|Trafficking in Persons Report -Report Home Page|
Released by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
June 14, 2004
IV. Country Narratives: Near East
Egypt is a transit country for women and girls trafficked from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union into Israel for forced prostitution. According to various sources, hundreds of women and underage girls, particularly from Moldova, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, are deceived or forced to journey through Egypt's Sinai desert into Israel at the hands of tribal smugglers. They are trafficked into forced prostitution in Israel. Undocumented migration into Egypt from sub-Saharan Africa is common.
Bahrain is a destination country for women and men trafficked from South Asia and the Philippines and—to a lesser extent—China, Indonesia, the former Soviet Union, Morocco, and Ethiopia. Victims endure coerced labor, debt bondage, involuntary sexual servitude, and restrictions on their freedom of movement, and verbal and physical abuse.
The Government of Bahrain does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. It has developed a national plan of action and created an inter-ministerial taskforce to coordinate Bahrain’s anti-trafficking efforts. Domestic workers are not covered under Bahrain’s labor laws, although they can seek redress through the courts and government mediation services. The court process is very lengthy and mediations are not well publicized for victims to benefit from them. Bahrain should develop a comprehensive anti-trafficking law and bring domestic workers under the protection of its labor laws. It should also encourage and foster the participation of civil society in the fight against trafficking. As an interim measure, it should take steps to expedite the hearing of labor disputes in its courts and make mediation services widely available to potential victims.
Mina was a single mother of two from Tajikistan struggling to survive. A friend in Tashkent told her that there was good work in Dubai. The friend made the travel arrangements, and Mina was trafficked to Dubai where she by chance encountered several countrymen who told her that she would be forced into prostitution. With the assistance of those Tajik traders, Mina was able to escape and return home.
During the reporting period, the Government of Bahrain did not prosecute any traffickers. Although Bahrain lacks anti-trafficking laws, it can use certain provisions in its penal code to prosecute traffickers. In 2003, Bahrain acceded to the UN Convention on Transnational Crime and the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child. There is no evidence, however, to show that these provisions were used to prosecute and punish traffickers in 2003. Sixty-three recruitment agencies were closed for improperly altering the terms of employment contracts and for referring domestic servants to repeat abuser employers. Ten tourism agencies were closed for involvement in sex-related trafficking. There have been serious allegations that certain recruitment agencies routinely beat and rape newly arrived domestic servants. Some concerned members of the civil society brought these allegations to the government’s attention, but there is no indication that any action has been taken to investigate and punish the alleged abusers. Although there is no evidence of official corruption, there is a widespread practice of selling visas to foreigners and then collecting monthly or annual fees for the right to remain in the country.
In 2003, the Government of Bahrain took a few steps to protect victims. The government pro-vides mediation services and grants victims temporary residency while they seek mediation, although many victims are unaware of these avenues and are reluctant to file charges for fear of retaliation by employers. In 2003, there were 84 complaints filed by domestic workers, 46 of which were settled and 38 went to court. In February, the government stopped the forced repatriation of 50 Indian workers whose cases were being heard in the courts. The court system is slow and discourages victims from seeking protection. In one example, 37 cases languished in labor courts for at least two years, and in another, a victim claiming unpaid wages abandoned her case and left the country after six years of seeking redress. Several cases are ongoing even after 10 court hearings. The government established a telephone hotline to assist victims of abuse, although the staff handling the calls lacks adequate training. Bahrain does not provide victims shelter and medical services, except in extreme cases.
In 2003, the Government of Bahrain took a few positive steps to prevent trafficking. In December, it launched a media campaign highlighting the conditions faced by foreign workers and featured 20 cases of housemaid abuse. The government has published and translated into Urdu, Thai, Singhalese, English, and Tagalog brochures to be distributed to foreign workers. It has also published a manual on the rights and duties of expatriate workers that it intends to distribute to local embassies, its embassies abroad, and recruitment agencies.
