July 14, 2010

Part 2: Abuse and Exploitation of Migrant Tobacco Workers in Kazakhstan

2.1 Introduction

Human Rights Watch research in 2009 found that migrant workers employed in tobacco farming in Kazakhstan faced a range of human rights abuses and forms of exploitation. The most pervasive practices included landowners’ failure to provide written contracts, failure to pay regular wages, underpayment of earnings, excessive deductions from earnings, retention of passports, long working hours, insufficient rest, and substandard living conditions. The failure to pay regular wages put workers at risk of induced indebtedness, because in the event of a poor harvest deductions for food, intermediaries’ fees, and other expenses paid by the landowner during the season may have totaled more than the earnings migrant workers receive for the tobacco produced.

Human Rights Watch’s research also documented six cases which it determined to be forced labor or situations which were akin to forced labor. In some cases, migrants were delivered into these situations by intermediaries who promised them good earnings working in tobacco. In some cases of forced labor, migrants reported that landowners expected them to perform additional work, such as home renovation or farming of other crops, all without pay. Migrant workers indicated to Human Rights Watch that they were not in a position to refuse such work. In all cases, landowners’ retention of workers’ passports served as the main means of coercion for workers to remain in abusive situations. The credible threat of forfeiting some or all of a season’s earnings—as a result of the lack of regular wages and the single end-of-season payment structure—also served as a significant penalty for workers who wished to leave an abusive employment situation.

Kazakhstani workers may face many of the same abuses described here. However, migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to abuse. They are typically very poor, mostly do not speak Kazakh or Russian, and are living in remote areas, far from governmental or non-governmental services. They are generally unfamiliar with Kazakh labor protection laws and migration laws as well as about how to obtain help. Furthermore, in the absence of legal residency and employment status, migrant workers are also less able or willing to seek redress from official sources. These factors may serve as further obstacles for migrant workers in need of assistance.

Child labor in tobacco farming in Kazakhstan is discussed in detail in chapter 4.

2.2 Absence of Written Contracts

Under Kazakhstani law, every worker has the right to conclude an employment contract with his or her employer.[73] Labor relations are established by this employment contract.[74] The bilateral agreement between the government of Kazakhstan and the government of Kyrgyzstan on migrant workers also specifies that employment relations between workers and employers are based on employment contracts.[75]

However, all migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch except two stated that they had not signed a written contract with the Kazakhstani landowner employing them in 2009. The government’s decision not to allocate permits to hire agricultural migrant workers to employers in Almaty province in 2009 meant that landowners could not obtain the required authorization to hire migrant workers and legally sign contracts with them during that year. It is illegal for an employer to sign a contract with foreign workers without receiving the necessary permission from the local authorities.[76] Only two migrant workers told Human Rights Watch that they had signed contracts with their employers in 2009. However, because the employment was not authorized, these contracts had no legal force.[77]

In a letter to Human Rights Watch, PMI confirmed that a “written contract between a farmer and his seasonal workers, whether from Kazakhstan or abroad, is generally seen as very unusual.”[78] In the absence of written contracts for each worker, the head of a migrant family, typically the oldest person, usually the oldest man, had an oral agreement with the landowner regarding the amount of land to be farmed, the structure of sharing the final payment for the tobacco produced, and other terms, as described below.

The absence of a written contract leaves workers vulnerable. The Labor Code of Kazakhstan narrowly defines labor relations, and specifies that labor relations arise in the presence of an employment contract.[79] The code defines the employment contract as a written agreement between the employee and the employee and defines an employee as “an individual maintaining labor relations with the employer and directly performing work under an employment contract.”[80] According to labor law experts, even if labor relations might be established by other means, such as witness testimony, in practice, in a court of law only a written contract is accepted as evidence of the existence of labor relations.[81] Any worker, including migrant workers who wished to challenge his employer’s actions in a court of law would have great difficulty proving that labor relations had existed without the presence of a written contract. 

Contracts in previous years

Five migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch stated that they had had contracts in previous years, when the government had issued permits for hiring foreign agricultural workers. However, even in these years employers only signed contracts with the head of the migrant worker family, rather than with each worker actually working. This is in violation of Kazakhstani law and is an important protection issue further discussed below. The contracts were written in Russian, a language that not all workers could understand.

In previous years, some landowners had used a private employment agency in Chilik, a village serving as a regional center, to help them secure the required work authorization for hiring migrant workers, and to draw up a written contract to be signed by the landowner and the head of a migrant worker family. For example, Aida A., who worked in Kazakhstan during the 2005-2007 tobacco seasons, told Human Rights Watch that each year she had a written contract with her employer, facilitated through the agency. She and her employer each had a copy of the contract.[82] Kapar K., who worked with his sisters and brothers-in-law in Malybai in 2008 and 2009, also stated that he had a contract through the agency in 2008, which stated that the worker must “work honestly and not get drunk. And the employer must create good working conditions.” The landowner also officially registered Kapar K. on the migration registry.[83] Zhumabek Zh., who had worked in tobacco farming in Kazakhstan for nine years, said, “In past years, we had a written contract. We had to take it to the agency. … This year there is only an oral agreement.”[84]

Human Rights Watch obtained copies of sample contracts issued in 2007 and 2008 by the Chilik-based agency and signed between landowners and the head of a migrant worker family, defined in the contract as “the worker.” In most cases other workers, namely family members, would also be working for this employer. However, they did not sign individual contracts. Contracts were always written in Russian.[85]

Only one family interviewed by Human Rights Watch stated that each adult worker had received a written contract, in their case in 2008.[86]

Migrant workers also told Human Rights Watch that employers did not always respect the terms of the contract. A 2008 sample contract used by the agency in Chilik indicated that the employer is obligated to pay the worker monthly and in full no later than the tenth day of each month (for work performed the previous month). The contract also established an eight-hour working day and work only on weekends or holidays with the workers’ written permission.[87] No migrant tobacco workers with whom Human Rights Watch spoke who had worked in 2008 said that they had been paid monthly. Rather they were paid only once, at the end of the season. They also regularly worked more than eight hours, and without days off.

Other obligations were also not met. The sample contracts provided by the Chilik-based agency required both parties to have a copy. However, migrant workers who signed contracts with their employers told Human Rights Watch that they did not receive a copy of it. For example, Almazbek A., who has been traveling with wife and children seasonally to Kazakhstan to farm tobacco for eight years, told Human Rights Watch, “The landowner drew up the contract … He never gave us a copy of the contract.”[88]

In other cases prior to 2009 workers simply did not have written contracts. For example, Gulnara G. said that she or her husband had been coming from Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan for eight years to farm tobacco with their children and never signed a written contract, only having an oral agreement with the employers.[89] 

2.3 Failure to Pay Regular Wages and Payments of Less than Minimum Wage

Under Kazakhstani labor law employers are required to pay each worker at least monthly and payment cannot be lower than the national minimum salary.[90] All migrant tobacco workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch stated that Kazakhstani landowners paid them no regular wages during the eight to nine months that the workers cultivated tobacco. Instead, the landowner paid the head of the migrant worker family one lump sum payment at the end of the tobacco harvest, after the tobacco has been delivered to Philip Morris Kazakhstan and PMK has paid the landowner based on the volume and grade of the tobacco.[91] Philip Morris International confirmed this practice, stating in a letter to Human Rights Watch, that “workers, domestic and foreign alike, receive the bulk of their pay from the farmers at the end of the season (which is explained by the fact that the majority of their earnings—and the farmers’ payment from PMK—depends on the crop yield).”[92]

Human Rights Watch research found that other members of migrant families who work on the farm, including both children and adults were often in a situation of simply “working for the family,” and did not earn any payment themselves, even after the end of the season. For example, Aisha A., 22, who was working in Malybai in 2009 with her mother-in-law and her 11-year-old brother-in-law, told Human Rights Watch, “We’re one family. I just help. They [the family] won’t pay me. At the end of the season maybe they’ll just give me a bit of money.”[93]

In cases documented by Human Rights Watch in 2009, final payments to heads of household, prior to any deductions for expenses made by the employer, ranged from US$1,432 to US$3,363, or approximately US$159 to US$374 per month for a family typically cultivating tobacco between eight and 18 hours per day, with few days off, for nine months.[94] In some of these cases, wages fell below the minimum wage and well below the average wages for Kazakhstan, even for manual work. In 2009, the minimum monthly salary in Kazakhstan was 13,717 tenge (US$91), and in 2010 it was raised to 14,952 tenge (US$99).[95] Official data indicate the average monthly wage in Kazakhstan for December 2009 was approximately 82,180 tenge ($560), and even workers in the lowest paid sector, fishing, earned approximately 31,258 tenge ($213) per month.[96]

For example, Sharapat Sh., 41, who worked in Malybai for nine months in with her 15-year-old daughter and adult son, told Human Rights Watch that her family of three’s gross salary, prior to the employer’s deductions, totaled 321,000 tenge (US$2,129), or 11,888 tenge (US$79) per person per month. [97] Nurdin N., 43, who worked in Karaturyk in 2009 together with his wife and 13-year-old son for nine months, stated that he and his family earned a gross salary of just over 216,000 tenge ($1,432), or approximately 8,000 tenge (US$53) per person per month–well under the minimum wage.[98] 

The practice of paying the head of the family of workers only at the end of the season allows the landowners to exercise an unreasonable degree of control over the workers and can be a contributing factor in situations of forced labor, as described below (See Forced labor). Should workers want to leave their employer prior to the end of the season, due to abusive labor practices or for any other reason, they would forfeit any wages owed to them.

2.4 Deductions from Final Payments

Migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that they often had little or no money of their own at the beginning of the tobacco season, and, in the absence of regular wages, had no other funds on which to subsist for the eight to nine months during which they were cultivating tobacco. Almost all migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch stated that they relied on the landowner to provide the head of their family with food and other provisions, either directly or through small cash advances.

Food provided by landowners typically included cooking oil, rice, buckwheat, macaroni, canned vegetables, and similar items. Meat was sometimes provided, although it was typically more expensive.[99] Should the workers require medication and medical treatment, the employer usually paid for those expenses as well.[100] The employer may have also paid directly for the migrants’ transportation by car from their home villages in Kyrgyzstan, as well as for intermediaries’ costs, which can be exorbitant (see below, Induced indebtedness). In some cases the parties shared equally the cost of fertilizers and other farming materials,[101] or the workers paid for these entirely.

