Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Kazakstan as Human Trafficking Route

By Meruert Sarsebai






Kazakstan’s geographical location as Central Asia’s gateway to Russia and other countries has made it a stopping-off point for people trafficking.

Human rights activists say victims are often brought in from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to be transported on to destinations including Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Greece.

Tackling forced labour and sexual exploitation is difficult, because few people are aware of these problems, and also because corrupt police often turn a blind eye.

Aina Shormanbaeva from the Almaty-based International Human Rights Initiative said that although the first victims emerged in the early 2000s, it took the Kazak authorities some time to realise the extent of the problem and do something about it. Legislation on human trafficking was passed in 2006.

Every year, around 200 cases involving sexual exploitation and forced labour are reported to the police, but only few of them ever get as far as court.

Shormanbaeva said sex trafficking cases showed an alarming trend with the victims getting younger. Girls as young as 13 or 14 were now being targeted, and one case in the northern Kokshetau region involved a child of 11.

A 25-year old woman told IWPR how she was abducted from her home in the southern Shymkent region when she was 13 and brought to Almaty. She was the youngest of a group of girls and women held captive and forced into prostitution by a gang of criminals. The case is due to go to trial soon.

Shormanbaeva said sexual exploitation was now on the authorities’ radar, but other abuses including forced labour and the trade in human organs needed to get the same kind of attention.

This audio programme, in Kazak, went out on Radio Azattyk, the Kazak service of RFE/RL, as part of IWPR project work funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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