Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September 2014, 16:29 GMT

Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 - Lebanon

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 14 June 2010
Cite as United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 - Lebanon, 14 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c1883e2c.html [accessed 24 September 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.

LEBANON (Tier 2 Watch List)

Lebanon is a source and destination country for women and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically conditions of forced labor and forced prostitution. The country may also be a transit point for Eastern European women and children destined for forced prostitution in other Middle Eastern countries. Women from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Ethiopia, and Madagascar who travel to Lebanon voluntarily and legally to work in domestic service, with the assistance of recruitment agencies, often find themselves in conditions of forced labor, including through the use of such practices as withholding of passports, non-payment of wages, restrictions on movement, verbal abuse, and physical assault. Workers who leave their employer's house without permission automatically lose their legal status unless a change in sponsorship is prearranged and approved by Surete Generale (SG), the government agency responsible for the entry, residency, and departure of foreign workers. In some cases, employers have kept foreign domestic workers confined in houses for years. The Lebanese government's "artiste" visa program, which facilitated the entry of 4,518 women from Eastern Europe, Morocco, and Tunisia in 2009 to work in the adult entertainment industry, serves to sustain a significant sex trade and facilitates sex trafficking. There is limited anecdotal information indicating that some children in Lebanon may be subjected to situations of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation; no rigorous case study or other data exists, however, to define the scope or magnitude of the problem.

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. During the year, the government marginally improved its referral of trafficking victims to an NGO safe house and demonstrated a newfound interest in addressing child trafficking within the country. Its increasing attention to labor issues, particularly abuses suffered by foreign domestic workers, was evidenced by courts' hearing of several cases containing elements of trafficking crimes in 2009. Although the government failed to bring specific charges of forced labor or forced prostitution in these cases, they represent its first attempts to address trafficking crimes perpetrated against domestic servants. Despite these efforts, the government failed to show substantial progress in identifying foreign victims of trafficking – particularly victims of involuntary domestic servitude – and criminally punishing their exploiters. It neither made combating human trafficking a national priority nor allocated resources for protection of victims. It also made no concerted efforts to educate the Lebanese public regarding the issue. Therefore, Lebanon is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year. The government's limited progress was due, in part, to parliamentary inaction before the June 2009 elections and the lack of a government from June until November.

Recommendations for Lebanon: Criminalize all forms of human trafficking; enact the draft Labor Law amendment extending legal protections to foreign workers; investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses using existing laws and convict and punish trafficking offenders; enforce the law prohibiting the confiscation of domestic workers' passports; develop and institute formal procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations, such as women holding "artiste" visas and domestic workers who have escaped abusive employers; ensure that identified victims of trafficking are promptly referred to protection services rather than detained for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as immigration violations and prostitution; increase formal bilateral partnerships and systematic information sharing with governments of source countries to better protect migrant workers from abuse and resolve cases of administrative detention; and provide the unified employment contract in the native languages of immigrating domestic workers.

Prosecution

The government made modest but insufficient efforts to prosecute and punish trafficking offenders during the reporting period. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) did not respond to requests for data regarding its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Although Lebanon lacks a modern, comprehensive anti-trafficking statute, its current criminal code prohibits most forms of human trafficking. The prescribed penalties of a minimum of one years' imprisonment for forced prostitution (Article 524) are neither sufficiently stringent nor commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Penalties of temporary hard labor for deprivation of freedom (Article 569) and one year's imprisonment for forced labor or involuntary servitude (Article 649) are not sufficiently stringent. The MOJ completed its review of a draft anti-trafficking law and, in December 2009, submitted it to the newly-formed Cabinet for approval. In the previous reporting period, the National Steering Committee transmitted an amendment extending legal protections to foreign workers to the Ministry of Labor (MOL) for submission to the Cabinet as part of the draft Labor Law; the draft legislation was not forwarded for the Cabinet's approval in 2009.