While accommodation was usually provided to workers free of charge, the landowner deducted the other living expenses–often as well as travel costs, payments to intermediaries, and sometimes the costs of farm supplies–from the final end-of-season payment to the migrant worker family. In cases documented by Human Rights Watch in 2009, the deductions in some cases reduced the final payment by a significant amount, ranging from 34 to 60 percent.[102]

The practice of deductions from single season payments to a family of workers falls entirely outside the scope of Kazakhstani law. First, while Kazakhstani law allows for deductions from regular wages, single end-of-season payments are not regular wages. Second, Kazakhstani law tightly regulates deductions from wages by, for example, making them subject to approval by a court and limiting the amount to no more than fifty percent of the wage due to the employee.[103]

A few migrant workers told Human Rights Watch that they were able to supplement their food supply by growing some of their own vegetables.[104] Some workers said that they were able to buy food and other living expenses by doing some additional odd-jobs for other employers (such as additional farming in tobacco or vegetables, house renovations, or similar work) who would pay cash.[105] By taking on additional employment, these workers were able to cover some or most of their expenses for the season. However, not all landowners allowed migrant workers employed on their farms to engage in such work with another employer, as described below.

2.5 Lack of Transparency and Deception in the Final Payment

Although some landowners and heads of migrant worker families each kept written records of expenses that will later be deducted from the workers’ final payment,[106] Human Rights Watch research revealed that this practice was not universal, and in some cases landowners did not provide a transparent accounting. Eight heads of migrant worker families told Human Rights Watch that they believed they had been cheated in the final payment paid by the landowner, as a result of excessive, arbitrary or unexpected deductions, or if the landowner was not honest about the total sum paid for the tobacco by PMK.[107] Disagreements about the final payment occurred even in cases when migrant workers participated in the delivery of tobacco to PMK at the end of the season where the tobacco leaf would be judged and thereby would more likely be able to know the sum paid to the landowner by Philip Morris Kazakhstan.

Migrant workers’ participation in delivery and purchase of the tobacco

At the end of the season, the landowner delivers the tobacco to the PMK factory for purchase, where a tobacco leaf expert determines the grade of the tobacco. Each grade of tobacco is given a price per kilogram.[108] According to PMI officials, the prices are publicly displayed.[109] PMK pays the landowner directly, based on the amount of tobacco of each grade. The landowner then pays the head of the migrant worker family, after deducting expenses.

PMI told Human Rights Watch that the participation of the head of a migrant worker family in the tobacco delivery facilitates transparency in the payment process: “When tobacco is brought to the PMK buying point, both the farmer and a representative for the Kyrgyzstani worker family are usually present when PMK specialists determine the grade of the tobacco, weigh the tobacco, and determine the total amount payment for the tobacco. This practice allows workers to know what revenue the farmer will get for the crop and to accurately calculate their own share of the crop income.”[110]

Some migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch confirmed that they went together with the landowner to deliver the tobacco to PMK at the end of the season. According to Bekbolot B., who in 2009 was farming tobacco for the second year in a row for a landowner in Koram, “We deliver the tobacco to Philip Morris [Kazakhstan]. Without us, they won’t take the tobacco from the landowner.”[111] Kapar K., who worked in Malybai in 2008 and 2009 said that, “My employer has an agreement with Philip Morris [Kazakhstan]; we go with the employer to deliver the tobacco and receive the money at the end of the season.”[112]

Testimony from other migrant workers and one employer indicated the practice of both landowner and head of family delivering the tobacco for purchase is not universal. According to an employer in Malybai, who regularly hires migrant workers, “We take the tobacco to [the Philip Morris factory] ourselves. Philip Morris [Kazakhstan] does not require that the migrants come with us for the end-of-season accounting.”[113] Sharapat Sh., 41, who worked from March 12 to December 5, 2009 in Malybai with her 15-year-old daughter and adult son, told Human Rights Watch that although she had been the head of her family and had negotiated with the landowner at the start of the season, “When they delivered the tobacco, I wasn’t at the Philip Morris [Kazakhstan] factory. Some men who worked near us on the fields went with the landowner. I don’t know how much Philip Morris [Kazakhstan] paid our landowner.”[114]

Vulnerability to being cheated

When a migrant worker family did not participate in delivering the tobacco to PMK there were fewer safeguards against being cheated. Sharapat Sh., for example, stated that her landowner took deductions from her payment, including for things that Sharapat Sh. did not understand, as well as for residency registration, despite the fact that no migrants were able to be officially registered, owing to the absence of official quotas. “He took the deductions…The transport [from Kyrgyzstan] cost me 55,000 tenge (US$365), food was 60,000 tenge (US$398), then 20,000 tenge (US$133) for something else, and 6,000 tenge (US$40) for residency registration,” said Sharapat Sh. “After the deductions, the landowner paid me 180,000 tenge (US$1,194) … for 2.5 tons of tobacco.”[115]

However, even when workers went to the PMK factory with the landowners, this did not guarantee that the system was transparent or that the worker did not face unexpected deductions or deception in the final payment. Nurdin N., 43, who worked in Karaturyk in 2009 together with his wife and 13-year-old son, told Human Rights Watch, “I went together with the landowner to deliver the tobacco to Philip Morris [Kazakhstan]. I don’t know how much they paid the landowner, but the landowner gave me 121,000 tenge (US$803). That’s after the deductions. For our transportation [from Kyrgyzstan] he took 55,000 tenge (US$365), for food, 40,000 tenge (US$265), and also something for our residency registration.”[116] As noted above, in the absence of an official quota for hiring agricultural workers, in 2009 no migrants received residency registration.

Zhumartbek Zh., 29, who worked in tobacco farming for the first time in 2009 in Malybai together with his wife and two children, ages 14 and 16, told Human Rights Watch, “I was present at the delivery of the tobacco to Philip Morris Kazakhstan. My family and I produced and delivered 4.7 [metric] tons to Philip Morris [Kazakhstan]. Philip Morris [Kazakhstan] paid the landowner 1,200,000 tenge (US$7,960) [for the 4.7 tons].”[117] Under the “plan” agreement with the landowner, Zhumartbek Zh. and his family were to produce two metric tons for which the landowner would receive exclusive payment; Zhumartbek Zh. was to have been paid for the remaining 2.7 metric tons of tobacco. However, according to Zhumartbek Zh., after the landowner’s accounting and numerous deductions, Zhumartbek Zh. received 350,000 tenge (US$2,321), less than 30 percent of the final payment to the landowner.[118]

Zhumartbek Zh. described the lack of transparency and the deductions from the final payment:

[The landowner] took some deductions from me [my final payment]. One deduction was for 12,000 tenge (US$80). He said that Philip Morris [Kazakhstan] took this money from him. He called it ‘Services of Philip Morris [Kazakhstan].’ But then I learned that he didn’t take this deduction from anyone else. Only from me. I didn’t understand at all. What these ‘services’ are all about I don’t know.
He also deducted 70,000 tenge (US$464) for the trip and 70,000 tenge for food. According to my accounting, the food costs were not more than 50,000 tenge (US$332). He must have been giving us some very expensive foodstuffs.

And then, sometime after you had visited us [a Human Rights Watch researcher spoke with this family in early October in Kazakhstan] a group of about 10 foreigners came. Swiss and from some other places. They said they were from the United Nations. They saw how we were working, looked to see if children were working or not. Then the landowner withheld from our final payment 5,000 tenge (US$33). He said that it was a fine for talking to these people. He didn’t say anything after you had visited.”[119]  

Another worker, 39-year-old Umut U., who, together with her four children ages 10, 11, 13, and 14, worked for this same landowner in 2009 confirmed that the employer levied this same “fine.” “And he also withheld 5,000 tenge ($US33) for speaking with ‘the foreigners from the UN.’ But I didn’t even speak with them!” she stated.[120] 

Although he felt cheated, Zhumartbek Zh. did not feel he had any recourse. As described below, the landowner also forced Zhumartbek Zh. and his family to do additional work farming onions and gathering firewood without pay, a situation that amounted to forced labor. Zhumartbek Zh. felt his only option was to look for a different employer next year. “I’m not going back to work with him. I’ll look for someone else.”[121] In the absence of written contracts and with no accessible, meaningful mechanisms for complaint provided by the Kazakhstani government or PMK, migrant workers had few viable options to seek redress for this kind of treatment.  

2.6 Induced Indebtedness and Debt Bondage

As described above, the lack of regular wages and the system of single end-of-season payment and deductions for expenses made workers highly dependent on their employers. This system also put them at risk of induced indebtedness, particularly if the harvest has been poor and the total volume of tobacco sold is less than anticipated. In some cases the deductions for expenses totaled more than the final payment owed to the migrant worker, and the worker and his or her family became indebted to the landowner. In cases documented by Human Rights Watch, the high cost of intermediaries was a particular problem.

Once indebted to the employer, workers had no money to return home and were typically expected to work another season or seasons in order to pay off their debts. Workers were able to change employers only if the second landowner pays off the debts to the first. In the cases described below, Human Rights Watch determined that migrant workers became victims of debt bondage.

