A UN human rights expert today called on Tajikistan to do more to prevent human trafficking and protect victims, particularly women refugees and asylum seekers fleeing conflict zones.
Speaking at the end of a visit to Tajikistan, the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, Siobhán Mullally, commended the Government on measures it has taken to combat trafficking, including the adoption of anti-trafficking legislation, laws on refugee protection, and the preparation of a new National Action Plan.
But she expressed serious concern over the lack of protection afforded to refugees currently in the country, including those from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
“It is essential that the Government recommences the registration of asylum seekers and refugees as a matter of urgency, and ensures full respect for the principle of non-refoulement, recognising serious risks of persecution including gendered human rights violations and human trafficking,” Mullally said.
The expert said that urgent work is needed to combat trafficking for sexual exploitation, including internally in Tajikistan.
“Stigma and discriminatory attitudes towards women and girls who are victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation lead to failures of protection, and deny victims their right to justice and to effective remedies,” Mullally said. “We have heard disturbing accounts of the experiences of victims, often recruited for work abroad, and subsequently trafficked for forced labour and sexual exploitation. The Government must continue to develop safe migration opportunities based on gender equality, and women’s empowerment.”
Efforts are also needed to support the families of migrant workers, particularly female headed households who may be vulnerable to exploitation, as well as women working in the informal economy.
Mullally commended the Government’s commitment to the repatriation of women and children from Iraq and Syria who may be victims of trafficking.
But steps should be taken to reunite repatriated children with their families, where this is in their best interests, she said, adding that it was crucial to strengthen child protection measures, including for vulnerable children, and to ensure the registration of children.
Mullally called on the Government to strengthen assistance and long-term protection measures, including access to legal assistance, employment, education, vocational training, which she said are critical to empowering women and breaking the cycle of re-trafficking and exploitation.
The Special Rapporteur also highlighted the importance of ensuring that a trauma informed and gender sensitive approach is adopted in all investigations and prosecutions of trafficking-related crimes, and that unconditional assistance is provided to victims.
Welcoming the Government’s commitment to ratification and implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Mullally said that “the rights of persons with disabilities who may be victims of trafficking or at risk of trafficking must be fully protected, including in ensuring effective access to justice.”
LGBT persons may face particular risks, she said, adding that “urgent measures are needed to ensure that assistance and protection for LGBT victims of trafficking is provided without discrimination, guaranteeing equal protection of the law in practice.”