Last update: December 2020
Afghanistan has ratified all key international conventions concerning child labour and trafficking, and has established its own laws and regulations, adopting its first Child Rights Protection law in 2019. However, the law has been blocked due to a disagreement over ‘the definition of a child as under-18’, which has been seen as a contravention to the Sharia [Key socio-economic indicators 2020, 2.2.5; Security 2020, 1.4.5].
The Afghan labour law sets the minimum age for employment at 15 years to work up to 35 hours per week in non-hazardous work, allows 14-year-olds to work as apprentices, and prohibits children younger than 14 years from working under any circumstances. The law bans the employment of children in hazardous work in general. However, it was reported that the Afghan government has failed to enforce the law [Key socio-economic indicators 2020, 2.2.5].
There are no official overall numbers regarding the percentage of working children, but reportedly 30 % of children in Afghanistan were engaged in child labour as of 2019, with some regional variances. Boys are predominantly (but not exclusively) engaged in child labour, and the percentage of children working increases with age. Many IDP families also reportedly relied on child labour to meet their basic needs [Key socio-economic indicators 2020, 2.2.5; Key socio-economic indicators 2017, 4.3.2].
Children were employed in the carpet industry, brick kilns, coalmines, and poppy fields, besides working as domestic servants, street vendors, peddlers, and shopkeepers. In some instances, children were exploited in bonded labour, extending to multiple generations. Children also often worked to pay off their parents’ debt [Key socio-economic indicators 2020, 2.2.5, Key socio-economic indicators 2017, 4.3.2].
The most at-risk populations vulnerable to trafficking were found to be unaccompanied minors, boys in juvenile detention facilities, working children, drug-addicted children, and children in orphanages. Some children were also reportedly sold into sex trafficking by their families. In previous years, the government took some steps to investigate and combat human trafficking. However, in recent times prior to the Taliban takeover, the USDOS had found that the State’s response did not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and that it was not making significant efforts to do so [Key socio-economic indicators 2020, 2.2.5; State structure 3.3; Key socio-economic indicators 2017, 4.3.2].
Child trafficking would amount to persecution. Not all forms of child labour would amount to persecution. An assessment should be made in light of the nature of the work and the age of the child. Work that is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children could be considered to reach the severity of persecution. The impact of child labour on access to education should also be taken into account (see the subsection 2.13.5 Education of children and girls in particular). Other risks, such as involvement in criminal activities and trafficking should also be considered.
Not all children would face the level of risk required to establish well-founded fear of persecution in relation to child labour and/or child trafficking. The individual assessment of whether there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: age, gender, family status, socio-economic status of the child and his or her family, being in an IDP situation, drug addiction, etc.
Nexus to a reason for persecution
Available information indicates that in the case of child labour and child trafficking, the individual circumstances of the child need to be taken into account to determine whether a nexus to a reason for persecution can be substantiated.