The government maintained inadequate protection efforts. Authorities identified 15 victims and referred them all to an international organization for protection services, compared with 24 trafficking victims identified and 15 referred during the previous reporting period. Of the 15 identified victims, at least four were Tajikistani citizens exploited in sex trafficking abroad. Tajikistan continued to operate under a National Referral Mechanism (NRM) that included formal written procedures outlining screening, referral, and assistance protocols, but these were generally insufficient to guide interagency anti-trafficking work. In 2018, the government established a working group to append the NRM with SOPs for victim identification; for the fourth consecutive year, authorities did not take action to adopt these guidelines. Article 30 of the trafficking law mandated the creation of governmental and private institutions to directly aid victims with food and shelter, in addition to social, legal, and reintegration assistance; despite these provisions, an international organization continued to fund most victim protection services. A 2014 victim protection law ostensibly formalized the roles of agencies tasked with providing services and established standards for service delivery among government and NGO providers. However, absent standardized and promulgated victim identification procedures, roles and responsibilities among key stakeholder ministries remained unclear. In practice, observers have noted official victim status designation required a complex application procedure that may have prevented some victims from accessing care. The government’s Trafficking in Persons Center continued to train law enforcement and other government employees on screening for trafficking indicators, and some government officials benefited from additional training sessions on victim support provided by an international organization. Gaps remained in the implementation of victim protection law; Tajikistani law enforcement agencies did not develop procedures to grant legal status to victims, forcing some victims to pay for legal and medical services otherwise provided by the government.
The Ministry of Health operated the country’s only dedicated trafficking shelter. The government provided 600,000 Tajikistani somoni ($53,190) for the shelter’s operating costs, medical assistance for victims, legal consultations, and partial funding of staff salaries in 2021, an increase compared with 253,670 somoni ($22,490) in 2020. Additionally, the government allocated 187,900 somoni ($16,660) to an NGO to provide social assistance, including healthcare, psychological, and legal assistance to victims of TIP and domestic abuse, as well as vulnerable labor migrants. The shelter assisted one victim of trafficking in 2021, compared with 28 victims in 2020—the country relied heavily on an international organization to provide assistance to victims. The government reported that facilities are available for both men and women. Neither the government nor NGOs provided residential shelter services outside of Dushanbe, and there were no options for long-term victim support. Insufficient personnel and financial resources reportedly constrained delivery of psycho-social care and funding for victim reintegration services, respectively. An NGO ran a shelter in Dushanbe that provided support to victims of crimes, including trafficking; the NGO reported that 34 women and 36 children lived in the shelter in 2021. The NGO offered women courses in job skills and education skills in different trades. The government funded several NGO-run shelters for of victims of domestic violence, which could also assist trafficking victims. Observers reported there continued to be a lack of sufficient funding for victim services. Some female sex trafficking victims were reluctant to seek protection services due to social norms that stigmatized female victims of sexual exploitation.
Despite provisions in the 2014 law outlining security measures for trafficking victims, the government did not keep victims’ personal information confidential or provide protection for victim witnesses or their advocates. Foreign victims who agreed to cooperate with law enforcement agencies had the legal right to request temporary residency, subject to a one-year extension upon completion of criminal proceedings; no such cases were reported in 2021, 2020, or 2019. Beyond residency, the 2014 victim protection law did not link other benefits to victims’ participation in trials, and protection services were available regardless of legal status or prior consent to participate in subsequently identified trafficking crimes. Victims must appear in person with the trafficker during court proceedings.
In February 2021, the government announced plans to repatriate hundreds of Tajikistani women and children from camps in Syria, some of whom may have been trafficking victims, in continuation of a 2019 process that was subsequently suspended in 2020 as a pandemic mitigation measure. However, the government did not report if it had initiated any of these repatriations at the close of the reporting period. According to media reports, Tajikistani courts have sentenced at least five women repatriated from conflict zones to prison terms on terrorism charges—the women claimed they had been deceived by their husbands to travel to Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan; it is unknown if the women were screened for trafficking indicators. The government estimates that approximately 575 women and children currently reside in the Syrian Al-Hawl and Al-Roj refugee camps. Approximately 10,000 Afghan refugees have entered Tajikistan, and refugee camps have been established with foreign donor support. An NGO noted thousands of Afghan refugees in Tajikistan faced difficulties securing refugee status, increasing vulnerabilities to trafficking.
Due to a lack of formal identification procedures, authorities may have detained some unidentified trafficking victims for unlawful acts traffickers forced them to commit. Officials sometimes temporarily detained sex trafficking victims with their traffickers but later released and referred them to protective care. In previous years, law enforcement officials routinely deported foreign migrant workers without adequate screening for potential trafficking indicators. Law enforcement officers did not attempt to identify sex trafficking victims proactively during law enforcement operations on businesses suspected of engaging in commercial sex nor within sectors known for forced labor. Observers reported several cases involving sex trafficking of children in nightclubs and private homes. Tajikistan has reportedly detained and deported Uyghurs to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), where they could face retribution or hardship. In September 2021, the government signed a memorandum of understanding on labor migration with Russia and agreed to establish offices in Dushanbe and other regions of Tajikistan.