1. Home
  2. Americas
  3. Canada

Special report on human trafficking - Continued

Other Turkmens based in Dubai eventually helped her escape, but she refuses to say how she got home or who was to blame for her misfortune. "I know I was stupid, but there's nothing, nothing, nothing for us here," she said, casting her eyes out of the window to the dusty street beyond. Many of her contemporaries have also entered the sex trade in the Gulf or Turkey. Some told IRIN they had not been trafficked as such, but had gone out of economic necessity. "You try and make the best of your life and that's it," one woman said. Prostitution and soliciting are strictly illegal in the UAE, and theoretically can be harshly punished, but the authorities appear to turn a blind eye because of the income the industry generates and the number of wealthy tourists it attracts. "Dubai is one spot in the Arab world where anyone, Muslims included, can walk on the wild side, so this [sex] industry is hugely popular with not only Western men but guys from Iran, Saudi, Kuwait, Oman, you name it," a foreign diplomat based in UAE told IRIN. UZBEKISTAN - A GROWING SOURCE But it is in neighbouring Uzbekistan where by far the largest numbers now come from. "Human trafficking in Uzbekistan is worsening and it is very problematic regarding the United Arab Emirates," Nadira Karimova, the head of Generation for the Future, a local NGO, told IRIN in the capital, Tashkent, adding that there were cases of people having been trafficked to Thailand, Malaysia and Israel, as well as Europe and the United States.
[Kazakhstan] IOM posters warn women to be a aware of the risks.
IOM posters in the Kazakh commercial capital, Almaty, warn women of the risks of trafficking
Men were mostly trafficked to Russia as labourers, whereas almost all the women were trafficked for sexual exploitation, she said. In an effort to tackle the issue, the NGO had opened a hotline and had been receiving calls from parents of young women who went abroad and subsequently fell prey to criminal groups. She added that the NGO was receiving at least 300 calls a month, many directly from victims of trafficking. Karimova said that her group had, with the support of the IOM, assisted 35 trafficked victims to return home over the past year. Thirty women had been repatriated from Israel thanks to assistance from the Israeli women's NGO Isha Isha (Woman to Woman), as well as three women from Bangkok, one from the UAE and a man from Pakistan. In June this year, a US State Department report accused 15 nations, including Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, of not doing enough to stop the trafficking of people forced into servitude or the sex trade. The report said Uzbekistan was primarily a source and, to a lesser extent, a transit country for the purposes of prostitution and labour, while the government of Uzbekistan was neither fully adhering to the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, nor making significant efforts to do so. The issue of human trafficking remains largely a closed book in Uzbekistan, due to the stigma attached to the practice. But things are slowly changing and support agencies have recorded an increase in the number of victims applying for help, following recent newspaper and media campaigns highlighting the issue. "One case from the southern city of Samarkand was of a 17-year-old girl being trafficked to the United Arab Emirates, not via Tashkent, but through the Kyrgyz city of Osh and Azerbaijan's capital, Baku. However, it is extremely difficult to track the criminal chain in such cases," said Karimova, because there were no visas or any other documents. Moreover, the criminal gangs were casting their nets wider these days. Whereas previously victims had been mainly from the Uzbek cities of Tashkent and Samarkand, cases from outlying provinces like Jizak and Syrdar'ya were becoming more common, indicating that criminal groups were also operating in these regions. Young girls from rural areas were less informed and educated and therefore easier to deceive, she added. WOMEN DRIVEN INTO THE SEX TRADE Growing unemployment and poverty are the primary causes of the rise in the numbers of people being trafficked from Uzbekistan, observers conclude. World Bank figures for 2002 indicate that at least one-third of the country's population now lives below the poverty line. The general downturn in the country's economic fortunes has meant fewer opportunities, especially for women, so prostitution is on the rise. Barno Samieva, the head of the local women's council in Samarkand, told IRIN that the sex industry was growing rapidly, mainly as a result of the country's economic difficulties. A lack of job opportunities and rising prices were forcing Uzbek women to take desperate measures. "By working as prostitutes, many women can feed their families and provide for their children. This is what I constantly hear from them during educational discussions," said Samieva. Many of the sex-workers tell her that they would give up the trade if they had any other way of earning money. Karimova added that such a trend was worrying, because it created a ready pool of vulnerable women for the traffickers to prey on. "We do conduct questionnaires, and we can see that the victims were previously saleswomen in the markets, worked as hairdressers or waitresses - the three main occupational groups most vulnerable," she said. The majority of women who had contacted the NGO for assistance were wives of former drug addicts, women with husbands in prison and single mothers. Although the Uzbek government is finally beginning to understand the magnitude of the human trafficking it is facing, much more remains to be done, observers say. Lack of information and public debate is also feeding the problem. "After opening the hotline, lots of people called back saying 'thank you, your information helped us to avoid the trafficking trap'," Karimova said. Continued

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Share this article

Get the day’s top headlines in your inbox every morning

Starting at just $5 a month, you can become a member of The New Humanitarian and receive our premium newsletter, DAWNS Digest.

DAWNS Digest has been the trusted essential morning read for global aid and foreign policy professionals for more than 10 years.

Government, media, global governance organisations, NGOs, academics, and more subscribe to DAWNS to receive the day’s top global headlines of news and analysis in their inboxes every weekday morning.

It’s the perfect way to start your day.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian today and you’ll automatically be subscribed to DAWNS Digest – free of charge.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.