Ulkan U. and her children

In April 2007, Ulkan U. came to Malybai with her children, then ages 4, 10, 12, and 15, on the promise of an intermediary for work in tobacco farming earning 300,000 tenge (US$2,335, at the time) for one tobacco season.[122] A landowner, Shokan Sh., paid the intermediary 100,000 tenge (US$779)—presumably for transportation and a recruiting fee—and expected Ulkan U. to repay this money at the end of the tobacco season. The intermediary took the family’s passports and was never seen again. Ulkan U. worked together with her three oldest children on one hectare of tobacco for the 2007 tobacco season. According to Ulkan U., “We produced one [metric] ton of tobacco, but after all the expenses, we still had 91,000 tenge (US$708) in debt.”[123]

As discussed further below, recruiting, transporting, transferring or receiving persons by force, fraud, deceit or other coercive tactics for the purpose of placing them into conditions of forced labor or practices similar to slavery or servitude constitutes trafficking, elements of which are clearly present in cases like that of this family.[124]

In 2008, after an argument with Shokan Sh., Ulkan U. found another landowner who paid her debt to Shokan Sh. Working on 1.5 hectares in 2008, Ulkan U. and her children managed to earn 335,000 (US$2,706), but after the deductions for expenses, including the remaining debt, Ulkan U. was left with just 84,000 tenge (US$679).[125] She stayed in Kazakhstan to work again in 2009 for yet a different employer in order to try to earn enough money to travel home with her children and to justify the efforts of the previous two seasons. She told Human Rights Watch that the employer had been arguing with and beating her oldest son, apparently to make him work harder. During a second interview, she stated that the beatings stopped following Human Rights Watch’s first visit. She and her children are also doing additional work with another employer to help cover their expenses.[126]

A family from Karasuu

A young couple, Mirgul M. and her husband Nurbol N.from Karasuu, Kazakhstan, came to Kazakhstan in 2006 with the help of an intermediary. According to Mirgul M. and Nurbol N.,“[The intermediary] promised us work in vegetable farming, but then dumped us in this hellish work in tobacco.” The tobacco farm owner told the couple that he paid the intermediary 5,000 tenge (US$37) for each of them, although he did not expect them to pay him for these costs. The couple nevertheless entered into debt, as the intermediary demanded a 12,000 tenge (US $89) fee. In these circumstances, the couple felt that they had no choice but to work for the tobacco farmer to whom they had been brought.  Due to poor conditions and their own farming inexperience, by the end of the season, they only earned 25,000 tenge (US$186) for the 2006 season and spent nearly half to pay the intermediary. The remainder was spent on their living expenses.[127]

In early 2008, the same intermediary convinced Nurbol N. ’s, mother, Zhazira Zh., that her son was in debt and that she needed to travel to Kazakhstan to assist him. Zhazira Zh. took her 12-year-old daughter, Raikan R., with her, and upon arrival in Malybai, the intermediary demanded 50,000 tenge (US $409) from Nurbol N. to hand over his mother to him. [128] In order to pay the intermediary, Nurbol N. and his wife were forced to borrow money from another local tobacco farmer, for whom they then worked for in order to pay off their debt to him. [129] The intermediary’s treatment of this family also included elements of trafficking.   

The family of four, including the now 14-year-old girl, was still working in June 2009 in Malybai to pay off the debt to this landowner. In 2008, because of a poor harvest and deductions for food and other expenses totaling 110,000 tenge (US$889), the family of four only earned a total of 30,000 tenge (US$242). They used most of these earnings, 20,000 tenge (US$163), to pay down their debt. Because they do not have enough money to travel home, they feel forced to remain for the next season in order to pay off the remaining debt and earn enough at least to cover their travel expenses.[130] “The work in tobacco is difficult, but we must pay off the debt, and there is no other option, except to farm tobacco,” said Mirgul M.[131]

Damira D. and her children

Human Rights Watch also documented the case of 26-year-old Damira D., a single mother of two small children from Nookat, Kyrgyzstan, who had been working for more than a year in a debt bondage situation in the village Druzhba. Damira D. came to Kazakhstan late 2007 to work for a landowner, “Rakhim R.,” who promised her that all her expenses would be covered. She spent several months growing seedlings and then planting them in April and May 2008. In May 2008, the landowner announced that after seven months of work she owed him 50,000 tenge (about US$400) for expenses including food and firewood which she used during the colder months.[132] When Damira D. protested, Rakhim R. threatened her, getting angry and yelling and cursing at her. “This scared me and I didn’t like being around this,” Damira D. said. Damira D. told about her circumstances to a vegetable farmer in the same village. This farmer paid Damira D.’s “debt,” to the tobacco farmer, and Damira D. went to work for him.

When Human Rights Watch met Damira D. in June 2009, she had been working without pay for the vegetable farmer for over a year, doing both domestic work in the landowner’s house and, during the agricultural season, vegetable farming. She told Human Rights Watch, “I have not yet paid back the 50,000 tenge. For the last year I worked with [this farmer], during the fields in the summer, and then at his house. I haven’t earned any money.” Having no money and two small children to support, she felt trapped in the situation and felt hopeless as to earning any money for the tobacco farming she did for Rakhim R. “I know that Rakhim sold his tobacco to Philip Morris [Kazakhstan], but they do not know that that tobacco is actually mine. It is a result of my hard work,” she said.[133]

A family from Karatash

In a December 2009 interview, Nabimukhamad N., from Karatash, told Human Rights Watch that his sister, 48, who had gone to Malybai and then Dostyk in 2009 with her husband and two sons, had fallen into a situation of debt bondage. The situation he described resembled strongly the cases of debt bondage described above. He told Human Rights Watch:

They are living in really difficult circumstances. This year, they weren’t able to earn enough and ended up in debt and were forced to stay with the employer. She told me over the phone that the tobacco grew poorly, especially because there was little water for irrigation. She also said that things with the employer were a bit difficult. They want to work for a different landowner, but don’t know how they can get out of the debts. The children aren’t going to school. Right now the family is trying to do some work on the side to earn money.[134]

2.7 Retention of Identity Documents and Confinement to Farms

In half of the families whose cases Human Rights Watch documented, Kazakhstani landowners retained migrant workers’ passports and children’s birth certificates. At a minimum this had the effect of making workers feel that they had no choice but to complete the season’s work and pay off any expenses incurred by the landowner. In more extreme cases, passport retention was used as a means of forcing workers to remain in abusive employment situations. Some intermediaries also took workers’ passports and handed them over to the landowners upon delivery of the workers. Passports and birth certificates were only returned at the end of the tobacco season, following the worker’s successful completion of the harvest. Some workers indicated that the absence of their passport prevented them from leaving the farms where they worked.

In six cases, Human Rights Watch documented situations it deems to be forced labor, or situations analogous to forced labor, whereby retention of identity documents was the main reason given to Human Rights Watch as to why workers felt compelled to remain in abusive situations. These cases are described in a separate section below. In other cases, workers reported that they voluntarily asked the employer to keep their passports to prevent them from getting lost or stolen.

Involuntary retention of passports and birth certificates violates the right to freedom of movement and is prohibited by Kazakh law.[135]Retention of passports increases workers’ vulnerability and dependence on the landowner, particularly as they are often living in very remote areas and would have to travel significant distances to access any assistance.

Alym A., who worked in Karaturyk in 2009 told Human Rights Watch, “As soon as we arrived, the landowner took our documents. Well, he paid for our transport and food, after all. After the work is done, when we settle up with him, then he will return my passport to me.”[136] Similarly, Ainagul A. and Ikram I. who both worked in Malybai in 2009 for different landowners, each stated that at the beginning of the season the landowner had taken their passports.[137] 

Some workers described to Human Rights Watch the restrictions on their movement as a result of not having their passport in their possession. In some cases, described below, retention of a passport served as a primary factor in coercing workers to remain in situations of forced labor or analogous to forced labor. Nurdin N. told Human Rights Watch, “When we arrived in Malybai [from Kyrgyzstan] in 2009, our employer immediately took my passport. He paid for our transportation [by car from Kyrgyzstan] after all. In Malybai we could move around only near our fields. I didn’t have a passport! Where were we going to go? The landowner returned the passport after the payment.”[138] Sharapat Sh., who was also in Malybai from March to December 2009 with her two children, ages 15 and 18, told Human Rights Watch, “[The landowner] immediately took my passport after our arrival. He said I wouldn’t need it. He gave it back after the final payment. … Without the passport we couldn’t really go anywhere. We could only go to the neighbors nearby to do a bit of extra work.”[139]

Nadira N., from Karatash, who worked for several years in Kazakhstan, told Human Rights Watch that she traveled with an intermediary who charged 10,000 tenge (US$66) for her services assisting with the trip and identifying an employer. As part of the agreement, each year the intermediary handed the workers’ passports over to the employer. “You give your passport to Chinara Ch. for the trip [to Kazakhstan] and then she gives it to the employer,” Nadira N. told Human Rights Watch. Nadira N. also gave her employer the birth certificates of her children, who worked with her in Kazakhstan while they were 11, 15, and 20 years old.[140] Human Rights Watch interviewed this intermediary, Chinara Ch., who confirmed the practice saying, “Passports stay with the landowner, so the workers don’t run away. They’ve paid for the workers’ transport and for the food, after all, haven’t they!?”[141]

Other workers stated that they had their passports with them,[142] or told Human Rights Watch that they had voluntarily given their passports to the landowners for safekeeping for the duration of the tobacco season. According to Sabir S. who was working with his wife and two children in Malybai in 2009 and had previously worked in Karaturyk, “We give our passports to him [the landowner]. We can’t be out in the fields with our passports. We’ll lose them. He [the landowner] gives them back at the end of the season.”[143] Ulkan U., who worked in Malybai with her three children, said, “I gave my passport to [the landowner]. I gave him our identity documents myself, so that they wouldn’t get lost.”[144]

2.8 Forced Labor

Human Rights Watch documented six cases that it considers constitute or are analogous to forced labor, arising from a particularly abusive convergence of all of the practices described above. In some cases of forced labor, workers were expected to do other work at the landowners’ home, such as cleaning, renovation, and other farming for the landowner without pay in addition to farming tobacco. In some cases, intermediaries promised migrant workers good wages and working conditions in tobacco farming, but the actual employment circumstances proved to be exploitative. In all cases described in this section, the employment conditions in which the workers found themselves were far from those that they had been promised and to which they had had consented voluntarily.

The involuntary retention of identity documents served as a means of coercion and of confinement for migrant workers who found themselves in situations of forced labor. Without a valid passport, a migrant stopped by the police will be detained in order to establish his or her identity and will typically be expelled from the country. Migrants without a passport are also very likely to have difficulty leaving Kazakhstan and reentering Kyrgyzstan and to be forced to pay large bribes to avoid detention and cross the border. Fearing detention by police and expulsion, or problems at the border, workers are afraid to leave the employer or intermediary and may be forced to endure abusive work and living conditions to which they did not initially consent.

Even if workers were able to access their passports, the credible threat of forfeiting some or all of a season’s earnings, as a result of the lack of regular wages and the single end-of-season payment, also served as a significant penalty for those who may have wished to leave an abusive employment situation.