The Government of Egypt does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Egypt appears in this report for the first time as the result of new information that depicts a significant trafficking problem. The government has shown growing awareness of trafficking over the last year. The Ministry of Justice in early 2004 initiated an effort to draft and enact comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation in accord with international standards. Under the terms of the 1983 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, Egyptian border security forces are restricted in their operations along the Sinai border with Israel, where many trafficking victims transit. Despite these restrictions, Egypt should take additional steps to identify, rescue, and care for trafficking victims who seek to transit the country. It should also vigorously investigate and prosecute the traffickers behind this trade, and improve its coordination with governments of source countries.
Although Egypt lacks an anti-trafficking law, the government made some efforts to prosecute traffickers for other crimes over the past year. Police do not assign a priority to detecting and investigating trafficking cases, as the Egyptian Government does not consider trafficking a significant problem in Egypt. There were no reported arrests or prosecutions of trafficking crimes during the last year, and no trafficking victims were identified. In December 2003, a court convicted an Egyptian for the extraterritorial offenses of manslaughter and aiding illegal immigration for his role in the deaths of 353 persons, some of who may have been trafficking victims, who were on a boat en route to Australia. In September 2002, Egyptian police rescued three Moldovan women who had been abducted from a hotel in Sharm el-Sheikh and were being trafficked into Israel. The Bedouin tribal smugglers involved were prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to 25 years in jail.
The government generally does not offer trafficking victims any assistance or shelter. Repatriation of trafficking victims is ad hoc. Egypt should engage the IOM to assist with victim repatriation efforts, and adopt a uniform protection policy.
The Egyptian Government conducts few anti-trafficking prevention activities, though consular and immigration officials were given information to assist in detecting illegal immigration and trafficking.
Iran is a source, transit, and destination country for women and girls trafficked for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation. Women and girls are trafficked to Pakistan, Turkey, and France for sexual exploitation. Boys from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are trafficked through Iran to the Gulf States where they are forced to work as camel jockeys, beggars, or laborers. Afghan women and girls are trafficked to Iran for sexual exploitation and forced marriage. Internal trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation and children for forced labor also takes place. The internal trafficking of women and children is fueled by an increasing number of vulnerable groups, such as runaway women, street children and drug addicts.
The Government of Iran does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Iran is included in the report for the first time due to more and specific information indicating that it is a source, transit, and destination country for a significant number of victims of severe forms of trafficking. Iran must take steps to ensure that those who are punished for trafficking are not victims, and that victims are provided appropriate shelter. The government should also train police in the identification and protection of victims. It should also support public awareness campaigns in the fight against trafficking.
Iran’s anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts remain strong. Iranian law does not specifically prohibit trafficking of adults, although the sale and trafficking of children is a criminal offense under Iran’s Penal Code. Other statutes are also used to prosecute traffickers. In April, an Iranian court sentenced 27 people to prison terms ranging from 14 months to 10 years for the trafficking of young girls for sexual exploitation to the United Arab Emirates. In June, 53 Afghan refugee tribesmen were sentenced to a total of 281 years in prison, 222 lashes, and fines for luring girls with marriage offers and then trafficking them to Pakistan for forced prostitution. In August, approximately 400 female police officers graduated, the first since the Islamic Revolution. The female police officers work specifically on crimes against women, including trafficking and sexual exploitation cases.
Prostitution is strictly illegal in Iran and subject to harsh punishments. It is unclear if the government makes efforts to distinguish trafficking victims from others engaged in prostitution. The State Welfare Organization for Social Affairs assists victims and those at risk of trafficking through five mobile and 44 fixed social emergency centers. These centers provide counseling, legal services, and health care. The State Welfare Organization also manages 14 temporary shelters for “troubled women” and 28 facilities for young runaway girls. These facilities are available to trafficking victims.
The State Welfare Organization allocates modest funds to support 41 countrywide centers for street children that deliver care to approximately 10,000 children at risk for exploitation. It is estimated that there are approximately 1.2 million street children in Iran as well as 420,000 child laborers under the age of 15.
