Afghan refugees are “particularly vulnerable to human traffickers,” according to a management advisory from the Defense Department’s Inspector General.
The combination of an “expeditated evacuation” from Afghanistan, financial and personal instability and the “likelihood of overcrowding at U.S. military installations,” potentially makes refugees targets of human traffickers, said the advisory, issued Sept. 21.
Since Aug 15, the advisory states that the U.S. has evacuated roughly 117,000 people from Afghanistan. Up to 50,000 evacuees are Special Immigrant Visa applicants, their families, and “other individuals” could be housed at domestic and international DoD facilities.
Included are some 300 “unaccompanied” Afghan children who were evacuated. The advisory states these children are “particularly vulnerable” to traffickers and that “as recently as Sept 7,” instances of possible child marriages and sexual abuse have been reported to be occurring aboard U.S. military installations by news outlets.
According to the advisory, several factors place refugees at risk, and personnel should be mindful of them. The U.S. State Department’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report classified Afghanistan as “Tier 3″, meaning it did not meet minimum standards for the trafficking elimination and was not making “significant efforts” to do so. Further, the advisory cites “social norms” and “instability” brought about by Afghan’s hasty relocation as catalysts potentially forcing Afghan women and girls into forced marriages in return for payment.
Overall, the management advisory, issued earlier this week, is not a report about instances of abuse or trafficking but rather designed to assist personnel in recognizing and reporting signs of human trafficking, including physical and psychological indicators.
Physical indicators of human trafficking include bruises, cuts, burns, or broken bones, not possessing identification papers, living at or being confined to their worksite, being escorted or closely monitored at all times, having injuries from violence or hazardous work conditions, malnourishment, or dehydration.
Psychological and behavioral indicators of human trafficking include potential victims being fearful, submissive, anxious, nervous, depressed, dependent on others, or lacking the ability to move freely.
The Defense Department asks that if anyone observes what they believe to be signs of human trafficking, they report it to the DoD IG. These reports can be anonymous and logged through the DoD Hotline at 800-424-9098 or by visiting http://www.dodig.mil/hotline. Additionally, Individuals may also call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.
James R. Webb is a rapid response reporter for Military Times. He served as a US Marine infantryman in Iraq. Additionally, he has worked as a Legislative Assistant in the US Senate and as an embedded photographer in Afghanistan.