Afghanistan is promoting regional cooperation to fight human trafficking as part of the two-day second regional forum heled by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The IOM brought together NGOs from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to discuss cross-border cooperation as an anti-trafficking measure in Central and South Asia.
According to a 2018 report on human trafficking by the US State Department, Afghanistan is a country of origin, transit and destination for men, women and children subjected to forced labor and sexual exploitation.
New law to protect victims
As the IOM explained in a statement, the August 27-28 forum is part of a multi-year project against human trafficking by USAID and implemented by the UN agency. ''With the approval of a new law on trafficking (in 2017, Ed.), we have created a good basis to respond to trafficking in a more complete manner,'' Afghan justice minister Abdul Basir Anwar said. He underscored that the hope is that NGOs ''can further strengthen their response to trafficking by stepping up their cross-border cooperation''.
The Afghan law was revised to help Afghan government officials better distinguish between the crimes of human trafficking and of aiding and abetting illegal immigration, which had previously been considered the same. By making this distinction, Afghanistan aims to provide better protection for the victims of both crimes.
Afghan women and children kidnapped and sold
Most of the Afghan victims are women and children. While women are subjected to sexual and non-sexual exploitation, the children mostly end up working in carpet weaving and brick factories, or are made into household servants or "bacha bazi" (adolescent males taken by older men to use as servants, dancers and sex slaves) or forced begging.
The IOM said that the victims are often kidnapped or sold by poor families. The traffickers often subject their victims to violence and emotional abuse. Once abroad, the traffickers usually seize the victims' travel documents, making cross-border cooperation essential to save them.
Human trafficking is a serious concern in Afghanistan and countries bordering on it, IOM head of mission and special envoy for Afghanistan Laurence Hart said.He added that promoting regional cooperation to help the Afghan government implement the new legislation effectively was the main aim of the forum.