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Human smuggling in Russia and Central Asia

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The Soviet ector.
  3. Who traffics and who is trafficked?
  4. Factors informing the trafficking.
  5. Loyalty groups and transition.
  6. The rise of the mafias.
  7. A large-scale small-scale operation.
  8. Conclusions.

The UN definition of "trafficking", under the terms of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (supplementing the 2000 UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime), Article 3(a) states:

'Trafficking in persons' shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

[...] By the late Brezhnev period, extra-legal activity became an almost universal social phenomenon, and officials grew increasingly akin to "mafia bosses." After the fall of Communism and the beginning of transition, the grip of the old nomenclature on power in most Central Asian republics (with the notable exceptions of Kyrgyzstan and more all-out war in Tajikistan) was taken as a proof that the contest between "state" and "society" in Central Asia was won by traditional institutions and values. The impact of the soviet state system was deemed minimal and Central Asian societies were cast firmly into the category of "Third World Muslim societies." (Malashenko 2001, p. [...]


[...] The perception of increased human smuggling and other organized criminal activity, as well as cases of corruption in public administration that raised serious concerns among EU officials. For example, at the Justice, Home Affairs and Immigration (JHA) Council meeting in Birmingham, Anita Gradin, and the former European Commissioner for the JHA said that "certain sections of the Polish border are vulnerable and lend themselves to exploitation by criminal organizations trying to deliver illegal immigrants to the West." She commented on "organized crime's power over the state machinery" in Hungary and "the institutionalized corruption" in the Czech Republic (quoted in ER 1998, pp.8-9). [...]


[...] Despite the international scope of the problem, both smuggling and trafficking are essentially asymmetrical smugglers need not have access to many resources due to the immense corruption of Central Asian Republics and the "pull" of demand for cheap labor (domestic, sexual, industrial) in the leading economies of the world. Further, even in countries that have laws against trafficking, the prosecution of traffickers is often non-existent due to corruption in law enforcement or the victims' fear of testifying. Moreover, in some countries the victims are charged and prosecuted for illegal sex acts rather than being treated as victims of a crime and possible candidates for political asylum. [...]

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