International and national legal standards

Human Rights Watch believes that the convergence of abuses described in this section meets the definition of forced labor, which is prohibited under international and Kazakhstani law. According to the ILO Convention on Forced Labor (No. 29) forced or compulsory labor “shall mean all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.”[145] The ILO elaborates examples of “menace of penalty” to include: “physical violence against a worker or close associates, physical confinement, financial penalties, denunciation to authorities-including police and immigration-and deportation, dismissal from current employment, exclusion from future employment, and the removal of rights and privileges.”[146] Examples provided by the ILO of the involuntary nature of work include: physical confinement in the work location, psychological compulsion (order to work backed up by a credible threat of a penalty), induced indebtedness (by falsification of accounts, excessive interest charges, etc.), deception about types and terms of work, withholding and non-payment of wages, and retention of identity documents or other valuable personal possessions.[147] 

Article 8 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) prohibits “forced or compulsory labour.” The constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan guarantees the right to freedom of labor. The Kazakhstan labor code also guarantees the right to freedom of labor and prohibits forced labor.[148]

In all of the cases documented in this section workers had entered the employment voluntarily, but this has no bearing on the nature of these situations as forced labor. The ILO states that workers have the right to revoke freely-given consent, noting “many victims enter forced labour situations initially of their own accord … only to discover later that they are not free to withdraw their labour. They are subsequently unable to leave their work owing to legal, physical or psychological coercion.”[149]

In four cases victims of forced labor Human Rights Watch interviewed were deceived by intermediaries who delivered them to employers who subjected the workers to forced labor. These cases can be considered trafficking or akin to trafficking, which the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (UN Trafficking Protocol) defines to include act of recruitment, transport, transfer, receipt, sale, or purchase of human beings by force, fraud, deceit or other coercive tactics for the purpose of placing them into conditions of forced labor or practices similar to slavery or servitude.[150] Kazakhstan is a party to the United Nations Trafficking Protocol, which obligates state parties to take a range of legislative and policy measures to “prevent and combat trafficking in persons,” and “protect and assist the victims of such trafficking, with full respect for their human rights.”[151]

Almira A. and her family

Almira A., 45, traveled with her family to Malybai in May 2009. An intermediary, acting both as a taxi driver and as a recruiter, told her that they would earn a minimum of 350,000-400,000 tenge (US$2,320-2,655) working in tobacco fields. However, Almira A. and her family found themselves working in very different employment conditions than those to which they had agreed with the driver and later with the landowner.

I went together with my husband, my son, 24, and my daughter, 16. … For driving the four of us, the landowner paid the taxi driver 75,000 tenge (US$498) and then immediately took our passports. … For the whole season our passports were with him.
We cultivated tobacco. We didn’t do any work on the side for another employer. The landowner didn’t allow us to. He screamed and cursed at us, when we wanted to earn some money on the side. He said that he paid for us so that we will work for him. …
Instead of working on the side, we worked for him in his other fields. We cultivated onions. For free. For this work he didn’t pay us anything. Or we washed his laundry, or painted the walls of his house and barn. We were like slaves to him. He treated us really badly. It’s true, he didn’t beat us, but cursed at us. We couldn’t defend ourselves, since we were on his land after all.
We worked for 11 to 13 hours a day. The work was really hard. …. Work, work, work. It was that way from morning to night.
We didn’t have our passports, and so we couldn’t go anywhere. We didn’t even go to the neighboring fields. We were afraid of our landowner.
Of course there was desire to leave and throw it all away, but how!? Our passports were with the landowner, and we had no money. If we left, then all of our work would be for nothing. And without money, how would we even get back home from there?[152]

The landowner told Almira A. and her family that of the 1.5 hectares of land that they worked, he would keep the income from 1.3 hectares and they would be able to keep the profit from the remainder. This was a much smaller percentage of profits than is typical under the “plan” payment system, described in the background section above. After the deductions for travel and food, the Almira A. and her family received 120,000 tenge (US$796). “Is this really proper payment for nearly a whole year of work? I will not go back to Kazakhstan next year. I will never go back.”[153]

Zhumartbek Zh. and his family

As described above, Zhumartbek Zh., his wife and two children worked in tobacco farming for the first time in 2009 in Malybai for a landowner who deceived them in the final payment.  When Zhumartbek Zh. was considering going from Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan in March 2009, an intermediary, Chinara Ch., who is described elsewhere in this report, promised him good work with good wages for the family in tobacco farming. However, Zhumartbek Zh. and his family found themselves in a situation where they were forced to do additional work for the landowner, without pay, and felt they could not leave because their passports had been confiscated. In the end, the landowner also cheated Zhumartbek Zh. of his earnings for the tobacco work, as described above.  Zhumartbek Zh. described his experience with the intermediary and working for the employer:

[The intermediary] promises one thing, that everything will be great, and she takes you there, but it’s completely different. There’s no way out, and so people [like me] work. And besides the tobacco, we did additional work for the employer.  As soon as we got there our passports were taken. ... After that you can’t go anywhere and can’t leave.
We even gathered firewood for his house. And even after that we were not good enough for him. [If we tried to refuse the additional work], that’s when the real trouble begins: insults and humiliation. … He argued and cursed, fought with me. And we grew and gathered about 50-60 tons of onions for him. For free! And even gathered the firewood for him for free! But even after that we were not good enough for him … We almost didn’t have any days off. We worked. We couldn’t not work. … 
If he were a good person, I would go there again this year. But it’s not even that I don’t want to go there again, it’s even just awful for me to speak about him and remember him.[154] 

Makhmud M. and his family

Makhmud M., 47, similarly stated that he had been deceived by an intermediary about the conditions in which he would be working in Kazakhstan, where he and his family ended up being forced to perform additional farming work for the landowner, without pay. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, Makhmud M., said that in February 2009 he went to the Nookat central market where he met an intermediary who referred to himself as a “taxi driver.” “The taxi driver said he would take me to a very good person for work on tobacco,” Makhumud M. told Human Rights Watch. “He promised good conditions. Like all taxi drivers he promised that we would earn between 500,000-1,000,000 tenge (US$3,315-6,630). The taxi driver said that the landowner would pay him for the cost of the trip, and that the landowner would deduct this from our earnings. He didn’t say anything about additional work that we would need to do for the landowner around his house or in the fields.”[155]  

Based on the promise of good work and conditions, Makhmud M. traveled together with his wife and adult daughter to work in Malybai. But from the very beginning, Makhmud M. found that the conditions promised by the intermediary were not those provided by the landowner. “The taxi driver said that it would be possible to have a written contract,” said Makhmud M.  “But there was no contract! Only an oral agreement. And this oral agreement was not fulfilled!”[156]

During the work season Makhmud M. and his family worked up to 14 hours a day and received only about seven days of rest, including weekend days, for the entire season from mid-March to mid-November. When not farming tobacco, Makhmud M. and his family were forced to do other work for the employer. They felt they could not leave this situation because the landowner had taken their passports at the beginning of the season. Makhmud M. told Human Rights Watch:

During our free time [not farming tobacco] we worked for the landowner on his other fields, growing onions and potatoes. If we didn’t work for him on these fields, he would become angry with us. But he didn’t yell at us. This work was without pay.
Our passport was with the employer the whole time. He took them right away, as soon as he paid the taxi driver. … He gave us the passports back only at the end of the tobacco season.
We could only walk around near the landowner’s house. Without a passport, where could we go!? I wanted to go somewhere else, but my passport was with the landowner. Where could we go?[157]

At the end of the tobacco season, Makhmud M. stated that he believed that the landowner had received more than 800,000 tenge (US$5,300) for the tobacco delivered to PMK. However, Makhmud M. and his family received 39,000 tenge (US$260) for eight months of work.  The employer took deductions for the intermediary [80,000 tenge (US$530)] and food [70,000 tenge (US$460)]. “We worked for the landowner for nearly a year on the fields,” Makhmud M. said. “This was very little, a miserly sum in fact, for all this work. … I won’t go back to Kazakhstan next year.” In 2008, Makhmud M. and his family had earned 200,000 tenge (US$1,616) producing tobacco on 1.3 hectares.[158] 

Umut U. and her children

Umut U., 34, who in 2009 worked in Malybai together with her four children, ages 10, 11, 13, and 14, told Human Rights Watch that an intermediary promised to find the family work in tobacco and that the employer would pay for half of the intermediary’s fees.  However, at the end of the season, the employer deducted the full cost of the intermediary (85,000 tenge $US ) from the final payment to Umut U.  

In addition to farming tobacco, Umut U.’s employer also required her and her children to perform various household tasks for free, in addition to farming 2.2 hectares of tobacco. Because the employer had confiscated both her passport and her children’s birth certificates, Umut U. felt she had no other possibility but to stay and work until the employer returned them at the end of the season. She told Human Rights Watch,

We worked from morning to evening on 2.2 hectares of land. We were expected to give 1.7 hectares worth of tobacco under the “plan” with the landowner. He immediately took my passport and my children’s birth certificates upon our arrival. He gave them back only after the final payment. There was no violence from his side. He treated us fine. … But during the time when we weren’t farming tobacco, we had to help him with weeding and harvesting of onions. And we cleaned the yard outside his house. This was all without pay. He got rather angry if we didn’t help him.[159]

Schakhlo S. and her family

Schakhlo S. cultivated tobacco in Malybai for three seasons together with her husband and 14-year-old daughter. She told Human Rights Watch that “Upon our arrival, the landowner paid the intermediary and took our passports. He took all of our documents.” Schakhlo S. also described additional work she and her family were required to perform for the employer without pay:

We worked from morning to night on tobacco. We lived in the landowner’s house. The conditions were decent, but there are no days off. We almost never rested. When we aren’t working in tobacco, then we worked for the landowner around the house. We cleaned up and took care of things around the house. We had to do all this work for the employer for free.[160]

Almazbek A. and his family

Almazbek A., who worked with his wife and six children on tobacco farms in Kazakhstan for eight seasons, beginning in 2001, told Human Rights Watch that employers consistently retained his and his family’s passports. He said that he felt it impossible to leave the employer both because of the absence of his passport as well as the debts that had already been accumulated in the absence of regular wages. “[The landowners] force you to work. There is no other choice. They have our identity documents, they have paid for the transportation [from Kyrgyzstan] and for our food.”[161]

Almazbek A. described one instance when he left his employer’s farm to do work at another house in order to earn some additional money. “If we tried to do some work on the side [in Russian, levachit], the landowner wouldn’t permit this. He said, ‘I’m the one who paid for you.’ … The landowner himself would come find us in his car … In 2007, my son and I had just a bit of plastering work left to do [at another house]. The landowner came and grabbed me, and the other employer didn’t have a chance to pay me at all. It was impossible to stand up to the landowner.”[162] His wife confirmed that they felt particularly trapped with this employer, saying, “The landowner categorically refused to let us leave the farm.”[163] 

