Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 October 2014, 16:03 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Jordan

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Jordan, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30cbcc.html [accessed 23 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.

JORDAN (Tier 2)

Jordan is a destination and transit country for adults and children subjected to forced labor and, to a lesser extent, sex trafficking. Women from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines voluntarily migrate to Jordan for employment as domestic workers; some are subjected to conditions of forced labor after arrival, including through such practices as unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, nonpayment of wages, threats of imprisonment, and physical or sexual abuse. Jordan's sponsorship system binds foreign workers to their designated employers without adequate access to legal recourse when they face abuse and without the ability to switch employers, thereby placing a significant amount of power in the hands of employers and recruitment agencies. Migrant workers are further rendered vulnerable to forced labor due to indebtedness to recruiters, negative societal attitudes toward foreign workers, and legal requirements that foreign workers rely on employers to renew their work and residency permits.

Chinese, Taiwanese, Bangladeshi, Indian, Sri Lankan, Nepali, and Vietnamese men and women, in addition to an increasing number of Burmese and Malagasy workers, continue to migrate for work in factories in Jordan's garment industry. Some of these workers encounter conditions indicative of forced labor, including unlawful withholding of passports, delayed payment of wages, forced overtime, and verbal and physical abuse; female factory workers are also vulnerable to sexual harassment. Egyptian migrant workers may experience forced labor in the construction and building maintenance sectors, while Egyptians and, to a lesser extent, Syrian workers also face conditions of forced labor in the agricultural sector. Over the last year, violence in Syria has caused thousands of Syrians, as well as third country nationals living in Syria, to flee to neighboring countries, including Jordan; some of these migrants, which could include trafficking victims, may be further susceptible to situations of forced labor or forced prostitution in Jordan. Moroccan, Tunisian, and Eastern European women are subjected to forced prostitution after migrating to Jordan to work in restaurants and night clubs; moreover, some out-of-status Indonesian, Filipina, and Sri Lankan domestic workers are reportedly forced into prostitution. NGO reporting suggests that some Egyptian women receive marriage offers from Jordanian men as second wives, but are then subjected to conditions of forced labor. Small numbers of Jordanian adults are subjected to forced labor as low-skilled workers in Qatar and Kuwait, while Jordanian children employed within the country as mechanics, agricultural laborers, and beggars may be exploited in situations of forced labor. Some Jordanian girls are forced to drop out of school to perform domestic service under conditions of forced labor; these "homebound girls" are confined to the home and denied their constitutionally protected right to complete their education.

The Government of Jordan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the year, the government sustained law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders and police continued to refer trafficking victims to shelter services. The government's anti-trafficking efforts, however, continued to be hindered by several government reshuffles, limited capacity in key ministries, and a general lack of inter-ministerial coordination and cooperation. The government accomplished little to implement its national anti-trafficking action plan; however, the cabinet approved by-laws to establish a shelter for victims of trafficking in March 2012. It also failed to enforce consistently its bylaws that provide standards for employing domestic workers and operating recruitment agencies, and did not launch an anti-trafficking public awareness campaign.

Recommendations for Jordan: Using the anti-trafficking statute, increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence trafficking offenses; strengthen efforts to proactively identify victims of forced labor and forced prostitution and continue to implement the National Screening Team; amend the forced labor statute to increase prescribed penalties for forced labor offenses; implement an awareness campaign to educate the general public and foreign migrant workers in all sectors on human trafficking, particularly forced labor and the proper treatment of domestic workers under Jordanian law; issue regulations governing work in the agricultural sector; enhance protective services for trafficking victims to include the availability of adequate shelter; ensure identified victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked; ensure that identified trafficking victims are promptly referred by law enforcement, social services, and labor officials to protection services using a standardized procedure; and, where appropriate, increase bilateral partnerships and systematic information sharing with governments of source countries to better protect migrant workers from abuse and resolve cases of alleged exploitation.

