the issue of migration. It is believed that if a person is a migrant, then he came to take away jobs, is a criminal, or a lawbreaker. If we succeed in eliminating these stereotypes and destroying myths, we can assume that our mission has been accomplished. It is a task worth investing time and effort in.
Migration is a process that has historically been present in society, is, and will remain. Our key role is to help governments and states build effective migration management systems. This process should be considered in socio-economic development and the protection of national interests, as it concerns all spheres of life. I believe that migration should work for individuals and society.
The author is Zeynal Hajiev, the Chief of Mission in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Zeynal Hajiyev was appointed as Chief of Mission in IOM Kazakhstan, Coordinator for Central Asia, non-resident Chief of Mission in Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan in October 2019. As the Country Office with Coordinating Functions for Central Asia, the IOM mission in Kazakhstan helps to address specific sub-regional migration issues and emerging trends in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, establishing priorities for project development and resource mobilization, and stimulating, directing and supporting project development in the country offices in the context of sub-regional strategies, policies and consultative processes.