Israel is a destination country for women trafficked for prostitution and men and women trafficked for labor exploitation. Women from European and former Soviet Union (FSU) countries are brought into Israel, including through Egypt, by traffickers and sold to brothel operators, after which some are forced to work off their debt through involuntary sexual servitude. Most trafficking victims for sexual exploitation originate from Moldova, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine—with the latter three increasingly replacing Moldova as principal source countries. Most foreign laborers in Israel come from Turkey and other countries in South East Asia, East Asia, Africa, South and Central America, the FSU, and Eastern Europe. Some foreign laborers enter into Israel for labor under conditions that constitute trafficking. Some laborers are subjected to debt bondage and restrictions on their movements, including employer confiscation of their passports. Following the adoption of stricter immigration control measures at Ben Gurion Airport, traffickers have begun using Egypt as a transit route, relying on Bedouin smugglers to transport victims across the border between Egypt and Israel.
The Government of Israel does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. It should continue strengthening its efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers, and to sentence them to prison terms commensurate with the seriousness of trafficking crimes. Similarly, Israel needs to strengthen its protection measures, such as by providing more temporary residency permits, increasing available shelter capacity, and establishing a transparent procedure for the voluntary repatriation of victims. In an effort to fight an apparent rise in labor trafficking, a parliamentary committee has proposed draft legislation, which, if approved and effectively enforced, would replicate Israel’s efforts to date to fight trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
Over the reporting period, Israel has made marked improvement in strengthening its laws for fighting traffickers. In 2003, the government established the Border Police Rimon Unit, in part to limit trafficking across Israel’s southern border with Egypt. It has also prosecuted and convicted several traffickers for sexual exploitation, though some cases were disposed of through plea bargains and resulted in lighter sanctions.
Section 203(a) of the penal law of Israel prohibits trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The Foreign Workers Law of 1991, as amended, guarantees migrant workers the right to decent working conditions, health insurance, and a written employment contract. In August 2003, the Knesset passed a new law with a minimum sentencing requirement for convicted sex traffickers. This law, in addition to providing enhanced protection, will provide victims with access to public defenders. In 2003, the government arrested 92 suspected traffickers and another 93 individuals for related offenses. Preliminary data indicates that 13 traffickers for the purposes of sexual exploitation were convicted and received sentences ranging from 16 months to 15 years, that 114 victims served as prosecution witnesses, and that a total of 537 victims were deported in 2003. Also, the government filed 753 criminal indictments for violations of labor laws, some of which are believed to be related to labor trafficking, and obtained 42 judgments with monetary fines. The government investigates allegations that individual policemen engage in misconduct and illegal behavior, including taking bribes or tipping off brothels of raids, but these instances of corruption are not widespread.
Government efforts to care for victims of trafficking remain inadequate, though they improved slightly during the last 12 months. In early 2004, Israel opened part of a new shelter and admitted 17 victims; gave temporary visas to seven victims; and allowed 2,336 foreign laborers to change employers. The government continued to provide some victims with lodging in police-funded hostels, as well as pocket money and access to medical care. Given the large number of trafficking victims, the government needs to greatly expand the capacity of shelters. Trafficking victims who are willing to assist law enforcement in prosecuting traffickers are not prosecuted or fined for illegal entry or the possession of forged identifications or travel documents.
The Israeli Government has made minimal efforts in the area of prevention. A joint government and NGO-sponsored anti-trafficking public awareness campaign, expected to have taken place during the preceding reporting period, failed to materialize. The government needs to develop and ensure the effective implementation of anti-trafficking measures such as information campaigns that involve its embassies and consulates in source countries.