2.9 Excessively Long Working Hours and Lack of Rest

In order to meet the expectations for tobacco production, on which eight to nine months of income depended, migrant tobacco workers worked long hours, from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. or even later, particularly during the high season, which runs from approximately July through September. In one case documented by Human Rights Watch, an employer used physical force to coerce workers, including a child, to work long hours. Migrant workers also received few days off. Kazakhstani law limits working hours to 40 hours per week, with a maximum of eight hours per day. Workers are guaranteed at least one day off per week and paid annual vacation. Employees may work overtime, but only with their written consent and must be paid time and a half.[164]

Sixty-year-old Akdana A. told Human Rights Watch that when she, her husband, and five of their adult children worked on a tobacco farm in 2007, “We worked every day, from sunrise to sunset, so depending on the season it would be nine hours in [September and October] and 16-18 hours in the summer [from June to September]. We could have a few hours rest occasionally, but we worked every day.”[165] Bekbolot B., who in 2009 was working with his wife for the second year in a row on a tobacco farm in Koram similarly stated, “In the morning we start at 5:00 a.m. and work until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. We work like that from the end of May through September. The work is really hard: it is always very hot, and the tobacco is harmful in the heat.”[166] Ruslan R. reported that he and the other migrant workers worked on the field from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., or even as late as 10:00 p.m., and had no weekend days off. When he and the other workers would take long rest breaks, the landowner would get upset and insist that they go back to work.[167]

Other migrant workers also described long working hours, no regular weekend days, and little rest, including for children. Nadira N. described the long working hours and difficulty of the work while working with her three children, ages 12, 15, and 20 in 2007 in Malybai:

The hardest work was done in July. We got up at 5 a.m. and worked until 12 a.m. We had to harvest [the tobacco leaves], string the tobacco leaves on a heavy needle and hang them up. … Then we would begin harvesting the leaves. The landowner made us work like that. We got only five hours at night to rest. There were no days off. For lunch we only got a half hour. We were constantly in the fields. If the landowner himself couldn’t be there, he would send someone over to keep an eye on us.[168]

The landowner used physical force to coerce the workers, including Nadira N.’s children. “When someone wasn’t doing their work, was being lazy, then the landowner would beat them. The landowner beat my children, [saying,] ‘You can lie around at home if you want, but this is not Kyrgyzstan. You came here to work only.’[169]

Sabir S. and his wife and two children, ages 13 and 15, whom Human Rights Watch interviewed in Malybai in 2009, would “work from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. Sometimes we will come to the field at 4 a.m.” For a whole season [of nine months] the family received about three weeks’ worth of days off including weekend days.[170] By contrast, a person working a 40-hour work week for nine months, or 36 weeks, would get at a minimum of 72 weekend days (or approximately 10 weeks) off. Similarly Sharapat Sh., who worked in Malybai with her daughter, 15, and son, 18, said that her family worked 11 to 13 hours a day, and that for the nine months that they were in Kazakhstan (March 12 to December 5, 2009), they took a total of no more than 14 days off, including weekends.[171]

2.10 Exposure to and Inadequate Information about Pesticides and Fertilizers

Human Rights Watch was able to ask two-thirds of the migrant workers interviewed questions regarding pesticide and fertilizer use.[172] While the majority reported using only fertilizers, six heads of families reported that their families used pesticides as well. Migrant workers who were specifically asked by Human Rights Watch about pesticides did not know of any health risks associated with the application of pesticides or fertilizers, or of health risks associated with harvesting and handling plants that had been treated with pesticides.

In correspondence and meetings with Human Rights Watch, Philip Morris International and Philip Morris Kazakhstan stated that they provide to farmers and workers safe-handling instructions and information about the risks associated with pesticides and fertilizers and conduct regular trainings regarding safe-handling of pesticides and fertilizers. They also stated that Philip Morris Kazakhstan agronomists supervise all pesticide applications and provide protective equipment to workers performing pesticide application.[173] PMK provided to Human Rights Watch copies of its standard instructions for safe-handling of pesticides and fertilizers.

Nonetheless, migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch were not getting the information they need to fully protect themselves from harmful effects of pesticides and fertilizers. The standard PMK safe-handling instructions for pesticide and fertilizer use were not consistent with the first aid, protective equipment, and restricted entry requirements provided on the label of Decis, the primary insecticide used on tobacco fields producing tobacco for Philip Morris Kazakhstan in 2009. The standard PMK safe-handling materials were only in Russian, a language which most migrant workers from Kyrgyzstan do not speak. Of the migrant workers whom Human Rights Watch asked specifically about written pesticide and fertilizer safe-handling instructions, only one migrant worker had received any kind of written materials regarding pesticide and fertilizer use. None had attended any trainings by Philip Morris Kazakhstan agronomists or landowners.

In addition, for safe-handling of pesticides and fertilizers, one of the key instructions provided both in Philip Morris Kazakhstan’s own materials and on pesticide labeling is for workers to wash with soap and water following application. However, as indicated below, migrant workers, particularly those living in make-shift housing on the edge of tobacco fields, may not have access to bathing facilities that would allow proper washing after they handle these substances.

PMI’s response to these concerns and the measures it intends to take are described below, in chapter 3.

Pesticides

According to PMI, in 2009, 86 out of 519 farms producing tobacco for PMK applied pesticides. During the year, PMK distributed 50.7 liters of Decis pesticide and 4.4 liters of Confidor pesticide.[174] Decis is an insecticide used on a variety of crops, including vegetables, fruits, cotton, and others.[175] Under United States law, Decis is classified as a Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP), indicating that its toxicity exceeds specific hazard criteria and requires additional regulation in an effort to limit “unreasonable adverse effects” of its use.[176] The RUP designation restricts a product to use by a certified pesticide applicator or under the direct supervision of such applicator.[177]

The Decis label warns of “acute toxicity,” meaning it is capable of causing adverse effects within a short time from one or multiple exposures, and lists Decis’ hazards to humans as:

May be fatal if swallowed. Corrosive. Causes irreversible eye damage and skin burns. Do not get in eyes, on skin, or on clothing. Harmful if absorbed through the skin or inhaled…Wear protective clothing, gloves, eyewear… Prolonged or frequently repeated skin contact may cause allergic reactions in some individuals.[178]

The label instructs workers handling Decis to “wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling and before eating, drinking, chewing gum, or using tobacco.”[179] Workers may only enter treated areas after 12 hours. Workers coming into contact with treated plants should also wear protective clothing, including chemical-resistant gloves and shoes, coveralls, and protective eyewear.[180]

Written instructions which Philip Morris Kazakhstan provided to landowners and workers in 2009 do not reflect the toxicity risk that resulted in Decis’ RUP classification and do not provide sufficient warning regarding the health hazards associated with Decis. A one-page PMK safe-handling instruction sheet provided to Human Rights Watch in November 2009 states: “Pesticides … categorized as low-risk, not presenting serious threats to human health during application, are used for fighting pests and diseases affecting tobacco.”[181] (See Appendix B)

The first aid instructions on the PMK document were also not entirely consistent with the Decis label; the PMK document instructs that if the chemical is swallowed, the affected worker should “drink several glasses of warm water” and should induce vomiting. The Decis label first aid instructions state that if the material is swallowed: “Do not induce vomiting unless told to do so by a poison control center or doctor,” and “Do not give liquid to the person.”[182] The PMK safe-handling document  provided to Human Rights Watch states “Never work with pesticides barefoot or in open sandals; it is necessary to work in boots or closed shoes” and “it is necessary to protect hands with gloves … without holes.” The Decis label specifies that gloves and footwear must be chemical-resistant and that workers should wear coveralls to protect their clothing.[183] According to PMI, PMK provides farmers and workers with gloves, masks, and rubber boots to be used during application of pesticides. This protective equipment is also then removed from the farms following the application. As noted above, PMI has indicated that protective suits would be provided in the future.[184]

With regard to reentering an area treated by pesticides, the PMK safe-handling document states: “Do not enter an area that has been recently treated [with pesticides],” but does not specify a time interval. The Decis label indicates a restricted entry interval of 12 hours following application. The Decis label also indicates that workers entering an area recently treated by Decis should wear protective clothing, including coveralls and chemical-resistant gloves and footwear.[185] 

Confidor is also an agricultural insecticide used by Philip Morris Kazakhstan in 2009. The active chemical ingredient of Confidor, Imidacloprid, is considered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency to be a general use pesticide. Imidaclopird is a neonicotinoid, which are among the most widely used insecticides worldwide. According to a Material Safety Data Sheet for Confidor, the insecticide may be harmful if inhaled or swallowed and may irritate eyes and skin and cause allergies, in the event of repeated exposure.[186] Workers are instructed to wear elbow-length plastic gloves, a disposable mask, goggles, and coveralls, and to “wash gloves, goggles and contaminated clothing” after each day’s application.[187]

According to a Philip Morris International letter dated January 14, 2010, no pesticides are stored “on site,” on farms in Kazakhstan. However, during its research in Kazakhstan in 2009, Human Rights Watch found one case in which pesticides and equipment used for pesticide application were stored on a farm employing migrant workers. Philip Morris International stated that these materials were not those which PMK had provided to the landowners with whom they contract.[188] Human Rights Watch did not find pesticides or pesticide application equipment being stored on any other tobacco farms which it visited.

