Last Updated: Monday, 20 October 2014, 13:39 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Egypt

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Egypt, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30cce2d.html [accessed 20 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

EGYPT (Tier 2)

Egypt is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children who are subjected to conditions of forced labor and sex trafficking. Men and women from Egypt, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa may be subjected to forced labor in Egypt. Workers in domestic service in Egypt may have been held in conditions of forced labor, including foreign women from Indonesia, the Philippines, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and possibly Sri Lanka; Indonesians make up the largest number of foreign domestic servants, including those that are held in conditions of forced labor. Some of these conditions include no time off; sexual, physical, and emotional abuse; withholding of wages and documents; and restrictions on movement. Employers may use the domestic workers' illegal status and lack of employment contracts as coercive tools.

During the reporting period, there has been an increase in foreign migrants, particularly from Eritrea, Sudan, and to a lesser extent Ethiopia, who are smuggled or kidnapped by organized criminal groups and, in many cases, held captive under extended periods in the Sinai by Bedouin and other Egyptian smugglers as they attempt to migrate to Israel. An increasing number of these migrants are reportedly forced into sexual servitude or forced labor during their captivity, based on documented victim testimonies; in many cases, there were also allegations of extreme torture. As many as 2,000 migrants, including men, women, and children, cross the Israeli border from the Sinai every month; Egyptian border patrols commonly shoot and sometimes kill these migrants, some of whom may be trafficking victims, as they attempt to cross the Israeli border. Young and middle-aged Egyptian men filled construction, agriculture, and low-paying service jobs in Jordan; NGO and media reports indicate some Egyptians are forced to work in Jordan and experience the withholding of passports, forced overtime, nonpayment of wages, and restrictions on their movements.

Some of Egypt's estimated 200,000 to one million street children – both boys and girls – are subjected to sex trafficking and forced begging. Informal criminal groups are sometimes involved in this exploitation. Egyptian children are recruited for domestic service and agricultural labor; some of these children face conditions indicative of forced labor, such as restrictions on movement, nonpayment of wages, threats, and physical or sexual abuse. In addition, wealthy men from the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait reportedly continue to travel to Egypt to purchase "temporary" or "summer marriages" with Egyptian females, including girls who are under the age of 18; these arrangements are often facilitated by the females' parents and marriage brokers who profit from the transaction. Children involved in these temporary marriages suffer both sexual servitude and forced labor as servants to their "husbands." Child sex tourism occurs in Egypt, particularly in Cairo, Alexandria, and Luxor. Egypt is a destination country for women and girls forced into prostitution, including refugees and migrants, from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and to a lesser extent the Middle East. In previous reporting periods, some evidence suggested that Egypt is a transit country for women from eastern European countries trafficked to Israel for commercial sexual exploitation; however, little evidence indicates that this is still a preferred trafficking route.

The Government of Egypt does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but it is making significant efforts to do so. Due to prolonged political unrest, the Government of Egypt was unable to provide law enforcement and prosecution data on its efforts to combat trafficking during the reporting period. However, Egypt operated shelters, provided services for victims, and provided in-kind assistance to IOM to operate a shelter for victims of trafficking in Cairo. Egypt continued to develop strategies to implement its comprehensive action plan to address all aspects of trafficking; the government completed a national victim referral mechanism to facilitate victim identification and treatment, in cooperation with IOM. However, the government did not proactively identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, and the government's capacity to do so remained limited. The government also did not report any significant efforts to address forced child labor in domestic servitude and forced domestic labor of female migrant workers. Moreover, Egypt failed to investigate and prosecute government officials who were complicit in trafficking offenses, particularly the forced labor of domestic workers in their private residences. The government's security forces continued a practice of shooting foreign migrants in the Sinai, including possible trafficking victims.

Recommendations for Egypt: Implement the 2010 anti-trafficking law and the 2008 child trafficking law by increasing investigations and prosecutions against all forms of trafficking, including against domestic servitude and other forms of forced labor, as well as forced prostitution; cease shooting foreign migrants, including possible trafficking victims, along the Sinai border, and make efforts to identify and assist victims of trafficking among foreign migrants exploited in the Sinai; undertake greater efforts to investigate, detain, prosecute, and punish smugglers, including in the Sinai, for trafficking victims from the Horn of Africa to Israel; utilize the national victim referral mechanism to better institute and apply formal procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, including those arrested for prostitution, street children, and undocumented migrants; ensure identified trafficking victims, including those subject to forced prostitution, are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; further expand the scope of protection services and make these services available to all victims of trafficking; encourage victims of trafficking to assist in investigations against their traffickers; assess the potential for forced labor and related offenses among domestic servants; improve legal protections for domestic workers; make greater efforts to investigate and punish government officials complicit in trafficking offenses; continue to implement the national action plan on human trafficking; and raise awareness on the definition and dangers of trafficking among the public and government officials.