Kuwait is a destination country for women, men, and children trafficked primarily from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Trafficking victims in Kuwait are primarily foreign women who come to Kuwait as domestic servants but are subsequently abused by their employers or coerced into situations of debt bondage or involuntary servitude. Some domestic servants are trafficked internally for sexual and labor exploitation. Some underage boys from South Asia, Sudan, Yemen, and Eritrea are trafficked from neighboring Gulf States to work as camel jockeys. Victims suffer debt bondage, involuntary sexual servitude, coerced labor, verbal and physical abuse, and the withholding of their passports or other required travel documents.
The Government of Kuwait does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government needs to develop and implement tools such as an anti-trafficking national action plan, comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation, and prevention and protection measures to effectively combat trafficking. As an interim measure, Kuwait should strengthen its penal laws and improve their enforcement.
During the reporting period, Kuwait took positive actions to prosecute traffickers. Kuwait does not have a law specifically prohibiting trafficking in persons. The government established a regulation banning the employment of minor children as camel jockeys, although effective enforcement has yet to occur. Other laws prohibiting visa and residency permit-trading, slavery, forced labor, rape, assault, kidnapping, prostitution, pimping, operating brothels, and coercing or fraudulently inducing prostitution are indirectly used to combat trafficking. In 2003, 114 criminal and 96 misdemeanor charges were brought against abusive employers, some of whom are believed to be labor and/or sex traffickers. A Bangladeshi man was convicted and sentenced to death for trafficking two foreign women. A woman was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, fined, and ordered deported for engaging in prostitution. Three Kuwait police officers were arrested and await trial for allegedly raping a Filipino trafficking victim. Numerous employers were required to pay their former employees overdue wages and furnish airline tickets to allow their victims to return home. In 2003, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor referred more than 2,000 labor violations, many related to trafficking, to its Labor Investigation Department.
In 2003, Kuwait made minimal efforts to protect trafficking victims. Domestic servants are not covered by Kuwait’s Labor Law and consequently lack adequate legal protections. The government generally detains, jails, and deports trafficking victims if they are caught violating other laws material to their trafficking. The police have returned some victims to their abusive employers. Occasionally, the government provides limited financial assistance to victims, but it does not provide shelter nor does it provide visas to enable victims to pursue legal remedies. The government began requiring labor recruitment agencies to deposit money in a bank, which can be used to assist trafficking victims in the event they are repatriated. The Ministry of Interior has a department specifically responsible for licensing, regulating, and monitoring recruitment agencies that hire foreign domestic workers. The government closed 48 recruitment agencies and suspended the hiring privileges of 113 businesses for trafficking-related offenses. The Ministry also maintained a computerized database of “blacklisted” abusive employers barred from sponsoring domestic workers. In 2004, the government adopted a measure permit-ting some domestic servants to change employers.
In 2003, Kuwait implemented important prevention measures. It licensed the Kuwait Union of Domestic Labor Offices (an association of labor recruitment agencies) to raise awareness about the treatment of domestic servants, cooperated with Indonesia in the repatriation of approximately 190 domestic workers, established a temporary inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee to discuss anti-trafficking efforts and the treatment of domestic servants, and worked with the Government of the Philippines to ensure that Philippine nationals have documented evidence of overseas work authorization before Kuwaiti officials can issue them visas. In February 2004, the government banned the employment of expatriate women in billiard clubs in an effort to combat sex-related trafficking.
Lebanon is a destination country for African and Asian women trafficked for involuntary domestic servitude, and to a lesser extent, Eastern European and Russian women trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Many victims travel to Lebanon voluntarily and legally, but end up in coercive or forced labor conditions, or are subjected to physical and sexual abuse, physical confinement, withholding of wages, and confiscation of their passports.
The Government of Lebanon does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government does not have a national action plan to combat trafficking, nor does it have effective legislation to fight trafficking. These key anti-trafficking tools must be developed.