Prosecution

The Government of Jordan made some efforts in responding to Jordan's human trafficking problem through law enforcement means, yet police officials did not always view withholding passports and nonpayment of wages as indicators of human trafficking. The 2008 Anti-Human Trafficking Law prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of six months to 10 years' imprisonment for forced prostitution, child trafficking, and trafficking of women and girls; these penalties are sufficiently stringent, but not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Penalties prescribed for labor trafficking offenses against men that do not involve aggravating circumstances are limited to a minimum of six months' imprisonment and a maximum fine of the equivalent of $7,000 – penalties that are not sufficiently stringent. Jordan's labor law assigns administrative penalties for labor violations committed against Jordanian or foreign workers, yet these penalties also are not sufficiently stringent to deter the serious crime of human trafficking. In 2011, the Public Security Directorate's (PSD) anti-trafficking unit, housed within the Criminal Investigations Division, reported its investigation and referral to prosecutors of 13 cases of trafficking, seven of which involved domestic workers, five involving workers from garment factories, and one involving sexual exploitation; these 13 cases involved a total of 38 victims. As the PSD did not provide information on the details of these cases, it is unclear whether they constitute human trafficking crimes. In 2011, the government prosecuted 14 cases of forced labor involving domestic workers and six cases of sex trafficking under the anti-trafficking law. Although 37 individuals were apprehended for suspected trafficking offenses, the government convicted four trafficking offenders under the anti-trafficking law, compared to six convictions achieved in 2010; the offenders received sentences ranging from one year to three years' imprisonment.

In December 2011, Guatemalan authorities arrested and charged two Jordanian nationals with human trafficking offenses and forging documents for allegedly operating an international sex trafficking ring. Guatemalan prosecutors reportedly sought, but could not obtain, cooperation from the Jordanian government to investigate this case. Two cases remained pending from 2010, including the prosecution of two suspected trafficking offenders for forcing two Tunisian women into prostitution and the prosecution of a man charged with the sexual assault of his domestic worker. The 2010 prosecution of an employer who allegedly confined a Sri Lankan domestic worker to the house without pay for more than 10 years resulted in the employers conviction in September 2010 under the anti-trafficking law, though the employer was only sentenced to pay a fine; the victim was awarded compensation for her lost salary. The Jordanian police, in cooperation with INTERPOL and Prince Nayef University, provided anti-trafficking training to Saudi Arabian officials in Riyadh at the request of the Saudi government in January 2012. The government did not fund anti-trafficking training for Jordanian officials, though PSD's anti-trafficking unit received 22 training courses from local and international organizations during 2011.

Protection

The government made minimal efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period and did not provide any specialized services to trafficking victims. It did, however, identify and refer trafficking victims to shelter services, and it took initial steps to identify victims of trafficking sheltered within foreign embassies. The police reportedly referred 26 potential female trafficking victims to a local NGO-operated shelter, a noted improvement compared with the previous reporting period when the government did not refer any victims. While the anti-trafficking law contains a provision for the opening of shelters, the country continued to lack direct shelter services for victims of trafficking; however, in March 2012, the Cabinet approved by-laws under which the government could establish a shelter for victims of trafficking. There was no government shelter available for male victims of trafficking, although the police and the Ministry of Labor (MOL) sometimes paid for male victims involved in labor disputes, some of whom may be trafficking victims, to reside at a hotel; it is unknown how many trafficking victims received this type of assistance in 2011. Victims who were not officially identified by authorities were generally kept in administrative detention pending deportation or, in the case of domestic workers, sometimes sought refuge at their respective embassies. Labor regulations prevented the three-person labor inspectorate dedicated to addressing abuses against domestic workers from investigating abuses in private homes, which continues to isolate domestic workers and "homebound girls." Additionally, the government lacked specific regulations to govern the agriculture sector, which left abuses and trafficking victims in this sector largely undetected.

