Human Trafficking in the Kyrgyz Republic

Human Trafficking in the Kyrgyz Republic
The Kyrgyz Republic, a country located in the heart of the Caucasus, is home to nearly 7 million people. Recent unrest in the region has led to an increase in human trafficking in the Kyrgyz Republic and neighboring areas.

Risk Factors

Currently, the Kyrgyz Republic is listed in the second tier of the human trafficking watchlist that the U.S. State Department created. This means that despite consistent efforts to eliminate human trafficking in the Kyrgyz Republic, the country has not yet achieved a satisfactory level of safety. There are several reasons for this, the biggest of which is brought on by regional unrest. As a result of the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War, many Kyrgyzstani workers who relied on jobs in Russia are no longer able to work in Russia legally. Therefore, Kyrgyzstan migrants have to look for work as undocumented immigrants. This has led to migrants ending up in the online sex trade, an industry that is rapidly growing in the Kyrgyz Republic. According to the government of British Columbia, the Kyrgyz Republic fits the two most significant risk factors for increased human trafficking: political instability and forced migration.

Kyrgyzstani Efforts to Fight Human Trafficking

Human trafficking in the Kyrgyz Republic has not gone unnoticed by its inhabitants. According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), a group ran by 30 youth organizations titled “100 Days against Trafficking in Persons” coordinated awareness efforts with the government in cities throughout the country, including the nation’s capital, Bishkek. Calls to the country’s national trafficking hotline saw an immediate increase, rising by nearly 15%.

The 100 Days against Trafficking in Persons is not the only citizen-run group fighting human trafficking in the Kyrgyz Republic. The non-governmental organization El Agartuu has been contributing to the fight against trafficking since 2006. The NGO created a database of over 30 other NGOs actively helping the government identify and aid victims of trafficking.

Meanwhile, the Kyrgyzstani government added four new articles to the country’s laws, including additional penalties for trafficking-related offenses. In addition to a stricter approach to trafficking crimes, the government of the Kyrgyz Republic instituted more protection services for victims of trafficking in 2022. The Kyrgyz Republic created a national referral method, or NRM, to help trafficking victims gain access to medical care and social services. An official case is not necessary for victims to access those services, they are widely available to anyone who should need them.

Lastly, the government continues to run the Center for Employment of Citizens Abroad, which helps job seekers look for employment and acquire legal work abroad. The Center for Employment of Citizens Abroad has helped reduce the number of Kyrgyzstani workers who feel the need to migrate illegally or put themselves in dangerous positions to find employment, thus reducing the risk factors for thousands of people looking for work.

Moving Forward

While human trafficking in the Kyrgyz Republic remains a problem today, there is reason to believe that that can change quickly. The public has come to a consensus on the existence of the problem, a step that is paramount to finding a solution. The Kyrgyzstani government has implemented new laws to prevent trafficking and allocated more resources to help the victims of the crime. With the renewed efforts of the public and government in Kyrgyzstan, it is possible that human trafficking is a less prominent issue in the future.

– Ezra Bernstein
Photo: Flickr