The government increased protection efforts. The government identified 53 trafficking victims in 2018, an increase from 15 in 2017; the government did not provide additional information, such as the victims’ nationality, gender, and type and location of exploitation. An international organization reported assisting 20 victims of international trafficking, 11 of whom were referred by Tajik law enforcement, seven by NGOs, and two by embassies; all were Tajik citizens. Women constituted 19 of the 20 referrals; 12 of the victims were sexually exploited, eight were trafficked in forced labor. The government facilitated the repatriation of one of two citizens identified as trafficking victims in Saudi Arabia. The government reported it began to implement the 2014 victim protection law, which set forth the provision of victim services; formalized the roles of agencies tasked with providing services; established government standards for service delivery among providers, including governmental agencies and NGOs; and mandated a national referral mechanism in 2016, but for most of the reporting period the referral mechanism was inconsistent with victim protection provisions. Authorities remained without a formal system for identifying trafficking victims and referring them to services. Nonetheless, in 2018, a legislative reform working group, which included representatives from the justice sector, law enforcement, Presidential Administration, parliament, and civil society, developed draft guidelines for victim identification, which it submitted to the government for approval.
The government assumed operational responsibility for the country’s sole trafficking shelter in November 2018, after establishing a commission with government, civil society, and international organization representatives that planned the phased transfer from an international organization to the government between August and November. The government spent 50,000 Tajik somoni ($5,350) on renovations to the shelter. The government contracted an NGO to provide victim services, and provided 190,000 Tajik somoni ($20,320) for the center’s operating costs, medical assistance for victims, legal consultations, and partial funding of staff salaries. Victim protection services were funded by an international organization. The shelter assisted six victims in 2018.
Law enforcement officials routinely deported foreign migrant workers and did not attempt to identify trafficking victims proactively among men and women in prostitution or forced labor. Law enforcement officials sometimes temporarily detained sex trafficking victims with their traffickers but later released and referred victims for assistance. Women in prostitution reported instances of sexual violence by law enforcement officials. It was possible officials penalized trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
The government coordinated with an international organization to repatriate Tajik minors, including potential trafficking victims, whose parents were alleged fighters with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). ISIS was known to use child soldiers and perpetrate other forms of trafficking. The government did not report screening specifically for indicators of trafficking. The children were generally housed with family members, and an international organization provided psycho-social services.
Despite provisions in the 2014 law for security measures for trafficking victims, the government did not keep victims’ personal information confidential or provide protection for victim witnesses or their advocates. The law provided foreign victims the right to request temporary residency, which could be extended for one year following the completion of a criminal case, based on the victims’ cooperation with law enforcement agencies, although no such cases were reported in 2018. There was no formal policy encouraging victims’ voluntary participation in legal proceedings; the 2014 victim protection law did not link other benefits to a victim’s participation in a trial and provided services regardless of legal status or prior consent to participate in subsequently identified trafficking crimes. Amendments made to Article 352 of the criminal code made in 2018 absolve victims of criminal liability for failure to report a crime, giving false testimony with regard to a trafficking-related crime, refusal to appear in court, or refusal to give evidence related to trafficking crimes.