For the first time, National Committee members and representatives of the Ministries of Interior (MOI), Justice, Labor, and the police, in conjunction with IOM, formed a National Screening Team which conducted its first set of interviews with over 30 girls at the Indonesian embassy shelter in January 2012 to determine if they were trafficking victims. As a result of these interviews, IOM provided a list of official recommendations to the government, which included procedures to identify, assist, and protect victims and the creation of a national evaluation team, which would be a multi-ministerial group. A national evaluation team had not been created at the end of this reporting period. The police provided temporary residency permits to nine trafficking victims in this reporting period, though this permit did not allow victims to seek employment. The police anti-trafficking unit employed eight women, who could offer specialized assistance to female victims of trafficking; however, NGOs report these officers only performed escort duties for victims and did not conduct interviews.

The government did not adequately ensure that identified victims were not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Victims continued to be vulnerable to arrest and detention – sometimes for extended periods of time – if found without valid residency documents, and some foreign domestic workers fleeing abusive employers were incarcerated after their employers filed false claims of theft against them. The government did not attempt to identify trafficking victims among detained foreign domestic workers and out-of-status migrant workers, even those who claimed abuse. The government did not actively encourage victims to pursue the investigation or prosecution of trafficking offenses committed against them. The fining of foreign workers without valid residency documents – including identified trafficking victims – on a per day basis for being out-of-status served as a strong disincentive to remain in Jordan and pursue legal action against traffickers. During the previous reporting period, the cabinet announced a short-term amnesty for Filipina, Sri Lankan, and Indonesian domestic workers whose immigration documents had expired – granting them waivers of the entirety of their accumulated overstay fines and new work permits. This amnesty program, which extended through mid-June 2011, regularized the status of 12,555 domestic workers. It is unknown how many of these workers were trafficking victims, as there appears to have been no effort made to identify and assist trafficking victims among this large group of domestic workers.

While foreign workers in garment sector factories were not liable for overstay fines, the MOI reportedly deported foreign factory workers rather than investigating their claims of labor violations. The MOL made some progress in limiting this practice during the reporting period, successfully reversing deportation orders in a small number of cases to allow time for investigation or by placing some workers with different factories while investigations were pending.

Prevention

The government's efforts to prevent trafficking stagnated during the reporting period. It did not conduct any information or education campaigns for the public and, as a result, awareness of human trafficking and the appropriate treatment of domestic workers remained low among the general population. The National Committee did little to implement its National Strategy and Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking (2010-2012) that was launched in March 2010. The committee is required by law to meet quarterly, but it only met once in the reporting period due to repeated cabinet reshuffles in 2011. The government made minimal efforts to rectify weaknesses in the bylaws that provide standards for employing domestic workers; however, in November 2011, the government officially revised regulations that had restricted a domestic worker to the employer's home so that a worker may simply inform her employer if she intends to leave the home, rather than seeking permission. The government has not raised public awareness of this new regulation. Beginning in July 2011, the MOL issued a directive that requires employers of domestic workers to deposit their salaries into bank accounts. The labor inspectorate enforced this directive by requiring all employers to provide proof of the bank account and payment of wages when they complete the annual renewal process for their employees' work permits; however, the MOL reported that some workers refused to open accounts to avoid bank fees. Despite these efforts, the legally required standardized contract for the employment of domestic workers was not consistently implemented. In response to either domestic workers' or employers' complaints, in 2011 the MOL's inspectorate division investigated the practices of nine recruitment agencies, suspended 20 offices, and forwarded four cases to the Magistrates' Court with a recommendation for closure; the government effectively closed these four offices.

The MOL continued to operate a hotline to receive labor complaints, which received 1,116 calls in 2011; however, the labor inspectorate did not maintain complete records of calls received, the hotline was only operational during daytime hours, and translation services available in source-country languages remained lacking. During the majority of the reporting period, Jordan continued to recruit domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia despite both governments' imposed bans on employment of their nationals in Jordan; however, in a positive effort in January 2012, the MOL agreed to halt the issuance of work permits to Indonesian domestic workers at the request of the Indonesian ambassador. In the same month, the Philippine government negotiated a new Memorandum of Understanding on domestic worker rights with the Government of Jordan as a first step toward lifting the ban against employment of Philippine domestic workers in Jordan. The Government of Jordan did not undertake any discernible measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period. Jordan's Peace Operations Training Center provided anti-trafficking training as part of the standard training regimen for peacekeepers being deployed abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions.

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