The Lebanese Government took minimal steps to prosecute traffickers in 2003, partly due to the absence of specific anti-trafficking laws. Lebanon this past year expressed its intention to draft and pass such a new law. Existing statutes address only some aspects of trafficking, including the deprivation of personal freedom by abduction and forced sexual intercourse outside of marriage. The Lebanese Government provided limited law enforcement data on arrests, prosecutions, convictions and sentences involving traffickers. In 2003, an employer was sentenced to 15 days’ imprisonment for beating and burning her Filipino maid, a Lebanese sponsor of a Sri Lankan maid was ordered to pay compensation and repatriation expenses due to injuries inflicted by the employer, and 131 suspects were arrested for smuggling persons. Lebanese authorities also closed five drinking establishments and one massage parlor and issued 51 warnings to 30 adult clubs for non-compliance with regulations, including prostitution.
Lebanon has made modest progress in protecting victims of trafficking. It does not provide relief from deportation, shelter, or access to legal, medical, and psychological services. As a result, most trafficking victims tend to accept a cash settlement rather than confront their exploiters in court. The government cooperates with NGOs and allows them access to detention facilities so that they can provide legal services and counseling to victims. Lebanon also provides security for a U.S. Government-funded safe house for trafficking victims. It also often acts as mediator between victims and employers to resolve disputes and assists with voluntary repatriations. In November 2003, the government required employers to provide higher-value insurance to cover repatriation expenses of trafficking victims.
The Lebanese Government has taken some notable steps in the area of prevention. The government closed two employment agencies and signed a protocol with the Sri Lankan Government to ensure better working conditions for Sri Lankan nationals. In January 2004, it prohibited advertisements offering the services of foreign maids in an effort to combat the trafficking of unsuspecting women into situations of involuntary domestic servitude. Lebanon also regularly issues communiqués calling for Lebanese citizens to abide by the law that forbids the employment of workers without proper work and residency permits.
Morocco is a country of origin, transit, and destination for women, men, and children trafficked from sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab region, and Asia. Young Moroccan victims are lured into Europe by Italian, Spanish, Moroccan, Algerian, and Nigerian traffickers and then forced into drug trafficking, coerced labor, and sexual exploitation. Moroccan women are trafficked to the Gulf region and Syria. Significant internal trafficking also takes place, usually involving child domestics and underage girls sold into marriage. An emerging sex tourism industry involving young Moroccans in and around popular tourist destinations of the country has also been reported.
The Government of Morocco fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. In 2003, the government continued its aggressive fight against trafficking by establishing the Office of International Cooperation to lead the interagency coordination of Moroccan anti-trafficking policy. The government also enacted new anti-trafficking laws and strengthened existing laws; conducted anti-trafficking information campaigns; and, enhanced its cooperation with other affected countries and NGOs engaged in anti-trafficking efforts.
In 2003, the government continued to strengthen and enforce its anti-trafficking laws. It created two new security agencies vested with the authority to investigate, arrest, and prosecute traffickers. It also passed a new family code prohibiting the selling of child brides and raising the age of marital consent to 18, and it made sexual abuse of children a crime by revising a penal code. The government formed a bi-national commission with Spain to dismantle human trafficking networks. Specific prosecutorial actions taken by the Moroccan Government include dismantling 265 human smuggling and trafficking operations and convicting 127 individuals. Official corruption is suspected at lower levels of government, but a new Immigration and Emigration Act that prescribes penalties for such conduct is expected to address this problem.
In 2003, Morocco made concerted efforts to protect trafficking victims. It intensified its cooperation with other countries and NGOs in the repatriation of victims; began to provide counseling and repatriation services to underage Moroccan victims in Italy and Spain; provided training to its diplomats in prime transit and destination countries in counseling potential victims; and amended the penal code to promote the reunion of runaway child maids with their families, rather than their arrest for vagrancy. The revised code allows victims to be kept in youth centers separate from juvenile delinquents, if reunion is not possible. Trafficking victims jailed and/or detained for violating immigration or other laws material to their trafficking are not provided adequate legal representation. Morocco should provide or facilitate such legal service to victims.
