Shelters Help Human Trafficking Victims Recover from Trauma

Azerbaijan victim
A victim of human trafficking in a USAID-supported shelter in Baku, Azerbaijan.
“When I returned, the only thing I wanted was to forget what happened, but now I want to pursue my rights and make sure that justice truly prevails for all of us who have been in my position.” — An Azerbaijan victim of human trafficking

In Baku, Azerbaijan, a woman (name withheld to protect identity) recounted how she was deceived and entrapped with an offer of “good employment” in a neighboring country. Upon arrival at her new job, she was forced into prostitution for six months. Her first attempt to escape was unsuccessful, prompting her traffickers to punish her and force her to take drugs. On a second attempt to escape, she succeeded and managed to return to Azerbaijan, where a USAID-funded shelter for female victims of human trafficking helped her gradually recover from the traumatic ordeal.

USAID supports the project “Supporting Anti-trafficking in Azerbaijan,” which is implemented by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office in Baku. The project is working closely with the Government of Azerbaijan, legal professionals and civil society to respond to the country’s human trafficking problem. The project established the first-ever shelter for male victims of labor exploitation, and improved the capacity and operations of existing shelters for female and child victims. To date, the three project-supported shelters have accommodated more than 150 male victims who were subjected to forced labor and more than 160 female victims of sexual exploitation.

The woman was also able to seek damages with the help of the USAID-supported Azerbaijan Migration Center, a local civil society organization. The Center helped bring her trafficking case before a domestic court that granted her financial compensation to support her family. Now, her life in Baku has taken a positive turn, and she is planning to open a small bookstore. Her journey from becoming a trafficking victim to a hopeful entrepreneur may not have been possible without help from the USAID-funded project.

Additionally, a new Memorandum of Understanding among the three shelters supported by USAID has been adopted. It provides for effective application of the country’s “National Referral Mechanisms,” which ensure that the human rights of trafficked persons are respected, provide an effective way to refer victims to services and enhance the quantity and quality of assistance to victims.

Human trafficking is a criminal offense under Azerbaijan’s 2005 Law on the Fight against Trafficking in Persons, which prohibits both forced prostitution and forced labor, and prescribes heavy penalties. In 2010, Azerbaijan signed the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings.

Last updated: May 22, 2013

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