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Child trafficking is only one aspect of child exploitation in Central Asia that needs to be addressed, says UNICEF

A regional study based on professionals’ and children’s views in Central Asia demonstrates that the issue of child trafficking is poorly understood and that prevention and protection should target child exploitation as a whole if we are to have an impact on child trafficking.

GENEVA, 31 March 2010 - Only a few cases of child trafficking or sale are officially registered in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and there is significant variation in how key players view child migration, child exploitation, trafficking, the sale of children, and issues of force and coercion in these processes.

View report: Risks and Realities of Child Trafficking and Exploitation in Central Asia

High socio-economic inequalities and social dislocation have an impact upon children’s lives and their decision to take part in hazardous migration and labour practices. It leads them to drop out of school. While migration has been recognized as a positive ‘shock absorber’ in times of crisis, it clearly exposes children to new risks of exploitation and abuse. It is crucial to understand and anticipate what children may want and need, and why they may be easily deceived or coerced into being exploited or into following a trafficker.

Reducing the need for children to resort to work or migrate through the use of strong social protection, and strictly preventing hazardous child labour through systematic monitoring of employers and clear incentives for children to attend schools, should be the backbone of any sound anti-child trafficking policy. In addition, appropriate age and gender interventions are needed. This means developing respectful procedures and services in which both child victims and children at risk clearly see their own benefit and best interests. Blanket interventions that centre on police raids, removal and institutionalization of children at risk have been found to enhance vulnerability rather than resiliency in the face of abuse, trafficking and exploitation.

Against this background, the criminal nature of child exploitation, including trafficking, must not be downplayed. It is essential - for the overall system’s solidity and for children’s recovery - that legislation be enforced and sentences applied. For this purpose, potential traffickers and the judiciary must know the law and the general public must be aware of its rights and responsibilities vis a vis child trafficking. By engaging in or supporting the normative value of social and cultural practices that involve the discrimination, neglect, abuse and exploitation of children, communities and state institutions are creating a pool of children who are vulnerable to trafficking in Central Asia.

Many findings and factors highlighted in this report point to the structural obstacles and systemic difficulties in acknowledging and adequately responding to child trafficking. Such challenges must be addressed at sub-regional, national and local levels. It is hoped that this report will contribute to the re-assessment of the chain of prevention, intervention and protection efforts undertaken in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan against child exploitation, including trafficking.

For more information, please contact:
Mervyn Fletcher, UNICEF Geneva
Tel + 41 22 909 5433,




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