In 2003, the Government of Morocco implemented important anti-trafficking prevention measures. It has stepped up the monitoring of its borders, airports, and train stations to prevent trafficking and migrant smuggling. It also announced plans to jointly conduct awareness campaigns with NGOs aimed at discouraging young Moroccans from emigrating illegally, and dissuading expatriates from aiding traffickers.
QATAR (TIER 2 - WATCH LIST)
Qatar is a destination country for children who are trafficked from the Sudan, Somalia, and, to a lesser extent, South Asia to serve primarily as camel jockeys. Some women from Asia, Africa, and the former Soviet Union who come to work in Qatar may be placed in situations of coerced labor where they endure physical abuse or other extreme working conditions. Some of these women are trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Child victims endure difficult working and living conditions, characterized by physical violence and inadequate food and medical care. Camel jockeys’ rights are not protected under Qatari labor laws, as their service is deemed a sports activity rather than a form of labor.
The Government of Qatar does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Qatar is placed on Tier 2 Watch List this year because of the lack of evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons. Qatari labor laws do not protect domestic workers from abuse and exploitation. Qatari criminal laws prohibit trafficking for sexual exploitation, but few cases have been prosecuted during the reporting period. In the few instances where cases related to trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation were brought before the courts, almost all the defendants were foreigners and the punishments rendered were light. In 2003, the government adopted a national action plan embodying broad anti-trafficking recommendations; if implemented effectively, the plan is likely to significantly improve Qatar’s anti-trafficking enforcement, protection and prevention records. Qatar also needs to encourage and foster the engagement of civil society (NGOs) in trafficking prevention and victim protection activities.
During the reporting period, the Government of Qatar took steps to investigate and prosecute traffickers. It has adopted a national action plan, which, if implemented, is expected to enhance its prosecution efforts. The plan, among other things, calls for criminal charges if children are used as camel jockeys; increased training for judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement professionals; and blacklisting and banning companies involved in trafficking from sponsoring and bringing workers into the country. In 2003, two travel agencies were closed for activities related to prostitution. In a similar case, the owner of a hotel was jailed and the manager deported. Nine cases of pimping and prostitution were prosecuted in 2003. Some of these cases may have involved trafficking for sexual exploitation. In one case of prostitution, three men received jail terms of 4-6 months, 60 lashes, and deportation; in another five people were sentenced to jail terms, 60 lashes, and deportation. As for labor cases, 579 workers filed complaints in the Labor Courts, of which 179 have been adjudicated, 190 dismissed, and 211 remain pending. Some of these cases may have involved trafficking. In addition, the Sharia Courts heard cases for non-payment of wages and ordered the defendants to pay back wages they owed. There are no reports indicating Qatar cooperates with other governments in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers of camel jockeys. Qatar needs to improve its record in this area.
During the reporting period, Qatar made minimal efforts to protect trafficking victims. The Qatari Government does not provide victims with assistance or shelter. It lacks a witness protection program, and deports victims trafficked for sexual exploitation. In 2003, it held training sessions for government officials covering human rights issues, including trafficking. The government has adopted a series of recommendations -- expected to take effect in 2004 -- that would significantly increase its ability to protect victims. Recommended protection measures include the launching of a 24-hour hotline, the establishment of a Human Rights Department in the Ministry of Interior, the provision of shelters, and the training of police personnel and social workers.
The Government of Qatar did not provide information on specific preventive measures it took over the reporting period. Nonetheless, it has adopted a series of recommendations, which, if implemented, are expected to enhance its overall prevention efforts. The recommended measures include: printing booklets in Arabic, English, Urdu, and Tagalog to inform immigrant workers of their rights and available assistance when they face problems; raising the minimum age for camel jockeys to 18 and imposing minimum body weights for jockeys to that which is appropriate for adults; conducting DNA tests to verify claimed familial ties between jockeys and guardians; performing retinal identification to prevent ID falsification; and taking X-rays to establish the age of camel jockeys. The recommendations also call for increased cooperation with source countries in the repatriation of victims.