The government has yet to prosecute a case of forced labor against an employer. Pursuit of such cases was hampered by bureaucratic indifference and inefficiency, difficulty proving cases of alleged abuse, victims' lack of knowledge of their rights, court backlogs, and cultural biases, particularly against foreign domestic workers. Lack of sufficient anti-trafficking training also hindered prosecutors' and judges' recognition of potential trafficking cases. Given the significant hurdles to pursuing criminal complaints in the Lebanese court system, many foreign victims were compelled to opt for quick administrative settlements followed by mandatory deportation. Evidence suggests, however, that many cases were not resolved, and trafficking victims were deported without receiving their wages due. During the year, some civil and criminal courts heard cases brought by domestic workers, primarily concerning the nonpayment of wages, which constituted trafficking-related offenses. In December 2009, a criminal court judge in Batroun sentenced, under Article 554 (Personal Injuries) of the penal code, a woman to 15 days' imprisonment and ordered to pay compensation of $7,200 for regularly beating her Filipina domestic worker – abuse that likely indicates a situation of forced labor – in 2006. In May 2009, the Internal Security Forces arrested two Lebanese men on allegations of forcing a Kazakh dancer into prostitution; they were released after she refused to press charges. In April 2009, a civil court, using Articles 248, 652, 654, and 656 of the Obligations and Contracts Law, ruled that an employer must pay her domestic worker $42,252 as compensation for 14 years of back wages and other indemnities, signifying that the worker was likely a victim of involuntary domestic servitude. During a September 2009 investigation conducted by the SG, an employer paid her domestic worker back wages and a return plane ticket without the need for a court order; this employer awaits a criminal trial on narcotics charges for forcing the worker to smuggle drugs. The government did not suspend any employment agencies in 2009 for facilitating trafficking of persons. Nor did it provide specialized training for its officials to recognize, investigate, or prosecute cases of trafficking.

Protection

The government neither made sufficient efforts to ensure that trafficking victims received access to protective services, nor allocated resources to provide for their care during the reporting period. Although the government lacked systematic guidelines for proactively identifying trafficking victims among high risk populations, leading to the deportation of most runaway domestic workers and "artistes" without determining if any were trafficking victims, the SG permitted an NGO to interview detainees in Beirut to independently determine if trafficking victims were among the detention center population. The government did not provide victims with services and relied on an NGO to provide shelter to a limited number of foreign victims. The government has a standing Memorandum of Understanding with this NGO to refer trafficking victims to and provide security for the shelter. Of the 146 trafficking victims served by the NGO in 2009, three were referred by law enforcement authorities. As a result of NGO outreach, in July 2009, the general prosecutor for the Mount Lebanon referred a trafficking victim to an NGO for assistance rather than prosecuting the victim for crimes that resulted from her being trafficked. Illegal workers were generally not prosecuted or fined, but they were arrested and detained until deportation. The SG operated a prison-style detention center in Beirut for up to 500 foreigners who are in violation of their visa status and awaiting disposition of their cases. In October 2009, a working committee comprised of representatives of the SG and two NGOs was established to draft standard operating procedures to guide the SG in identifying trafficking victims among detainees, referring them to NGO services, and tracking detainee cases to enable more efficient and timely processing. During the year, the SG improved its notification of some source country embassies of the presence of their citizens in the detention center.

From February to June 2009, the government offered a temporary amnesty period so out-of-status workers could regularize their illegal status by finding a new sponsoring employer instead of facing deportation; during this period 2,039 foreign workers successfully altered their status without experiencing administrative detention. There was no attempt to identify trafficking victims among the out-of- status workers who came forward. The government also pursued some policies and practices that harmed foreign victims of trafficking. For example, authorities required that women recruited under its "artiste" visa program be confined in hotels for most of the day and summarily deported them if they complained of mistreatment. Victims were neither encouraged to bring their cases to the attention of public prosecutors, nor offered legal alternatives to removal to countries where they might face hardship or retribution.

Prevention

The Government of Lebanon made limited efforts to prevent trafficking over the last year. The standard or "unified" contract for domestic workers, published in February 2009, was not translated into the native languages of migrant laborers; domestic workers must still sign the contract in Arabic – a language most cannot read – upon arrival in Beirut. This practice enables contract fraud and contributes to forced labor. The standard SG procedure of turning over arriving domestic workers' passports to the workers' sponsors limits those workers' freedom of movement and makes them vulnerable to situations of human trafficking. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs began, however, negotiating a bilateral agreement with the Government of Ethiopia regarding the migration and employment of Ethiopian domestic workers in Lebanon. In April 2009, the Higher Council for Childhood (HCC) partnered with an international NGO to hold a national workshop on child trafficking, ensuring representation from relevant ministries and coordinating certain logistics. This workshop was followed by six awareness sessions conducted throughout the country for government and NGO social workers, during which HCC representatives delivered information on Lebanon's obligation to respond to child trafficking. The government did not take any steps to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts during the year. The Ministry of Labor provided no statistics documenting the work of its 130 inspectors charged with investigating situations of forced adult or child labor.

Search Refworld

Countries