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October 27-31, 2020

We, the participants of the 3rd Annual Regional Forum, which again brought together representatives of government agencies, public organizations, lawyers and the expert community of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation in order to exchange experience in combating human trafficking and strengthen the interaction of partners united by the desire to eradicate modern slavery in the Central Asian region and beyond, we appeal to all interested government agencies, civil society institutions, media representatives and other social partners in connection with the new risks and challenges posed by the COVID-2019 pandemic.

The fight against human trafficking in our region, as well as throughout the world, is taking place in a noticeably complicated environment. On the one hand, there is a worldwide trend towards a reduction in the number of criminal cases against traffickers against the background of an increase in the number of identified victims of this crime. The “culture of impunity” observed in many countries in relation to the prosecution of trafficking in persons is of deep concern to us. On the other hand, we see how the economic crisis associated with the pandemic and causing a crisis in the labor market negatively affects the results of our work. The pandemic affects the situation of the most vulnerable sectors of society, labor migrants, their families, victims of human trafficking who find themselves outside their countries without any opportunity to return to their homeland and are subjected to even more brutal exploitation.

The ability of people in vulnerable situations, including victims and potential victims of human trafficking, to receive assistance has diminished across all fronts: employment, legal aid, access to shelters and health care, access to justice and compensation for harm suffered, and etc. The burden on public organizations providing assistance to victims of human trafficking has increased: resources are exhausted to the limit, shelters are overcrowded, employees are at risk of infection no less than those whom they provide assistance. There is a real threat of a reduction in human rights work in the field of combating trafficking in persons if public organizations do not receive timely assistance from government agencies.

At the same time, criminal groups that trafficking people for the purpose of exploitation have adapted to the conditions of the pandemic. Transnational human trafficking has been reformatted into internal trafficking, the recruitment of victims has been digitized using deception and fraud, traffickers use ICT to advertise their victims to potential service users, distribute fake job advertisements, blackmail victims, conduct anonymous transactions of criminal proceeds and, worst of all, actively involve children in criminal business for the purpose of online sexual exploitation, taking advantage of the fact that children are forced and uncontrolled to spend most of their time on the Internet.


In an effort to strengthen the “culture of justice” and eradicate the “culture of impunity”, the Forum participants, including representatives of international organizations (OSCE/ODIHR, UN, IOM) and foreign donors, made a number of recommendations to all stakeholders responsible for combating trafficking in persons. Among them:

- improve the qualifications of law enforcement officers so that they can identify new forms of exploitation that are not specified in the Palermo Protocol, but are becoming more widespread (exploitation in the criminal sphere, forced begging, etc.);

- decriminalize the victim of human trafficking, freeing her from prosecution for offenses committed under duress;

- to introduce into practice joint investigations of transnational cases;

- to promote the specialization of judges, prosecutors, investigators in the field of trafficking in persons;

- create contact points of communication with partners in cases related to trafficking in persons (especially trafficking in children);

- carry out targeted work to reduce the demand for labor and services for victims of trafficking in persons, including in the field of sexual exploitation;

- to ensure the effectiveness of national referral mechanisms for victims of trafficking in persons in a pandemic;

- update the Action Plans and Strategies for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, taking into account the short-term and long-term consequences of the pandemic, as well as new trends in the evolution of human trafficking in modern conditions;

- recognize the extreme vulnerability and special needs of women and girls who are victims of human trafficking in the period and after the pandemic and adjust the approach to providing them with assistance accordingly;

- to provide state support to non-governmental organizations providing assistance to victims of human trafficking;

- enhance the role of the media as an important social partner in drawing public attention to the work of law enforcement agencies and their interaction with NGOs in identifying and investigating cases of trafficking in persons, as well as in creating an atmosphere of intolerance towards any form of exploitation and coercion.

 The following recommendations were made by lawyers participating in the Forum:

- to more actively involve the Commissioners for Human Rights in the countries of destination in protecting the rights of victims of trafficking in persons and send them written requests from NGOs or the victims themselves and their relatives;

- to strengthen the cooperation of NGOs with law enforcement agencies at all levels involved in combating trafficking in persons, including in the form of regular training events (trainings, seminars, etc.) for employees of these departments;

- to promote the active use of the procedure of deposition by law enforcement agencies of the testimony of victims who are citizens of other countries, provided for by the current legislation of the country;

- document, with the help of NGO lawyers, all circumstances related to cases of human trafficking in the country of destination, and exchange such information with partner NGOs in order to strengthen the evidence base for the criminal prosecution of criminals;

- to analyze the current legislation of the countries of the region and develop joint instructions for further strengthening the interaction between lawyers of partner NGOs in the process of providing assistance to victims of human trafficking, exchange of information, providing access to the victim(s) of human trafficking to lawyers of NGOs partners from the victim's country of origin(s).

A number of recommendations were made by experts regarding the role of ICTs in the fight against trafficking in persons, including:

- Explore the role of ICTs in trafficking in persons for the development of policies, prevention programs, training of specialists and identification of victims of trafficking in persons;

- to intensify cooperation with developers of computer programs and games aimed at raising awareness of human trafficking in order to work with adolescents and young people;

- conduct training for law enforcement officials in identification methods and strategies using new technologies;

- use ICT to monitor illegal sites;

- maximum use of ICT to identify and provide assistance to victims of human trafficking by all specialists through the expansion of interagency cooperation and the development of the legislative framework;

- use ICT for financial monitoring and detection of transactions related to human trafficking.

Important recommendations related to combating trafficking in persons for labor exploitation:

- to prevent and eradicate the practice of agency work and fraudulent intermediation;

- to accede to the 2014 Protocol to the ILO Convention on Forced Labor, and to implement its provisions that ensure the protection of the rights of migrant workers;

- to intensify the work of labor inspectors and empower them to identify cases of human trafficking and forced labor;

- provide information support to migrants;

- take measures to create an infrastructure to support victims of human trafficking;

- to increase the potential of migrant communities;

- regularly conduct explanatory work with employers, law enforcement officials and the local population;

- to ensure independent national monitoring of the effectiveness of combating trafficking in persons;

- improve the mechanisms of intersectoral and interdepartmental interaction at the interstate, federal, regional and district levels.

We express the hope that all stakeholders and actors in the fight against human trafficking in our region will prevent the economic crisis caused by the pandemic from escalating into a deep and possibly irreversible crisis of countering modern slavery. Change for the better will not happen on its own. We must desire them and make every effort to move forward.