Last Updated: Friday, 29 August 2014, 14:18 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Iraq

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Iraq, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee7237.html [accessed 31 August 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.

Iraq (Tier 2 Watch List)

Iraq is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Iraqi women and girls are subjected to conditions of trafficking within the country and in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Iran, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia for forced prostitution and sexual exploitation within households. Women are lured into forced prostitution through false promises of work. Women are also subjected to involuntary servitude through forced marriages, often as payment of a debt, and women who flee such marriages are often more vulnerable to being subjected to further forced labor or sexual servitude. One NGO reports that recruiters rape women and girls on film and blackmail them into prostitution or recruit them in prisons by posting bail and then holding them in situations of debt bondage in prostitution. Some women and children are forced by family members into prostitution to escape desperate economic circumstances, to pay debts, or to resolve disputes between families. NGOs report that these women are often prostituted in private residences, brothels, restaurants, and places of entertainment. Some women and girls are trafficked within Iraq for the purpose of sexual exploitation through the use of temporary marriages (muta'a), by which the family of the girl receives money in the form of a dowry in exchange for permission to marry the girl for a limited period of time. Some Iraqi parents have reportedly collaborated with traffickers to leave children at the Iraqi side of the border with Syria with the expectation that traffickers will arrange for them forged documents to enter Syria and employment in a nightclub. The large population of internally displaced persons and refugees moving within Iraq and across its borders are particularly at risk of being trafficked. Women from Iran, China, and the Philippines reportedly may be trafficked to or through Iraq for commercial sexual exploitation.

Iraq is also a destination country for men and women who migrate from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Pakistan, Georgia, Jordan, and Uganda and are subsequently subjected to involuntary servitude as construction workers, security guards, cleaners, handymen, and domestic workers. Such men and women face practices such as confiscation of passports and official documents, nonpayment of wages, long working hours, threats of deportation, and physical and sexual abuse as a means to keep them in a situation of forced labor. Some of these foreign migrants were recruited for work in other countries such as Jordan or the Gulf States, but were forced, coerced, or deceived into traveling to Iraq, where their passports were confiscated and their wages withheld, ostensibly to repay labor brokers for the costs of recruitment, transport, and food and lodging. Other foreign migrants were aware they were destined for Iraq, but once in-country, found the terms of employment were not what they expected or the jobs they were promised did not exist, and they faced coercion and serious harm, financial or otherwise, if they attempted to leave. In addition, some Iraqi boys from poor families are reportedly subjected to forced street begging and other nonconsensual labor exploitation and commercial sexual exploitation. Some women from Ethiopia, Indonesia, Nepal, and the Philippines who migrated to the area under the jurisdiction of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) experienced conditions of domestic servitude after being recruited with offers of different jobs. An Iraqi official revealed networks of women have been involved in the trafficking and sale of male and female children for the purposes of sex trafficking.

The Government of Iraq does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so. The government did not demonstrate evidence of significant efforts to punish traffickers or proactively identify victims; therefore, Iraq is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year. Iraq was not placed on Tier 3 per Section 107 of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, however, as the government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. Nonetheless, the government did not enact its draft anti-trafficking legislation and has reported no other efforts to prosecute or punish traffickers. The Government of Iraq continues to lack proactive victim identification procedures, persists in punishing victims of forced prostitution, and provides no systematic protection services to victims of trafficking.

Recommendations for Iraq: Use existing Iraqi criminal statutes – including those prohibiting kidnapping and detention by force or deception – to investigate and prosecute human trafficking offenses; institute a procedure to proactively identify victims, such as by comprehensively training police and immigration officials who may come into contact with trafficking victims; enact and begin implementing the draft law criminalizing all forms of trafficking; investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses – including both forced prostitution and forced labor – and convict and punish trafficking offenders; cease punishing identified victims of trafficking for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked, including forced prostitution; provide protection services to victims or proactively refer victims to available non-governmental protection services; encourage victims' assistance in prosecuting offenders; provide assistance to Iraqi victims of trafficking identified abroad; offer legal alternatives to removal to foreign victims of trafficking; take steps to end the practice of forced marriages that entrap girls in sexual and domestic servitude; regulate recruitment practices of foreign labor brokers to prevent practices facilitating forced labor; and undertake a public awareness campaign to raise awareness of sex trafficking and forced labor.

Prosecution

The government demonstrated negligible law enforcement efforts against the country's trafficking in persons problem during the reporting period. The 2005 Iraqi Constitution prohibits forced labor, slavery, slave trade, trafficking in women or children, and sex trade, though the Constitution does not prescribe specific punishments for these acts and it cannot be used to prosecute offenders. The Government of Iraq's Council of Ministers approved a draft anti-trafficking law during the reporting period, but was unable to enact and begin implementing its promised draft law criminalizing all forms of trafficking, because there was virtually no legislative session since February 2010 due to Iraq's prolonged government formation process. Nonetheless, several provisions of the penal code criminalize unlawful seizure, kidnapping, and detention by force or deception. The prescribed penalty is up to seven years' imprisonment and up to 15 years' imprisonment if the victim is a minor and force is used. The penalty for sexual assault or forced prostitution of a child is up to 10 years' imprisonment, which is sufficiently stringent to deter, though not commensurate with the penalties prescribed for rape (up to 15 years in prison). Despite the availability of these laws, however, the government does not collect statistics on prosecutions, convictions, or sentences of trafficking offenders. The government also did not make demonstrable efforts to investigate or punish official complicity in trafficking offenses. The Baghdad Police College provided two anti-trafficking training sessions for police officers, one for female officers and one for male officers, which raised awareness of human trafficking. The Government of Iraq has no mechanisms to collect data on offenses or anti-trafficking law enforcement measures.

Protection

The Iraqi government demonstrated minimal efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period. Government authorities continued to lack a formal procedure to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as women arrested for prostitution or foreign workers, and did not recognize that women in prostitution may be coerced. As a result, some victims of trafficking were incarcerated, fined, or otherwise penalized for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as prostitution. Some victims of forced labor, however, were reportedly not detained, fined, or jailed for immigration violations, but they were generally not provided protection services by the government. Some Iraqi police centers have specialists to assist women and children who are victims of trafficking and abuse; the number of victims assisted and the type of assistance provided is unclear. The government neither provided protection services to victims of trafficking nor funded or provided in-kind assistance to NGOs providing victim protection services. All available care was administered by NGOs, which ran victim-care facilities and shelters accessible to victims of trafficking. However, there were no signs that the government developed or implemented procedures by which government officials systematically referred victims to organizations providing legal, medical, or psychological services. Upon release from prison, female victims of forced prostitution had difficulty finding assistance, especially in cases where the victim's family had sold her into prostitution, thereby increasing their chances of being re-trafficked. Some child trafficking victims were placed in protective facilities, orphanages, and foster care, while others were placed in juvenile detention centers. Since trafficking is not established as a crime in Iraq, the government did not encourage victims to assist in investigations or prosecutions or provide legal assistance or legal alternatives to removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution for foreign victims of trafficking into Iraq.

Prevention

The Government of Iraq did not report efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. The government has not conducted any public awareness or education campaigns to educate migrant workers, labor brokers, and employers of workers' rights against forced labor. There were also no reported efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts beyond enforcing anti-prostitution laws. The Iraqi government does not consistently monitor immigration and emigration patterns for evidence of trafficking, but there are reports of isolated instances in which Iraqi border security forces prevented older men and young girls traveling together from leaving Iraq using fake documents.

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