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New UN initiative to fight human trafficking and poverty in Tajikistan

News | 09 July 2007

July 5 2007 (ILO News) - The International Labour Organization, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has launched a new project of sustainable community development in Tajikistan in order to prevent trafficking in human beings. The Government of Japan, through the UN Trust Fund of Human Security, funds the two-year project with over 1 Million US$.

Following the massive displacement of people in the course of civil war, which lasted between 1992 and 1997, Tajikistan is now faced with an exodus of people in search for work abroad. While men are leaving the country, women stay behind and are often without any livelihood unless remittances are sent to them from abroad. Most Tajik migrant workers leave for construction work in neighbouring Russia or Kazakhstan where serious labour rights violations have been documented, including forced labour. According to the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Tajikistan, there are some 600’000 Tajik nationals working abroad.

Poverty, lack of reliable information and employment opportunities at home are the driving factors behind the poor conditions under which Tajik migrants leave the country to seek employment elsewhere. The Government is now taking active measures to improve laws and policies on migration as well as to strengthen cooperation with major destination countries. It has recently ratified the ILO’s Migrant Workers Conventions (Nos. 97 and 143) and is committed to the eradication of all forms of human trafficking. Workers’ and employers’ organisations have also started initiatives on awareness raising and development of income-generating activities.

The new project will contribute to the implementation of the Decent Work Country Programme, signed by the ILO and Tajikistan in June, as well as to the ongoing ILO initiatives in the migration sphere, including the Finland-funded project in the Tavildara district aimed at job creation in apiculture for migrant families, particularly women-heads of migrant households (well known in the country as ‘honey project’).

“The new ILO-UNDP project seeks to support all partners in Tajikistan in order to improve the protection of Tajik migrants abroad as well as to create decent work at home”, says Nilim Baruah, project’s chief technical advisor (ILO).

The ILO promotes international labour standards, including the elimination of forced labour and the worst forms of child labour. It will work closely with UNDP to implement community-based measures to prevent human trafficking in the future. Pilot projects will be carried out in the Rasht valley, a particularly underdeveloped region with high migration rates.

"We see this as a very concrete way of preventing forced labour and trafficking", said Roger Plant, Head of the ILO's Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour. "It is by targeting assistance at the communities from which the persons vulnerable to forced labour emanate that we can tackle the roots of these problems most effectively".