(Mar. 2, 2008) On January 31, 2008, the Government of Uzbekistan conducted a Cabinet meeting dedicated to the problem of human trafficking. Although the trafficking of women for sex trade is a common problem in Central Asia, this was the first case of discussing this problem at the highest level of the government in Uzbekistan, highlighting the growing concern about the issue among the top Uzbek officials.
Although statistics were not available, it was reported that a police unit consisting of 100 specially trained officers had been created within the national police force to fight smuggling of persons. The number of cases investigated by this unit is growing by 120 annually, although Uzbek authorities, according to specialists, tend to underreport negative facts. Since the early 1990s, when Uzbekistan became independent, many women have left the country to work abroad in the sex business. The most common destinations are Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Europe. Following the meeting, government agencies responsible for providing social services were charged with the duty of developing a program aimed at assisting the victims of human trafficking. On March 13, 2008, the legislature of Uzbekistan voted to adopt an anti-trafficking law. (OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Combating Trafficking on Agenda of Uzbek Government, LEGAL NEWS, Feb. 4, 2008, available at http://www.legislationline.org[citing to BBC].)