The government increased protection efforts. The government identified 53 trafficking victims in 2019, the same number as reported in 2018. The government did not provide additional information, such as the victims’ nationality, gender, or type or location of exploitation. An international organization reported assisting 24 victims of transnational trafficking, 19 of whom were referred by Tajikistani law enforcement (an increase from 11 in 2018), four by NGOs, and one by a foreign embassy; 21 were Tajikistani citizens and three were Vietnamese. Of the 24 victims assisted, 13 were adult males, 11 were victims of forced labor, and 13 were victims of sex trafficking. The government continued 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. However, gaps remained in the implementation of the victim protection law; some victims not referred to the government or an international organization lacked adequate access to attorneys during the investigation process and criminal proceedings. Tajikistani law enforcement agencies have not developed procedures to provide a legal status to victims, and some victims had to pay for legal and medical services that otherwise should have been provided by the government.
Most notably, authorities remained without a formal system for identifying trafficking victims and referring them to services. The government did not provide an update on whether the draft guidelines for victim identification, developed by a legislative reform working group and submitted to the government for approval in 2018, were adopted. Due to a lack of formal identification procedures, authorities may have penalized some unidentified victims for unlawful acts traffickers forced them to commit. Law enforcement officials routinely deported foreign migrant workers and did not attempt to identify trafficking victims proactively among men and women in commercial sex or forced labor. Officials also sometimes temporarily detained sex trafficking victims with their traffickers but later released and referred victims for assistance.
The government continued to operate the country’s sole trafficking shelter. The government contracted an NGO to provide victim services and provided 242,000 somoni ($25,080) for the shelter’s operating costs, medical assistance for victims, legal consultations, and partial funding of staff salaries, an increase compared with 190,000 somoni ($19,690) in 2018. The shelter assisted 20 victims in 2019, compared with six in 2018. Article 30 of the trafficking law mandated the creation of governmental and private institutions to directly aid victims with food and shelter, as well as social, legal, and reintegration assistance; however, outside of the funding for the shelter, an international organization funded most victim protection 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 2019. 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.