Prosecution

The Government of Egypt made minimal progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Egypt prohibits all forms of human trafficking through its 2010 anti-trafficking law, which prescribes penalties from three to 15 years' imprisonment along with fines ranging from $8,300 to $33,300. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. Amendments to the Child Law (No. 126 of 2008) include provisions prohibiting the sex trafficking of children and forced labor, which prescribe sentences of at least five years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes. Due to sustained political instability and unrest, and a concomitant diminishment in capacity of the country's policing and court functions, the government did not report data on its efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, or punish trafficking offenders using the 2010 law, nor did it provide official data on investigating and prosecuting "summer marriages" under the Child Law or other criminal codes. The government, however, reportedly cooperated with Indonesia on investigations into allegations of abuse of Indonesian female domestic workers in Egypt. Despite this effort, international organizations and source country embassies report that the Government of Egypt failed to investigate accusations that multiple government officials, including judges, Ministry of the Interior officials, and other high level government leaders, forcibly held Indonesian domestic workers inside their homes, and in some cases physically and sexually abused them. At the end of this reporting period, the women were still being held in conditions of forced labor without pay or access to travel documents. The government did not report any efforts to punish government officials for complicity in trafficking offenses during the reporting period. The government provided trafficking-related trainings, but owing to a lack of resources and budget constraints, relied in many cases on support from international organizations and NGOs. Six-hundred government officials and NGO workers participated in National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM)-organized and IOM-funded trainings on trafficking issues. NCCM reported providing another 800 officials with in-house anti-trafficking training using its own resources. The government, in conjunction with IOM, also distributed 500 copies of victim identification guidelines – with copies of the relevant laws – for investigating and prosecuting trafficking offenses to government officials, including law enforcement, immigration, medical, and social service officials.

Protection

The Government of Egypt made significant, yet uneven, progress in its efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period. The government, in partnership with international organizations and NGOs, provided shelter and a range of protective services to trafficking victims during the reporting period; however, most government officials failed to employ victim identification and referral procedures to proactively identify victims among vulnerable groups, thus treating many trafficking victims as criminals. A joint IOM-NCCM shelter designated for female and child trafficking victims provided female victims of forced prostitution and forced labor with medical, psychological, legal, vocational, and repatriation assistance. The facility provided shelter for 12 victims for up to three months; the shelter was usually at full capacity, indicating a need for additional space or shelters. The Ministry of Health, with international assistance, began operation of a treatment center for victims of trafficking in a Cairo hospital. This day facility served four or five victims a day by the end of the reporting period; however, it is not intended as an overnight or long-term facility. With international assistance, the Ministry of Social Affairs opened a new shelter in Cairo during this reporting period to assist vulnerable children, including trafficking victims, with walk-in services, an overnight shelter, and a juvenile detention center; it is unknown how many child trafficking victims the shelter assisted during the reporting period. However, many other government facilities for street children were reportedly in disrepair, lacked funds, and were not prepared to specifically identify and assist trafficking victims. There were reports, however, that government officials who visited one shelter suggested that a child trafficking victim return to her family, despite the fact that the family was involved in the trafficking. IOM and NCCM provided protection and assistance to 122 victims of trafficking from January 2011 to February 2012. The majority of these victims were Indonesian; 75 of them were victims of forced labor, 31 were victims of sexual exploitation, two were victims of child marriage, and one was a victim of forced begging. In addition, an international NGO, in partnership with the government, continued to run a day center in Cairo to care for abused street boys involved in forced begging or petty crime; the center provided counseling, medical care, and literacy and computer classes. In another positive development from the previous reporting period, the government adopted a formal IOM-recommended victim referral mechanism in February 2012, which designates NCCM as the approved entity for victim screening and identification and case management; the referral mechanism was developed to identify victims and refer them to shelter, medical, legal, and other services.

Despite the adoption of the victim referral mechanism, most government personnel did not systematically employ victim identification and referral procedures to proactively identify and assist trafficking victims among vulnerable groups during the majority of the reporting period. As a result, trafficking victims, including many street children, women in prostitution, and some foreign migrants held in the Sinai, were often treated as criminals rather than victims; some were prosecuted on charges of prostitution, robbery, or immigration violations. Anecdotal reporting suggests that some trafficking victims were deported during the reporting period. In early 2011, the government's National Center for Social and Criminological Research found that 40 percent of women in jail charged with crimes of prostitution were forced or coerced into prostitution through methods of trickery, threat, or rape. In addition, law enforcement officers may have further mistreated trafficking victims, including minor girls, through verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Egyptian border security personnel in the Sinai continued to shoot some undocumented migrants attempting to enter Israel, including suspected trafficking victims, often killing them. Egyptian authorities made no attempt to identify trafficking victims among these migrants transiting the Sinai. Some children may be sent to juvenile detention centers that are in poor condition, while others may be subject to incarceration with adults despite the Child Law, which prohibits this practice. Some foreign trafficking victims were not offered legal alternatives to removal to countries in which they faced hardship or retribution. The government did not actively encourage victims to assist in investigations against their traffickers. Domestic workers were not covered by existing labor laws, making them vulnerable to abuse and forced labor.

Prevention

The government made some efforts to prevent trafficking in persons during the reporting period. The government continued to implement its 2010 comprehensive national action plan to combat trafficking in persons in the areas of cooperation with international and local NGOs and developing victim identification procedures, though political instability and lack of funding hindered full implementation of the plan. NCCM organized, and sometimes funded, trainings that addressed victim identification and victim protection measures for over 1,400 government and NGO officials. The government actively cooperated with international donors on defined benefit and education programs to prevent trafficking and forced child labor in agriculture. Unlike the previous reporting period, the government did not engage in anti-trafficking information or education campaigns. There was no evidence that the government took measures to prevent forced domestic servitude, though the government began a study to determine the scope of forced child labor in domestic servitude. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or to raise awareness of sex tourism. While there were no reports of government efforts to provide anti-trafficking training for its troops before deploying them to international peacekeeping missions, the government provided training to 25 judges who will participate in peacekeeping operations with Egyptian troops.

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