Saudi Arabia is a destination country for men, women, and children trafficked from South and East Asia and Eastern Africa for labor exploitation and from South Asia and Africa for forced begging. Victims come primarily from Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh to work as domestic servants and menial laborers; a small percentage is forced into situations of coerced labor or slave-like conditions. Despite the fact that it is against Saudi law, some low-skilled foreign workers have their passports withheld, contracts altered, and suffer non-payment of salaries of varying degrees and duration. Some South Asian and African children are trafficked to Saudi Arabia during pilgrimages; they end up in forced begging rings. Over 200 Afghan children were repatriated from Saudi Arabia in early 2004. Nigerian immigration authorities report receiving a number of trafficking victims returned from Saudi Arabia in 2003.
The Government of Saudi Arabia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. A lack of accessible data on trafficking-related cases and prosecutions prevents a complete and accurate assessment of the trafficking situation in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Government should consider adopting comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation that would include foreign domestics. Mediation efforts should be limited to civil and labor complaints; Saudi authorities should send more cases of trafficking and abuse through the criminal justice system. Saudi Arabia should also take additional steps to prevent and investigate the trafficking of children for forced begging.
Saudi law enforcement efforts remained difficult to gauge, as the government does not collect statistics on the number of convictions or prosecutions, though some trafficking and abuse convictions and sentences were announced in the media. Saudi Arabia does not have an anti-trafficking law, though most forms of trafficking are criminalized under disparate existing statutes. Domestic laborers are excluded from protection under Saudi Arabia's labor law. The vast majority of cases involving trafficking or abuse against foreign domestics—including complaints of a criminal nature—are settled out of court by mediation and cash settlements. An amended labor law is currently under review with the Majlies Ash-Shoura (Consultative Council). The government provides training for police officers to recognize and handle cases of foreign worker abuse. During the last year, the Saudi Government held bilateral discussions with governments of source countries in an effort to improve monitoring of potential trafficking situations involving foreign domestic workers in the Kingdom. In early 2004, Saudi authorities disrupted a cross-border (Yemen-Saudi Arabia) child-smuggling ring and arrested a man on charges of smuggling foreign maids into Jeddah for work in a brothel. This is the first reported case of trafficking for sexual exploitation in the Kingdom.
The Saudi Government operates shelters called Welfare Camps in the three largest cities for abused female foreign workers, including some trafficking victims. Trafficking victims face disincentives to seeking the prosecution of their employer or trafficking; they must first file a police report before going to the government shelters if they are a party to a criminal complaint. In Dammam, the Eastern Province authorities established a Social Welfare Office for foreign workers with complaints. The office serves as a mediator between domestic servants and their employers. The police refer runaway domestic servants to the Social Welfare Office and then a mediation process begins. Few victims of trafficking receive encouragement to initiate criminal prosecutions of their Saudi employers. Most disputes with employers, including some com-plaints of a criminal nature, are steered toward the mediation mechanisms; 90% of the cases subjected to mediation are resolved through a settlement that usually involves the employer pro-viding monetary compensation to the employee. The government works with several Islamic charities to provide long-term care for abandoned children, including those that have been trafficked for forced begging. During 2003, in the case of the Afghan children, the government placed them in shelter facilities and coordinated their repatriation with the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan.
Saudi Arabia’s efforts to prevent trafficking increased over the last year, particularly in the area of foreign domestics. The government established several interagency committees to research and establish programs to educate foreign workers, facilitate repatriation, and protect children. The government allows only licensed recruitment agencies to operate in the Kingdom and these agencies may only deal with licensed agencies in the labor source countries. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides information about trafficking and abuse to foreign laborers when they receive their visas abroad. The government supported a public service announcement targeting abused domestics, telling them to seek assistance at the government-run shelter facilities. To limit the number of “free visas,” or visas not attached to an actual position, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs took over the authorization of visas for foreign laborers. A program to distribute information to foreign workers at Saudi Arabian airports upon arrival has not yet been fully implemented. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs also established a database of known abusers of foreign laborers to prevent them from hiring anyone in the future.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (TIER 2)
The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) is a destination country for men, women and children trafficked primarily from South and East Asia and the former Soviet Union for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation. A significant number of foreign women are lured to the U.A.E. under false pretenses and subsequently forced into sexual servitude, primarily by criminals of their own country who take advantage of the U.A.E.’s openness. Far fewer boys are trafficked from South Asian countries to serve as forced camel jockeys due to the U.A.E.'s effective implementation of new measures to curb this form of trafficking.
