The U.S. State Department announced today that the government of Turkmenistan remains in the lowest possible ranking, Tier 3, in the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. Countries that would fall into the worst category (Tier 3), are not committed to meeting the minimum standards for the elimination of severe forms of trafficking in persons.
Washington, DC – Today the U.S. government upgraded the Uzbek government’s ranking in its 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report to the Tier 2 Watch List, a category denoting nations that deserve special scrutiny, despite acknowledging that “government-compelled forced labor remained during the 2017 cotton harvest.” The Cotton Campaign believes that the 2017 harvest should have been the primary basis of the determination and that given the massive scale of the forced labor in last year’s harvest, the decision does not sufficiently reflect these most recent facts on the ground. Moreover, the Cotton Campaign is concerned that the decision to upgrade Uzbekistan, may prematurely diminish the government’s incentive to translate its recent commitments into action to end systematic forced labor.
Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children from Kyrgyzstan and neighbouring Central Asian states are forced to migrate to Kazakhstan in search of work. These individuals often fall victim to forced labour, unsafe and unsanitary working conditions, violations of the rights to maternity and childhood, as well as arbitrary arrests and deportations. FIDH and its partners have documented the plight of Kyrgyz migrants, in a report released today.
Uzbekistan, a leading producer of silk cocoons, relies on forced labor for their production, which violates the rights of farmers and public-sector workers and exploits the vulnerability of the rural poor. Uzbek farmers must produce silk cocoons under coercion to fulfill government quotas and they must sell their cocoons to the government at the official procurement price, leaving them little or no profit, and in many cases in debt
A monitor from Uzbek-German Forum interviewed a farmer from the Khorezm region who described his experience with the command system of management in the Uzbekistan’s agriculture sector. Farmers do not have the freedom to choose what crops to grow; the state sets the prices and can arbitrarily and punitively “redistribute” the land of the farm at any time, despite an existing lease, leaving farmers in a particularly vulnerable situation.
Turkmenistan may represent only 2% of the world’s cotton exports, but the rampant human rights violations in their cotton production demand our attention. Much of the country’s cotton is produced using a system of state-sponsored forced labor. This isn’t widely known, but Turkmenistan can’t fly under the radar and deliver goods produced with numerous human rights violations.
A first-ever delegation representing the Cotton Campaign presented recommendations on how to end systematic forced labor in the cotton sector to senior Uzbek government officials on its visit to Tashkent from May 10-16, 2018. The delegation also consulted independently with civil society activists, farmers and representatives of international agencies and ambassadors of other interested governments at this hopeful time for reform in Uzbekistan.