Championing the Most Vulnerable

August 5, 2021

While the world reels from the effects of COVID‑19, human traffickers are capitalizing on the pandemic and continuing to prey on the most vulnerable. Instability and lack of access to critical services caused by the pandemic mean that the number of people at risk of exploitation by traffickers is rapidly growing. In Central Asia, where investigation and criminal prosecution of trafficking cases remains low, COVID‑19 has made already high-risk individuals even more susceptible to trafficking. Eurasia Foundation’s Central Asian anti-trafficking network rose to meet this challenge head-on.

Comprised of lawyers, civil society organizations, and law enforcement representatives from across Central Asia, the network meets regularly to collaborate on this intrinsically cross-border issue. In 2020, they developed a multi-country legal toolkit to facilitate assistance in countries of origin, transit, and destination. Within just three months, the network had supported the reintegration of fourteen trafficking victims and provided legal assistance to two migration cases.

To draw further government and community attention to human trafficking in Central Asia, and to build momentum around cases that had been wrongfully dismissed, Eurasia Foundation also facilitated local journalistic investigations into several trafficking cases. One investigation traced the story of Dilyara, a fifty-five-year-old woman who fell victim to sex trafficking. Dilyara escaped and returned home. However, the local prosecution office refused to investigate her case.

Eurasia Foundation supported a high-profile media campaign surrounding Dilyara’s experience. Her story received widespread public attention, including from local and national law enforcement officials, who reopened her case. Her trafficker was found guilty of repeat offenses. Dilyara hopes her case will encourage more survivors to speak out about their experience and participate in investigatory processes in the future.

For more stories from Eurasia Foundation’s 2020 Annual Report: A Year Like No Other, click here.