In June 2009, Akbar A., from Uzgen, Kyrgyzstan, showed Human Rights Watch a used pesticide packet with a label in Chinese except for the words “Imidaclopird 10%.” The migrant workers also showed Human Rights Watch a backpack storage tank and sprayer which they stated was used for pesticide application. The equipment was stored against a make-shift structure which a family of migrant workers used for sleeping, in a location where the family regularly walked. The fertilizers were stored in the family’s living areas, where they ate and prepared food. Akbar A. told Human Rights Watch that he applies pesticides directly to the tobacco himself with one of his adult sons, without any assistance from the farmer or a PMK agronomist. “We have a tank that is worn like a backpack that has a hose for application. I don’t know the composition of the chemicals, but I know that it helps the plants.” Although Akbar A. has boots that he wears during application of the pesticides, he stated that he uses no other protective clothing. “We don’t have any special protective clothing. No one gave them to us. No one offered them,” he said.[189]

Bazarkan B., who was living in Lavar in 2009 with his wife and six children, all of whom cultivate tobacco, described a similar method of pesticide application and a lack of knowledge about the pesticides themselves. He told Human Rights Watch, “For pesticides, we have to apply to the selkhozkhimia [the local agricultural cooperative], and we get pesticides. They are applied by hand. I don’t know the name but it comes in jars that look like yogurt containers. We use a backpack with a hand-held sprayer. My oldest son [an adult] and I apply it.”[190] Bazarkan B. didn’t know the composition of the pesticides and was dismissive of the potential risks. He said, “We’re used to working in tobacco. Nothing [bad] happens to us.”[191]

Akdana A. and her husband Iskender I. worked on a tobacco farm together with their adult children in the village Achusai in 2007. They told Human Rights Watch that they used pesticides during tobacco cultivation, but did not use protective clothing or have substantive information about any potential risks. “We used four types of pesticides, but I think nothing too harmful,” Iskender I. said. Akdana A. added, “We applied them ourselves, one at a time. … They didn’t give us any protective clothing.”[192] 

Bekbolot B., who worked in Koram in 2008 and 2009, told Human Rights Watch that he believed he was applying a pesticide, although he was uncertain. He told Human Rights Watch: “Sometimes they give us these packets. We dissolve a powder in water. If there are some kinds of insects, then this is a chemical for that. I don’t remember what it’s called. We do this without any instruments; we simply pour it on [the plants] from a watering can.”[193]

Fertilizers

All migrant workers asked specifically by Human Rights Watch about fertilizers and pesticides stated that they used fertilizers. Among migrant workers who knew which kinds of fertilizers they were applying, the chemical fertilizers commonly named were Azot, an ammonium nitrate fertilizer, Ammophos, an ammonium phosphate fertilizer, and Selitra, a potassium nitrate fertilizer. Migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch typically applied fertilizers to the tobacco plants by using watering cans or, more often, two-liter plastic drink bottles with the tops cut off.[194] In some cases they applied fertilizer pellets with their bare hands.[195]

Fertilizers are much less harmful to human health than pesticides but are not altogether without risks. An ILO training guide for the elimination of hazardous child labor in agriculture notes certain risks during handling of chemical fertilizers, relevant for both children and adults. The guide indicates:

Dry, chemical fertiliser, which is hygroscopic and attracts moisture, can draw out moisture from the skin and cause burns….Dry fertilizer can also cause irritation of the mouth, nose and eyes. Liquid fertilisers also need careful handling as these are in a highly concentrated form.[196]

In January 2010 PMI also pointed out to Human Rights Watch that fertilizers pose fewer health risks. Their application is done without supervision of PMK agronomists, although “as part of PMK’s regular training on good agricultural practices, PMK agronomists review with farmers and workers the general safe handling instructions that apply to fertilizers, which are also usually printed on the fertilizer bags.” PMI also said that materials distributed to farmers and workers contain safe handling instructions for fertilizers.[197]

In two cases, Human Rights Watch saw bags of fertilizer stored in the regular living areas, including eating areas, of make-shift living structures which migrant workers had constructed at the edge of tobacco fields.[198] This practice is contrary to the instructions provided in the PMK instructions for safe-handling of fertilizers and pesticides, which indicates that fertilizers should be transported and stored separately from food. Fertilizer bags seen by Human Rights Watch had safe-handling instructions written in English and Russian, languages unlikely to be accessible to Kyrgyz migrants.

Migrant workers asked questions about safe-handling instructions for fertilizers by Human Rights Watch stated that they had not received information or instructions about fertilizers. Umut U., who told Human Rights Watch that she and her four children used “Azot” and “another kind of chemical that was clear in color,” which they applied with bare hands or with plastic drink bottles to the base of the tobacco plant. “I don’t know the names [of these chemicals],” Umut U. told Human Rights Watch. “The landowner said that Philip Morris [Kazakhstan] gave him the chemicals and that’s it. The Philip Morris [Kazakhstan] agronomist didn’t help us. Neither did the landowner. No one explained to us how to use the chemicals. There was no protective clothing or shoes. … There were no instructions.”[199]

Alym A., 42, told a Human Rights Watch about his experience working with fertilizers:

I didn’t know, is “Ammofos” a pesticide or fertilizer? We poured it under the tobacco plants and at the roots we poured Azot. We poured Ammofos and Azot from plastic Coca-Cola bottles. We didn’t use any other kinds of chemicals. The landowner brought us these fertilizers in two bags… no one instructed us. We ourselves know how to use them. We used our bare hands. There is no special clothing or shoes.[200]

Gulumkan G., whom Human Rights Watch interviewed on a farm in Koram in 2009, stated that she had received a brochure from the Philip Morris Kazakhstan agronomist about fertilizers and pesticides and that workers were required to sign that they had read the document. Even with this brochure, she did not have a clear understanding of what she was using or what the health risks might be.[201] She said that they received a green granulate, which she called “Nitromafus” and a white granulate called “Azanol.” Gulumkan G. and her family do not use gloves when they scatter the granulates in the tobacco fields in the spring. “Where would Kyrgyz get gloves from? We rinse our hands twice afterwards and drink a cup of tea,” she said. Gulumkan G. said that she knows the granulates are dangerous because of a warning written on the package.[202]

2.11 Other Health Risks in Tobacco Farming

One of the primary risks associated with tobacco farming is green tobacco sickness (GTS), which is caused by the absorption of nicotine through the skin from contact with tobacco leaves, especially wet tobacco leaves.GTS is characterized largely by nausea, vomiting, headache, muscle weakness, and dizziness. Children are especially vulnerable due to their small body size in relation to the dose of nicotine they absorb.[203] Public health research has found that “non-smoking tobacco harvesters show similar cotinine and nicotine levels compared to active smokers in the general population.”[204] According to one study, “on a humid day, especially after a recent rain, the average field worker may be exposed to as much as 600 [milliliters] of dew,” which would contain roughly the nicotine of 36 average cigarettes.[205] Other health risks for child and adult tobacco workers include respiratory ailments, exposure to extreme temperatures, musculoskeletal disorders as a result of carrying of excessive and/or awkward loads, repetitive and often forceful actions, bending, stooping, and the adoption of awkward and uncomfortable postures, and other injuries.[206]

Some workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch spoke of health concerns, including lung ailments and skin ailments particularly during the harvest of tobacco.  Others did not practice basic worker safety, such as wearing closed shoes. For example, Nadira N. who worked for three tobacco seasons in Malybai, from 2004 to 2007, told Human Rights Watch that working in tobacco “is very difficult. I am not going back to work anymore. Both me and my children, we all got nauseous working with the tobacco.”[207] Zhanyl Zh., 47, who was working in Malybai in 2009, told Human Rights Watch, “In July and August when we are harvesting the tobacco, the weather is very hot, and there is a strong vapor, a strong smell from the tobacco. This hurts the upper respiratory system. The only thing we can do is cover our mouths and nose with handkerchiefs.”[208] This may be caused by exogenous allergic alveolitis (or hypersensitivity pneumonitis) which is a type of lung disease frequently referred to as “tobacco worker’s lung” and may be caused by inhalation of tobacco molds.[209] Human Rights Watch could not verify the actual medical condition of Zhanyl Zh. or any other interviewee. In June 2009, Human Rights Watch observed workers, including child workers, wearing sandals or, in some cases, no shoes at all, despite working with sharp hoes and in tobacco fields, including in fields possibly treated with pesticides. (For other cases involving health concerns, see Child labor.)

As part of the Good Agricultural Practices program (described in more detail below), PMI has developed materials about GTS for distribution to leaf growers and suppliers which include information about GTS symptoms, risk factors, preventive measures, and treatment,[210] and PMI and PMK officials stated that they conduct GTS awareness-raising with farmers in Kazakhstan, including through training sessions.[211] However, none of the migrant workers whom Human Rights Watch specifically asked about information or training regarding health risks in tobacco farming said that they had received it from PMK, their employers, or anyone else.

Most workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch lacked any kind of protective clothing to use during the tobacco harvest. Although some had gloves, many workers, including children, did not.  “We don’t have special protective clothing [in Russian, spetzodezhda],” stated Alym A. who worked in Karaturyk in 2009.[212] Public health research has found that “protective equipment has been shown to decrease the magnitude of GTS significantly.”[213] The ILO has also noted that tobacco workers should minimize exposure during harvesting or other tasks requiring prolonged contact with green tobacco by delaying work until the leaves are dry or by wearing lightweight rain gear and waterproof gloves when the leaves are wet. Precautions for working in dry tobacco include wearing long trousers, long-sleeve shirts and possibly gloves.[214]

2.12 Lack of Potable Water

On all farms which Human Rights Watch visited there was no potable water available for migrant workers or other workers on the tobacco fields. Migrant workers who lived in tents and makeshift houses next to the tobacco fields retrieved water for drinking, cooking, and bathing from nearby streams, rivers, canals, and springs. Often, they also used this one water source to irrigate the tobacco fields. This water may contain unknown amounts of pesticides and fertilizers used in the fields. Drinking dirty or contaminated water may expose workers to dangerous chemicals, organic wastes, and parasites. Ready access to plentiful, clean drinking water is also crucial for migrant tobacco workers, who work in full sun and high heat for many months of the year, to prevent dehydration and heat-induced illness.

Workers who live in or near villages may have access to public outdoor taps, a typical feature of rural villages in Kazakhstan, where homes do not have running water. These workers may bring water with them to work in the fields.

Human Rights Watch interviewed Aisha A. in June 2009 as she carried a large empty container for collecting water. She said that her family, including three children, usually gets water from a tap in the village where they live, but because on that day the water was turned off, they were on their way to a nearby river to get drinking water.[215] Bazarkan B., who had been working with his wife and six children in Lavar, from 2006-2009, told Human Rights Watch, “We get water from the irrigation channels running nearby. We use this water to irrigate the fields. We also drink and wash from the same water,” he said.[216] Bekbolot B. said that he and his wife get their water from an artisanal spring, near the field.[217]

2.13 Poor Sanitary Conditions

Hand washing and bathing facilities are important both for basic hygiene of workers and their families as well as for mitigating the effects of exposure to pesticides and nicotine in tobacco leaves.[218] Materials produced by PMI regarding GTS indicate three steps to preventing the illness, including for workers to wear protective clothing to reduce body contact with the plant and for workers to their wash hands and bodies with warm water and soap after working with green tobacco.[219]

Workers, particularly those who live next to the tobacco fields, may lack proper hygiene facilities. In such cases hand washing is done in streams or using bottled water brought from a nearby village. For those who live near the tobacco fields, bathing is also done in streams or irrigation canals.  The outhouses migrant workers use, which they often have built themselves, are located at the edges of the tobacco fields, frequently near their living structures and near their sole water source. In 2009, Human Rights Watch researchers saw outhouses constructed within a few feet of canals used for irrigation and drinking water on three separate farms. 

