The government decreased efforts to prevent human trafficking, and reports of state-sponsored forced labor continued. The government maintained a 2020-2022 NAP developed in conjunction with an international organization and approved in 2019; authorities did not allocate financial resources or provide in-kind contributions to implement the plan, nor did they promulgate key action items required for its implementation. In the absence of formal access approval for independent monitoring missions, it was difficult to ascertain the extent to which the authorities took steps to eliminate state policies that perpetuated government-compelled forced labor during the cotton harvest or in public works projects.
According to international media reports, quasi-state agricultural associations exploited some farmers in forced labor at local levels to meet Turkmenistan’s national cotton production quota. Some local government officials continued to mobilize students, teachers, medical professionals, and other civil servants for compulsory labor in the cotton harvest and in public works, including community cleaning and beautification projects. The government continued to purchase and receive cotton picking and planting machinery from international industry partners as part of ongoing efforts to mechanize the harvest and reduce dependency on human labor. However, authorities did not provide data on use of the machinery and, due to a lack of independent observation, no information regarding the impact of these mechanization efforts on forced labor was available. According to some reports, tenant farmers often had to pay unregulated, bribe-like fees at various parts of the cultivation process to access the necessary mechanical equipment, at times compounding their financial hardships and disincentivizing its use altogether. International media and civil society groups continued to report some local government officials required public sector workers unwilling or unable to participate in the harvest to pay for replacement pickers, thereby establishing an informal penalty system through which corrupt officials profited from coercion. Despite the absence of formal observation by international organizations, informal observers continued to note a discernible decline in recent years of forced labor in cotton harvesting and sowing, possibly attributable to mechanization and the availability of low-wage labor, among other factors. There were reports that some schoolteachers who were required by local government mandates to participate in the cotton harvest instead compelled their students to serve as replacement pickers in the fields.
The 2016 anti-trafficking law outlined roles and responsibilities for key stakeholder agencies and placed the cabinet of ministers in charge of planning, funding, and implementing anti-trafficking policy. It also called for the creation of an interagency anti-trafficking committee under the authority of the cabinet of ministers to coordinate, plan, monitor, and report on the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and analyze trends, improve victim protection measures, raise awareness, and monitor implementation of the NAP. The government convened its national working group on NAP implementation in June 2020; authorities did not provide information on the results of this meeting. The law required the Ministry of Internal Affairs to record data on trafficking crimes; however, for the fifth consecutive year, the government did not report any systematic efforts to monitor its anti-trafficking efforts and did not make publicly available any government data on trafficking crimes or relevant judicial processes. The government cooperated with NGOs and an international organization to conduct awareness campaigns in rural areas and airports targeting vulnerable populations, although fewer of these activities took place in public than in previous years due to pandemic-related restrictions. The government reported conducting eight virtual seminars on safe migration in conjunction with an international organization, along with more than 300 law enforcement information campaigns on combating trafficking; the government did not provide information on participation or specific campaign content. Authorities also noted the number of Turkmen citizens departing the country decreased by more than 99 percent following enhanced exit bans and border closures ostensibly instituted as pandemic-related public health measures; according to one international organization, these restrictions may have further incentivized migration through unregulated channels commonly associated with trafficking vulnerabilities. As in prior years, the government charged NGOs fees to place anti-trafficking awareness material in a government-owned public space.
Civil society observers noted a slight increase in labor inspections conducted by government officials following their participation in training sessions provided by foreign donors; however, authorities did not provide information on these inspections or their outcomes. The government promulgated two orders purporting to improve labor inspections, including by establishing permission for unannounced visits to work sites, and to increase oversight of recruitment for public works during the reporting period. However, the content of the orders did not appear to feature language outlining specific inspection or remediation methodologies, nor did they contain provisions for detecting abuses or punishing those who violate recruitment regulations. Neither document featured any mention of forced labor indicators. The government did not report efforts to punish labor recruiters or brokers involved in the fraudulent recruitment of workers.
The government continued to grant citizenship to members of Turkmenistan’s stateless population, which consisted primarily of former Soviet citizens; in 2020, authorities granted citizenship to 2,580 of these individuals, compared with 863 citizenship conferrals in 2019 and 735 in 2018. A civil status law passed in 2019 and brought into effect in July 2020 newly allowed for the registration of, and access to public services for, all children born in the country regardless of the legal status of their parents. State migration officials continued to prevent Turkmen nationals from departing the country via airports; authorities did not provide information on how many of these interventions were related to perceived trafficking vulnerabilities. The government claimed it restricted the international travel of some young women in particular to prevent them from being subjected to trafficking abroad. The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel in 2020. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.