The Government of the U.A.E. does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The U.A.E. is categorized as Tier 2 this year because of the lack of evidence of appreciable progress in addressing trafficking for sexual exploitation. Significant efforts to address sex trafficking would include a revised law criminalizing trafficking as defined distinctly from prostitution or immigration violations, clearly defined standards for identifying trafficking cases by U.A.E. law enforcement authorities, more vigorous steps to identify and rescue trafficking victims among the thousands of foreign prostitutes in the U.A.E., and prosecution of foreign traffickers operating in the Emirates.
The U.A.E. does not have an anti-trafficking law, though most forms of trafficking are criminalized under disparate existing statutes. A 2002 presidential decree against the use of children below the age of 15 for camel jockey work was well enforced by the Emirates’ Camel Racing Federation during the reporting period. U.A.E. media widely reported on the decree’s implementation throughout the year. The U.A.E. Government took limited steps to enforce laws against prostitution and trafficking; more vigorous efforts will be required. Enforcement efforts focused largely on the arrest of 4,924 foreign women, some of them possibly trafficking victims, for prostitution. The Dubai police reported 166 cases of trafficking-related cases involving foreigners, and five cases involving U.A.E. citizens; some of these cases may be related to prostitution. The Dubai authorities also report closing 104 travel agencies for visa trading, including the possible sale of visas to traffickers. There were five cases of “forced prostitution” (trafficking) prosecuted in the U.A.E. in 2003. Police in Abu Dhabi and Dubai Emirates do not clearly distinguish trafficking cases from prostitution and illegal immigration.
The U.A.E. Government’s efforts to protect victims of sex trafficking are weak, in large part because police and immigration authorities do not systematically distinguish trafficking victims from people arrested for immigration violations or prostitution-related offenses who are living and working in the U.A.E. voluntarily. The U.A.E. police reportedly continue to arrest trafficking victims along with prostitutes and incarcerate them. Efforts to identify and protect victims of trafficking for camel jockey work are excellent. In what has become a model for the region, the U.A.E. Government uses DNA testing to verify the familial ties of the adults claiming to be the parents of children brought to the U.A.E. Through DNA testing, 47 children trafficked to the U.A.E. by false "parents" were detected in 2003. During the same time period, over 250 Pakistani and Bangladeshi children, trafficked to the U.A.E. as camel jockeys, were repatriated by the U.A.E. Government. Foreign domestic workers, who in rare cases encounter involuntary servitude conditions that meet the definition of trafficking, are afforded adequate protections under U.A.E. law.
PreventionReport Home Page
The U.A.E. has made substantial efforts to prevent incidents of trafficking, particularly the trafficking of children for camel jockey work and the severe exploitation of foreign domestic workers. Its Ministry of Labor (MOL) distributes informational material to newly arrived foreign workers, advising them of their rights under Emirati law, and providing them with guidance on how to handle disputes or abuses, including contact information for the MOL and foreign embassies and consulates in the U.A.E. The Ministry of Information has increased public awareness through information campaigns about the trafficking of boys for camel jockeys. The Dubai Police and Human Rights Care Department conducted informational seminars on trafficking during the year and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs engaged the IOM in discussions over future cooperation to prevent trafficking to the U.A.E. and protect victims found in the Emirates. The U.A.E. in July 2003 banned the long-standing practice of employers holding their employees’ passports, and encouraged employees to contact the police for assistance with reclaiming their passports.