In one example, Akdana A., 60, who worked in Achisai in 2007 and lived at the edge of the tobacco field, told Human Rights Watch that when she or her husband needed to wash, they would go to a makeshift shack on the edge of the tobacco field that served as a bathing area for workers on those fields.[220]

Migrant workers who lived in houses or other structures near the landowner’s home or the village were often able to access banyas or saunas. Ruslan R. and Gulnara G., who both worked in Malybai in 2009 for different employers, told Human Rights Watch that the landowners allowed the workers to use a banya for bathing.[221] Public banyas are also available in some villages.

2.14 Substandard Employer-provided Living Conditions

All migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch stated that their employers provided free accommodation. In the absence of regular wages, this was the most viable option for migrant workers. While living in employer-provided accommodation may be an advantage to many migrant workers, it was also another aspect of the workers’ dependence on the landowner.

The quality of accommodation varied. Many migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch, including whole families with small children, live in makeshift housing of their own construction on the edge of the tobacco fields for at least five of the peak months of the tobacco farming season. Living near the tobacco fields maximizes the amount of time that a worker spends at work and contributes to workers’ long hours. These makeshift structures have little protection from the elements, and have no electricity, running water, or heat. This type of accommodation has been described by the ILO as substandard, and contributing to overall poor health of workers. The ILO has noted that “there is a close link between housing, worker well-being and productivity.”[222]

Other migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch lived in permanent structures, such as a room in the landowner’s house or in the landowner’s barn or shed. Even in some more substantial structures, however, workers may have had poor or limited access to proper sanitary conditions and may not have had heat or electricity.

On five farms, Human Rights Watch saw structures constructed with branches for frames, and covered with plastic tarps, burlap tarps, fiberglass panels (of the type used for greenhouses), large cardboard boxes, and similar materials. Outhouses were constructed in a similar manner. Some migrant workers had constructed more substantial structures using mud, but these were rarer. Migrant workers use thin mattresses, blankets, and tarps to sleep on. Some have constructed wooden tables and chairs, but most migrant workers sat on the ground or on bedding materials.

Migrant workers may also live in one room of the landowner’s home, or in a barn, shed or other building owned by the landowner. Human Rights Watch visited one such structure, which apparently used to serve as a barn. The structure was divided into several rooms, each with its own window and small door. Some windows were broken. The structure appeared to have electricity. In each room, there were a few mattresses on the floor and some limited cooking instruments, such as hotplates and electric teapots. The structure did not appear to be heated in any way.

Other workers reported having appropriate housing provided by their employers. While working in Malybai in 2009, Gulnara G. told Human Rights Watch that she lived in a small house provided by the landowner with her three daughters and a two-year-old grandchild. The house consists of one room of about 20 square meters and had two beds, numerous mattresses, and a gas stove.[223] Ruslan R. stated that he lived with three other migrant workers in a three-room house with a wood stove for heating.[224] Some migrant workers who live near the tobacco fields for five to six of the warmer months may live in a more regular dwelling, such as the landowner’s home, barn, or other building for a few months at the beginning and end of the season, when the temperatures are too cold to live outdoors.

 

[73] Labor Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, No. 251, May 15, 2007, art. 22.

[74]Labor relations arise between the employee and the employer on the basis of the employment contract concluded in accordance with this Code. Labor Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, art. 20.

[75] Agreement between the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Government of Kyrgyzstan concerning labor activity and social protection of migrant workers, employed in agricultural work in border regions, arts. 5 and 6 and agreement between the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Government of Kyrgyzstan concerning labor activity and rights protection of migrant workers, of July 4, 2006, art. 6

[76] Labor Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, art. 26.

[77] Human Rights Watch interviews with Bekbolot B., Koram, June 8, 2009 and with Ruslan R., Malybai, September 25, 2009.

[78] Letter to Human Rights Watch from Even Hurwitz, Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs, Philip Morris International, to Human Rights Watch, January 14, 2010.

[79] Labor Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, art. 20.

[80] Ibid., art. 1.

[81]Human Rights Watch interview with Viktoria Tyuleneva, Almaty, November 10, 2009.

[82] Human Rights Watch interview with Aida A., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, April 7, 2009.

[83] Human Rights Watch interview with Kapar K., Malybai, June 11, 2009.

[84] Human Rights Watch interview with Zhumabek Zh., Malybai, June 11, 2009.

[85] Employment contracts on file with Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch interview with Almazbek, Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, April 7, 2009.

[86] Human Rights Watch interview with Dinara D., Chilik, June 17, 2009.

[87] On file with Human Rights Watch.

[88] Human Rights Watch interview with Almazbek, Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, April 7, 2009.

[89] Human Rights Watch interview with Gulnara G., Malybai, September 25, 2009.

[90] Labor Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, arts. 121, 122, and 134.

[91] Letter from Hurwitz, January 14, 2010. In Kazakhstan and other countries where Philip Morris International purchases tobacco, Philip Morris International leaf experts judge the quality of the leaves to be purchased and assign the leaves a grade. In 2008, tobacco in Kazakhstan was categorized into six grades, with prices in 2008 ranging from 70 tenge (US$0.57) per kilogram for the lowest grade, to 275 tenge (US$2.22) per kilogram for the highest grade. Exchange rates for December 1, 2008. Letter from Hurwitz, November 10, 2009.

[92] Letter from Hurwitz, January 14, 2010.

[93] Human Rights Watch interview with Aisha A., Malybai, June 13, 2009.

[94] Human Rights Watch interviews with Alym A. and with Nurdin N., Karatash, December 12, 2009, and with Zhumartbek Zh., with Umut U., and with Sharapat Sh., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 13, 2009. Unless otherwise noted, Kazakh tenge-US Dollar exchange rates as of December 1, 2009, as on Oanda.com.

[95] Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan, no. 96-4, December 4, 2008, On the Republican Budget for 2009-2011,” art. 8, and Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan, no. 219-4, December 7, 2009, On the Republican Budget for 2010-2011,” art. 9.

[96] “Average Monthly Salary Rose by 13.6 percent to $560,” Central Asia News Kazakhstan, December 2, 2010, http://src.auca.kg/reports/101/03.htm (accessed February 18, 2010).

[97] Human Rights Watch interview with Sharapat Sh., December 13, 2009.

[98] Human Rights Watch interview with Nurdin N., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 12, 2009.

[99] For example, Human Rights Watch interview with Ruslan R., Malybai, September 25, 2009; Human Rights Watch interview with Chingiz Ch., Malybai, June 12, 2009.

[100] For example, Human Rights Watch interview with Chingiz Ch., Malybai, June 12, 2009.

[101] For example, Human Rights Watch interview with Gulnara G., Malybai, September 25, 2009.

[102] Human Rights Watch interviews with Alym A. and with Nyrdyn N., Karatash, December 12, 2009, and with Zhumartbek Zh., with Umut U., and with Sharapat Sh., Karatash, December 13, 2009.

[103] Article 137 of the Labor Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan states: 1) Withholdings from the wages of an employee shall be made by court ruling, as well as in cases envisaged by the laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan. 2) Withholdings from the wages of an employee for the purpose of redeeming his debt towards the organization for which he works may also be made on the basis of an act of the employer, with the written consent of the employee. 3) The total amount of monthly withholdings shall not exceed fifty per cent of the wage due the employee.

[104] Human Rights Watch interviews with Ruslan R. and with Gulnara G., Malybai, September 25, 2009.

[105] Human Rights Watch interviews with Gulnara G., September 25, 2009 and with Zhazira Zh., Malybai, June 13, 2009.

[106] For example, Sabir S., who worked in Malybai in 2009 with his wife and two children, ages 15 and 13, said that his employer provides him and his family food, and that both he and the landowner each keep a notebook recording the expenses. Human Rights Watch interview with Sabir S., Malybai, June 11, 2009. Also Human Rights Watch interview with Ruslan R., Malybai, September 25, 2009.

[107] To illustrate this problem, four of these cases are described in this section. See also the cases of Almira A. and her family and of Umut U. and her family, described in detail below in Forced Labor.

[108] According to migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch and Philip Morris International, in 2009, the prices per kilo were: grade 1: 270-280 tenge (US$1.79-1.86); grade 2: 250 tenge (US$1.66); grade 3: 225 tenge (US$1.49); grade 4: 190-200 tenge (US$1.26-1.33).  Letter from Hurwitz, November 10, 2009.

[109] Human Rights Watch interview with Even Hurwitz; Mila Medina, Director Contributions, and Tatiana Karpova, Manager Harm Reduction Policy, PMI, and Aibat Akhmadalimov, Managing Director, and Dmitry Belousov, Director Corporate Affairs, PMK, Almaty, November 13, 2009.

[110] Letter from Hurwitz, January 14, 2010.

[111] Human Rights Watch interview with Bekbolot B., Koram, June 8, 2009.

[112] Human Rights Watch interview with Kapar K., Malybai, June 11, 2009.

[113] Human Rights Watch interview with farmer (name withheld), Malybai, June 11, 2009.

[114] Human Rights Watch interview with Sharapat Sh., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 13, 2009.

[115] Human Rights Watch interview with Sharapat Sh., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 13, 2009.

[116] Human Rights Watch interview with Nurdin N., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 12, 2009.

[117] Human Rights Watch interview with Zhumartbek Zh., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 13, 2009.

[118] Ibid.

[119] Human Rights Watch interview with Zhumartbek Zh., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 13, 2009.

[120] Human Rights Watch interview with Umut U., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 12, 2009.

[121] Human Rights Watch interview with Zhumartbek Zh., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 13, 2009 and February 28, 2010.

[122] Kazakh Tenge- US Dollar exchange rate on April 2, 2007, as found on Oanda.com.

[123] Ibid. Human Rights Watch interviews with Ulkan U., Malybai, June 17 and September 24, 2009.

[124]United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (Trafficking Protocol), art. 3.

