Quality support to social services for victims of human trafficking and smuggled migrants in Central Asia

 In October, a regional workshop was convened in Almaty, Kazakhstan to present and discuss the feasibility of applying international best practices from Europe and the United States on the protection and assistance to victims of human trafficking and smuggled migrants to Central Asia. Improving the expertise of professional shelter staff and social workers and increasing the quality of social services for victims of human trafficking and smuggled migrants was the goal of the two day workshop.

This landmark regional event built on four national workshops held in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in May-September 2013 for more than 130 representatives from key government structures, shelter staff and grassroots NGOs providing identification, assistance and protection services to these vulnerable groups.

The national and regional workshops were a follow-up to the assessment of existing systems of assistance conducted by UNFPA experts in 2012, which revealed that the low quality and inadequate assistance to victims of human trafficking lie in the absence of a well-functioning system of identification, safe referral pathways, and harmonized cooperation mechanisms in the region. 

Central Asia has a high migration flow, including irregular migration, both within and from outside the region, and faces many barriers and challenges in the area of assistance programmes and services to victims of human trafficking and smuggled migrants.

Echoing UNFPA's contribution, a participant at the regional workshop highlighted, "The workshop helped to understand better the history and paths of development of referral mechanisms for victims of human trafficking in different countries. Sessions on sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence and discrimination during provision of assistance were most valuable."

Key actors from five countries were also equipped with targeted advocacy and IEC materials to further strengthen country response and victim support, and sub-regional, regional and interregional collaboration and dialogue between government agencies, professional shelters and NGOs.

These efforts form part of a bigger regional project "Strengthening the capacity of the Central Asian Republics to protect and assist victims of human trafficking and smuggled migrants, especially women and children, in partnership with NGO and civil society actors" implemented by UNFPA Sub-regional office for Central Asia in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Regional Office for Central Asia, with financial support of the European Union and the United States of America.


"Trafficked women and girls face high sexual and reproductive health risks, hence it is essential to provide service providers with information for ensuring quality counseling and services.

The regional workshop provided a unique opportunity to civil society and shelter staff to understand how to better apply relevant international standards in their work with victims of human trafficking and smuggled migrants in the region".

(Nikolai Botev, the Director of UNFPA's Sub-regional Office for Central Asia)