The government increased efforts to protect victims. The government identified 110 trafficking victims, an increase from 92 in 2015. Of those, 82 were victims of sex trafficking and 21 of forced labor. All but 15 of the identified victims were from Kazakhstan; three of the Kazakhstani victims were subjected to trafficking in South Korea and the United Arab Emirates, while the rest were subjected to trafficking in Kazakhstan, recruited from rural to urban areas for both labor and sexual exploitation. All 82 Kazakhstani victims identified by the government received assistance from government-funded programs, however, foreign victims are not eligible for assistance in government-funded shelters. In 2016, NGOs reported assisting 167 trafficking victims (162 in 2015); among these, police referred 55 and international organizations, embassies, NGOs, and self-referrals were responsible for the additional 112. Of all 167 trafficking victims assisted by NGOs, 65 were Kazakhstani and 102 were foreigners; 33 were victims of sex trafficking, 134 of forced labor, 57 were female, 107 male, and three transgender. The government-funded and NGO-operated trafficking hotline received 841 phone calls in 2016, the vast majority of which were requests for information while six were referred to anti-trafficking police units.
In addition to one government-funded NGO-operated shelter in Astana, the government-funded the opening of three new NGO-operated trafficking shelters in Shymkent, Kostanay, and Almaty in 2016. The four NGO-operated trafficking shelters provide legal, psychological, and medical assistance and are accessible to all trafficking victims, regardless of gender or age. In 2016, the government allocated at least 25.97 million Kazakhstani Tenge (KZT) ($77,918) to direct victim assistance, including 24 million KZT ($72,007) for shelter assistance and 1.97 million KZT ($5,911) for victim assistance during investigations, an increase from 4.7 million KZT ($14,101) in 2015. The government special social services law entitles trafficking victims to care as “victims of violence.” In 2015, the government finalized standard criteria for determining eligibility for a wide range of social services, and in 2016, the government implemented the new standards in the operation of shelters for trafficking victims. Amendments to the penal procedural code made in 2015 allow victims to seek compensation from a government fund; however, the fund has not yet been established, as it requires the adoption of implementing regulations. NGOs reported effective victim referral and police cooperation with anti-trafficking units assigned to each region. Law enforcement units mandated to address migration or trafficking issues have a formal system to identify trafficking victims among at-risk persons, such as undocumented migrants or persons in prostitution. The government encouraged victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions by providing witness protection during court proceedings, access to pre-trial shelter services, and basic provisions such as food, clothing, and medical and legal assistance. In 2016, the government provided 15 foreign victims legal protection, including suspension of deportation proceedings, and special temporary residency throughout the criminal investigation. However, if a criminal case was not initiated, authorities did not recognize and give protective status to foreign victims. NGOs reported foreign victims sometimes experienced problems in accessing local medical care due to a lack of health insurance or residence permits. The government did not offer legal alternatives to removal of foreign victims and forcibly repatriated all victims after expiration of their temporary residency rights. In 2016, there were no reports of authorities criminally punishing victims for crimes as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.