[125] Kazakh Tenge- US Dollar exchange rate on December 1, 2008, as found on Oanda.com.

[126] Human Rights Watch interviews with Ulkan U., Malybai, June 17 and September 24, 2009.

[127] Human Rights Watch interview with Mirgul M. and Nurbol N., Malybai, June 13, 2009. Kazakh tenge-US dollar exchange rates as of April 1, 2006, as found on Oanda.com.

[128] Kazakh tenge-US dollar exchange rate as of December 1, 2008, as found on Oanda.com.

[129] Human Rights Watch interview with Mirgul M. and Nurbol N., Malybai, June 13, 2009.

[130] Kazakh tenge-US dollar exchange rate as of December 1, 2008, as found on Oanda.com.

[131] Human Rights Watch interview with Mirgul M., Malybai, June 13, 2009.

[132] Kazakh tenge-US dollar exchange rate as of May 30, 2008, as found on Oanda.com.

[133] Human Rights Watch interview with Damira D., Druzhba, June 10, 2009.

[134] Human Rights Watch interview with Nabimukhamad N., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 20, 2009.

[135] Code of Administrative Violations of the Republic of Kazakhstan, no. 155-2, January 30, 2001, Art. 379.

[136] Human Rights Watch interview with Alym A., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 12, 2009.

[137] Human Rights Watch interviews with Ainagul A., Malybai, June 9, 2009, and with Ikram I., Malybai, June 11, 2009.

[138] Human Rights Watch interview with Nurdin N., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 12, 2009.

[139] Human Rights Watch interview with Sharapat Sh., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 13, 2009.

[140] Human Rights Watch interview with Nadira N., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, April 6, 2009.

[141] Human Rights Watch interview with Chinara Ch., Malybai, June 11, 2009.

[142] Human Rights Watch interviews with Ruslan R. and with Gulnara G., Malybai, September 25, 2009; Human Rights Watch interview with Akbar A., Koram, June 9, 2009.

[143] Human Rights Watch interview with Sabir S., Malybai, June 11, 2009.

[144] Human Rights Watch interview with Ulkan U., Malybai, June 17, 2009.

[145] Letter ILO Convention No. 29 concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour, adopted June 28, 1930, entered into force May 1, 1932, art. 2.

[146]ILO, A Global Alliance Against Forced Labour: Global Report under the Follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights of Work (Geneva: ILO, 2005), p. 6.

[147]ILO, A Global Alliance Against Forced Labour, p. 6.

[148] Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan, August 30, 1995, with additions and amendments of May 21, 2007; Labor Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, arts. 4, 6, and 8.

[149]ILO, A Global Alliance Against Forced Labour, p. 6.

[150]United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (Trafficking Protocol), art. 3.

[151]Trafficking Protocol, art. 2.

[152] Human Rights Watch interview with Almira A., December 20, 2009. 

[153] Ibid. 

[154] Human Rights Watch interview with Zhumartbek Zh., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, February 28, 2010.

[155] Human Rights Watch interview with Makhmud M., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, January 30, 2010.

[156] Ibid.

[157] Ibid.

[158] Ibid. Kazakh tenge-US Dollar exchange rate on December 1, 2008, as found on Oanda.com.

[159] Human Rights Watch interview with Umut U., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 13, 2009.

[160] Human Rights Watch interview with Schakhlo S., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 20, 2009.

[161] Human Rights Watch interview with Almazbek A., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, April 7, 2009.

[162] Human Rights Watch interview with Almazbek, Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, April 7, 2009.

[163] Human Rights Watch interview with Guliza G., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, April 7, 2009.

[164] Labor Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, arts. 77, 81, 82, 88, 96, 101, and 127.

[165] Human Rights Watch interview with Akdana A. and Iskender I., Nookat, Kyrgyzstan, August 5, 2009.

[166] Human Rights Watch interview with Bekbolot B., Koram, June 8, 2009.

[167] Human Rights Watch interview with Ruslan R., Malybai, September 25, 2009.

[168] Human Rights Watch interview with Nadira N., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, April 6, 2009.

[169] Ibid.

[170] Human Rights Watch interview with Sabir S., Malybai, June 11, 2009.

[171] Human Rights Watch interview with Sharapat Sh., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 13, 2009.

[172] Due to unavoidable time constraints while interviewing workers on tobacco fields during working hours, Human Rights Watch was not able to ask every worker about fertilizer and pesticide use.

[173] Letter from Hurwitz, January 14, 2010. Human Rights Watch interview with PMI and PMK executives, Almaty, November 13, 2009.

[174] Letter from Hurwitz, January 14, 2010.

[175] Decis 0.2 Insecticide label, http://www.bayercropscienceus.com/products_and_seeds/insecticides/decis.html (accessed February 9, 2010).

[176] United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Label Review Manual: Chapter 6: Use Classification,” August 2007, http://www.epa.gov/oppfead1/labeling/lrm/chap-06.htm

[177] Code of Federal Regulations of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Part 152, Subpart I—Classification of Pesticides, para. 152-160.

[178] Decis 0.2 Insecticide label.

[179] Ibid.

[180] Ibid.

[181] Philip Morris Kazakhstan, “Instructions for Safe Handling of Pesticides and Mineral Fertilizers,” undated, in Russian. According to a photograph provided by PMK to Human Rights Watch, these materials are also displayed in poster form at the Philip Morris Kazakhstan tobacco factory, where landowners and some migrant workers visit when delivering tobacco at the end of the season.

[182] Decis 0.2 Insecticide label.

[183] Ibid.

[184] Letter from Hurwitz, January 14, 2010 and letter from Even Hurwitz, Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs, Philip Morris International, to Human Rights Watch, March 11, 2010.

[185] Philip Morris Kazakhstan, “Instructions for Safe Handling of Pesticides and Mineral Fertilizers,” undated, in Russian.

[186] Material Safety Data Sheet, Confidor 200 SC Insecticide, as published by Bayer CropScience, Victoria, Australia, November 19, 2007,  http://www.bayercropscience.com.au/resources/products/msds/Confidor%20200SC_MSDS_1107.pdf

[187] Ibid.

[188] Letter from Hurwitz, March 11, 2010.

[189] Human Rights Watch interview with Akbar A., Koram, June 9, 2009.

[190] Human Rights Watch interview with Bazarkan B., Lavar, June 10, 2009.

[191] Ibid.

[192] Human Rights Watch interview with Akdana A. and Iskender I., Nookat, Kyrgyzstan, August 5, 2009.

[193] Human Rights Watch interview with Bekbolot B., Koram, June 8, 2009.

[194] For example, Human Rights Watch interview with Akbar A., Koram, June 9, 2009; Human Rights Watch interview with Ruslan R., Malybai, September 25, 2009; Human Rights Watch interviews with Makhmud M. and with Almira A., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 20, 2009.

[195] For example, Human Rights Watch interviews with Dzhakhon D., and with Makmud M., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 20, 2009.

[196] ILO, “Training Resource Pack on the Elimination of Hazardous Child Labor in Agriculture, Book 3: Additional Resources for Trainers,” September 2005, http://www.ilo.org/global/What_we_do/Publications/ILOBookstore/Orderonline/Books/lang--en/docName--WCMS_091344/index.htm (accessed February 10, 2010).

[197] Letter from Hurwitz, January 14, 2010.

[199] Human Rights Watch interview with Umut U., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 12, 2009.

[200] Human Rights Watch interview with Alym A., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 12, 2009.

[201] Human Rights Watch interview with Gulumkan G., Koram, September 23, 2009.

[202] Ibid.

[203] There is extensive public health and occupational health literature on GTS. See for example, Robert H. McKnight and Henry A. Spiller, “Green Tobacco Sickness in Children and Adolescents,” Public Health Report, no. 120(6), Nov-Dec. 2005, pp. 602–606, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1497768/?tool=pubmed (accessed January 26, 2010).

[204] Natalie M. Schmitt, Jochen Schmitt, Dimitris J. Kouimintzis, and Wilhelm Kirch, “Health Risks in Tobacco Farm Workers—A Review of the Literature,” Journal of Public Health (2007), 15:255-264.

[205] Robert H. McKnight and Henry A. Spiller, “Green Tobacco Sickness in Children and Adolescents.”

[206] Ibid.; ILO, “Training Resource Pack on the Elimination of Hazardous Child Labor in Agriculture, Book 3: Additional Resources for Trainers,” pp. 10-34; and Gerald F. Peedin, “Tobacco Cultivation,” ILO Safework publication, http://www.ilo.org/safework_bookshelf/english?content&nd=857170790 (accessed March 31, 2010).

[207] Human Rights Watch interview with Nadira N., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, April 6, 2009.

[208] Human Rights Watch interview with Zhanyl Zh., Malybai, June 12, 2009.

[209] Natalie M. Schmitt, et al, “Health Risks in Tobacco Farm Workers—A Review of the Literature,” p. 263.

[210] PMI provided copies of these materials to Human Rights Watch during a meeting on November 13, 2009.

[211] Letter from Hurwitz, November 10, 2009.

[212] Human Rights Watch interview with Alym A., Karatash, Kyrgyzstan, December 12, 2009.

[213] Natalie M. Schmitt, et al, “Health Risks in Tobacco Farm Workers—A Review of the Literature,” p. 263.

[214]Peedin, “Tobacco Cultivation.”

[215] Human Rights Watch interview with Aisha A., Malybai, June 13, 2009.

[216] Human Rights Watch interview with Bazarkan B., Lavar, June 10, 2009.

[217] Human Rights Watch interview with Bekbolot B., Koram, June 8, 2009.

[218] Natalie M. Schmitt, et al, “Health Risks in Tobacco Farm Workers—A Review of the Literature,” p 261.

[219] In Russian. Given to Human Rights Watch by Philip Morris International on November 13, 2009. On file with Human Rights Watch.

[220] Human Rights Watch interview with Akdana A. and Iskender I., Nookat, Kyrgyzstan, August 5, 2009.

[221] Human Rights Watch interviews with Ruslan R., and with Gulnara G., Malybai, September 25, 2009.

[222] ILO, “Training Resource Pack on the Elimination of Hazardous Child Labor in Agriculture, Book 3, p.31.

[223] Human Rights Watch interview with Gulnara G., Malybai, September 25, 2009.

[224] Human Rights Watch interview with Ruslan R., Malybai, September 25, 2009.