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Report: Afghan Human Trafficking Reaches Alarming Level - 2004-02-01

A new report claims that human trafficking in Afghanistan and among Afghans abroad has become a huge problem. The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration says the main victims - women and girls - are subject to severe abuses of their human rights.

The IOM report says trafficking in Afghanistan and among Afghans in foreign countries takes many forms. These include forced marriages through abduction and for debt release, the exchange of women for dispute settlement, and the abduction of women and children, including boys, for sexual and domestic service.

It also says people are being used for forced labor, forced prostitution, and sexual exploitation of children.

The report finds criminals, members of armed groups, and families may all be involved in cases of forced marriages. It says the exchange of women and girls for dispute settlement is often the result of an informal arrangement among families.

A spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, Jean-Philippe Chauzy, says women are unable to escape this victimization because they have very little recourse to the judicial system.

"The report, for instance, notes the inability of women to access the judicial system in many areas of countries because of simple restrictions on movement," he said. "And this is due to what is called the inability of women to move inside the country without a male relative or mahram. And this is obviously a huge stumbling block if a woman is attempting to report abuses inflicted upon her by a family member."

The IOM report is based on interviews and surveys conducted in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, as well as four other central Asian countries and India.

In Afghanistan, it says, many victims of trafficking belong to vulnerable groups such as returnees, internally displaced people, communities affected by natural disasters, and other destitute groups.

The report says traffickers also target people seeking better lives and jobs abroad. It claims they offer them the possibility to migrate illegally, and this often results in exploitation.

The IOM finds that human trafficking in Afghanistan is closely linked to that country's wider problems as it emerges from decades of lawlessness.

The organization acknowledges there are no easy or quick solutions, but it says steps can be taken to combat the problem. These include enacting laws to prohibit abductions for forced marriage, sexual and domestic servitude.