As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Afghanistan, and traffickers exploit victims from Afghanistan abroad. Internal trafficking is more prevalent than transnational trafficking. NGOs report an increase in human trafficking within Afghanistan. Traffickers exploit men, women, and children in bonded labor—a form of forced labor by which the traffickers offer loans to vulnerable people and manipulate the debts to coerce the workers into continued employment. At times, traffickers exploit one worker’s initial debt to entrap other family members, sometimes for multiple generations. There are entire Afghan families trapped in bonded labor in the brick-making industry, predominately in eastern Afghanistan and in carpet weaving countrywide. Most Afghan trafficking victims are children exploited in carpet making, brick kilns, domestic servitude, commercial sex, begging, poppy cultivation and harvesting, salt mining, transnational drug smuggling, and assistant truck driving. NGOs assessed significant internal displacement exacerbated organized criminal groups’ exploitation of children in forced begging. Some members of the Shia Hazara minority group are victims of forced labor. Some Afghan families force their children into labor with physical violence or knowingly sell their children into sex trafficking, including bacha bazi. Opium-farming families sometimes sell their children to settle debts with opium traffickers, and some drug-addicted parents subject their children to sex trafficking or force them into labor, including begging. There were allegations some orphanages run by NGOs and overseen by the government subjected children to trafficking. Police and education officials acknowledged some teachers coerce male students to perform commercial sex acts to pass exams. During the reporting period, authorities reported a religious official and two police officers coerced women seeking spiritual advice into sex trafficking. Members of the Afghan national women’s soccer team reported Afghan Football Federation officials forced them to have sex in exchange for a spot on the team.
Afghan security forces and non-state armed groups continue to unlawfully recruit and use children in combat and non-combat roles with impunity. Non-state armed groups, primarily the Taliban and the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP) account for most child recruitment and use and used children younger than age 12 during the reporting period. Insurgent groups increasingly use children as suicide bombers. Some families receive cash payments or protection in exchange for sending their children to the Taliban-run schools for military and religious indoctrination. Children from impoverished and rural areas, particularly those under Taliban control, are particularly vulnerable to recruitment. ANP and ALP use children in combat and non-combat roles, including as personal servants, support staff, and bodyguards. ANA, NDS, and ABP also recruit and use children in both combat and non-combat roles, although to a lesser extent. ANA soldiers as young as thirteen were killed, wounded, and captured by Taliban insurgents. Pro-government militias that may receive direct financial support from the government reportedly recruited and used child soldiers, primarily in support roles. Traffickers, including government and military officials, continued to exploit children in sex trafficking through bacha bazi in every province of the country. An NGO interviewed many survivors of bacha bazi whose testimonies noted an “overwhelming understanding that bacha bazi is committed by the powerful,” including military commanders and community leaders. International organizations reported cases of bacha bazi, by nearly all groups, including the ANA, ANP, ALP, pro-government militias, and the Taliban, and stated cases are widely underreported. ALP officials and pro-government militias reportedly recruited children specifically for bacha bazi, and ANA officials reportedly lured boys into bacha bazi with promises of food and money. Some traffickers, including military officials, abduct children or promise fake jobs to lure them into bacha bazi. While the vast majority of bacha bazi cases involve boys and young men, government officials have exploited children as young as 12 years old in bacha bazi and at least one girl. Perpetrators of bacha bazi sometimes offer bribes or use their relationships with law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and judges to evade punishment.
Afghan returnees from Pakistan and Iran and internally displaced Afghans are vulnerable to labor and sex trafficking. During the reporting period, Afghanistan received more than 805,850 undocumented returnees from Iran and Pakistan, many of them unaccompanied minors. An international organization estimated it assisted only four percent of the more than 773,000 of the Afghans undocumented or deported from Iran, and traffickers specifically targeted the unassisted returnees in Herat, Nangarhar, Badakhshan, and Nimroz provinces for forced labor in agriculture, brick kilns, and carpet weaving. Afghans residing in Pakistan—including 1.4 million Afghan Proof of Registration card holders, 878,000 Afghan Citizen Card holders, and an unknown number of undocumented Afghans—continued, to varying degrees, to lack access to education, social services, and basic assistance, and be vulnerable to deportation, all of which increased vulnerability to trafficking. A severe drought and the continued internal conflict created more than 600,000 new IDPs within Afghanistan during the reporting period. International organizations documented an increase in IDPs selling their children to local shopkeepers in servitude to repay debts; between July and September 2018, one organization reported 161 cases of IDPs selling children into either marriage or servitude. NGOs reported some corrupt shopkeepers exploit IDPs’ debts by increasing their prices. Some traffickers targeted indebted IDPs and sold them into forced labor and sex trafficking.
Afghan men, women, and children pay intermediaries to assist them in finding employment, primarily in Iran, Pakistan, India, Europe, or North America; some intermediaries force Afghans into labor or sex trafficking. Afghan women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude primarily in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and India, including through forced marriage. Afghan boys and men are subjected to forced labor and debt bondage in agriculture and construction, primarily in Iran, Pakistan, Greece, Turkey, and the Gulf states. Traffickers in Iran, including Iranian criminal groups, exploit Afghan children in forced labor as beggars and street vendors and forced criminality, including drug trafficking and smuggling of fuel and tobacco. The Iranian government and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps continue to force and coerce Afghan migrants, including children as young as 12 years old, to fight in Iranian-led and -funded Shia militias deployed to Syria by threatening them with arrest and deportation to Afghanistan. Trafficking networks smuggle Afghan nationals living in Iran to Europe and force them to work in restaurants to pay off debts incurred by smuggling fees. Some Afghan boys are subjected to sex trafficking in Greece after paying high fees to be smuggled into the country. Some Afghan traffickers subjected Afghan boys to bacha bazi in Germany, Hungary, Macedonia, and Serbia. Traffickers have subjected women and girls from China, Iran, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Tajikistan to sex trafficking in Afghanistan. Under the pretense of high-paying employment opportunities, some labor recruiting agencies lure foreign workers to Afghanistan, including from Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Iran, Pakistan, and Tajikistan and subject them to forced labor after arrival.