As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit victims from Tajikistan abroad and, to a lesser extent, traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims within Tajikistan. Extensive economic migration exposes Tajik men, women, and children to the risk of human trafficking, which is exacerbated by high levels of poverty. Labor traffickers exploit Tajik men and women in the service, agriculture, and construction sectors primarily in Russia, the UAE, Kazakhstan, and Saudi Arabia, as well as in other neighboring Central Asian countries, Türkiye, and Afghanistan. Labor traffickers exploit men in agriculture, construction, and at markets in Tajikistan. According to an international organization, most domestic trafficking cases involved women and girls in sex trafficking or domestic servitude. Sex traffickers exploit women and children from Tajikistan most commonly in Türkiye, the UAE, and Russia; but also in Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Georgia, India, and Afghanistan; and within Tajikistan. The primary recruitment methods used by traffickers are job offers by a friend, neighbor, or illegal employment agencies.
Labor migration from Tajikistan has significantly increased, while the number of citizens who returned to Tajikistan has also increased (the number of returnees from Russia during the first quarter of 2022 was 2.6 times higher than the same period in 2021). More than one million citizens of Tajikistan seek employment annually in Russia. According to international organizations, Tajiks in Russia are primarily employed in construction, agriculture, domestic work, and transportation; thousands of men, women, and children among them are vulnerable to forced labor, and some were subjected to forced labor. Migrants from Tajikistan, particularly inmates in Russian prisons, are vulnerable to forced recruitment to fight in Russia’s war against Ukraine. Nationals from Tajikistan employed by Russian companies operating in Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia have reportedly experienced labor rights violations that may make them vulnerable to trafficking. Women traveling with their husbands abroad are also reportedly at elevated risk of sex trafficking and other forms of exploitation. Some Tajik migrants have been seeking alternatives to Russia as destinations for labor migration, but Russia continues to be the overwhelmingly primary destination. Due to Russia’s war against Ukraine, many migrants were forced to leave Russia because of job loss resulting from economic disruptions, reduced income, fluctuations in the Russian ruble’s exchange rate, and conscription into military service.
Some men that traveled to conflict zones in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan to fight alongside or seek employment in armed groups brought their families with them, at times under deception. Tajik women and children living in these conflict zones may be at risk of trafficking, including at refugee camps in Syria. Tajik children in these camps are at risk of recruitment by armed groups. Tajik migrants may have been lured to fighting in Syria by having their debt cleared in Russia. Some children of Tajik ISIS combatants in Iraq and Syria are reportedly trained for deployment in combatant roles. Traffickers transport Tajik women and girls to Afghanistan and force them into marriages that feature elements of sex trafficking and forced domestic service, including through debt-based coercion. Traffickers exploit Tajik children in sex trafficking and forced labor, including forced begging and forced criminality, in Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
Experts have pointed to the significant gaps in social protections that put rural women at a higher risk of trafficking in Tajikistan; they face discrimination and limited access to education and employment; the majority work in the informal sector. Widows of male migrants, divorced women, the families of migrant workers remaining in Tajikistan, and female victims of domestic violence are also at a higher risk of trafficking. Stateless individuals, mostly in rural areas, face vulnerabilities to trafficking because of their status; according to an international organization, 72 percent of those living without official documentation are women. Tajik citizens in areas affected by border clashes with the Kyrgyz Republic are vulnerable to trafficking because of their displacement. Children separated from their families because of international and domestic migrations are at an increasingly high risk of sex trafficking.
Tajik children and adults may have been subjected to forced labor in agriculture, mainly during Tajikistan’s cotton harvest, and in dried fruit production. Observers have previously reported several cases involving sex trafficking of children in nightclubs and private homes. Some boys, particularly from economically disadvantaged rural communities, are vulnerable to kidnapping by government personnel for the purpose of forcible conscription into military service as part of annual “oblava” recruitment sweeps. The government reportedly uses coercive methods to recruit young men into the military. The government reportedly subjects some citizens to participate in public works. Tajik nationals employed by PRC-based companies engaged in local construction projects experience wage irregularities, threats of termination, and other labor rights violations that may be indicative of forced labor. Some Afghan and Bangladeshi citizens are victims of forced labor in Tajikistan, including in the construction industry. Afghan refugees and asylum-seekers are vulnerable because of corruption and limitations to their freedom of movement within Tajikistan. According to an international organization, there are 10,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Tajikistan, mostly Afghans; the process to obtain refugee status often involved paying excessive bribes, increasing vulnerabilities to trafficking; many face the risk of deportation, even with official refugee status. Tajik nationals may be vulnerable to forced labor in illegal “artisanal” coal mines located near formalized commercial mining operations. LGBTQI+ individuals are vulnerable to trafficking because of blackmailing by police and widespread discrimination that jeopardizes their employment and access to justice and compounds their vulnerability to family-brokered forced marriages that may feature corollary sex trafficking or forced labor indicators.