YEMEN (Tier 2 Watch List)

Yemen is a country of origin and, to a much lesser extent, transit and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation. Yemeni children, mostly boys, are trafficked across the northern border with Saudi Arabia or to the Yemeni cities of Aden and Sana'a for forced labor, primarily as beggars, but also for domestic servitude or work in small shops. Some of these children are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation in transit or once they arrive in Saudi Arabia. To a lesser extent, Yemen is also a source country for girls trafficked internally and to Saudi Arabia for commercial sexual exploitation. Girls as young as 15 years old are exploited for commercial sex in hotels, casinos, and bars in the governorates of Mahweet, Aden, and Taiz. The majority of child sex tourists in Yemen originate from Saudi Arabia, with a smaller number possibly coming from other Gulf nations. Yemeni girls who marry Saudi tourists often do not realize the temporary and exploitative nature of these agreements and some are forced into prostitution or abandoned on the streets after reaching Saudi Arabia. Yemen is a transit and destination country for women and children trafficked from Ethiopia and Somalia for the purpose of domestic servitude; female Somali refugees are reportedly trafficked by Somali men into prostitution in Aden and Lahj governorates and Yemeni gangs traffic African children to Saudi Arabia.

The Government of Yemen does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these significant efforts, the Yemeni government did not show evidence of progress in prosecuting and punishing trafficking offenders or in preventing sex trafficking over the last year; therefore, Yemen is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. The government reported no trafficking investigations, prosecutions, or convictions during the reporting period, and took no steps to address trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. It continued, however, to provide protection and reunification services to child victims repatriated from Saudi Arabia and made notable strides in raising awareness of child labor trafficking.

Recommendations for Yemen: Take law enforcement action against human trafficking; improve protection services available to victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation; and institute a formal victim identification mechanism to identify and refer victims to protection services.


Though the provision of anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officials increased over the reporting period, the Government of Yemen made no discernable efforts to prosecute or punish trafficking offenders, in contrast to six trafficking convictions obtained during the preceding reporting period. Article 248 of the penal code prescribes 10 years' imprisonment for anyone who "buys, sells, or gives as a present, or deals in human beings; and anyone who brings into the country or exports from it a human being with the intent of taking advantage of him." This prescribed penalty is commensurate with that for other grave crimes, such as rape. Article 161 of the Child Rights Law specifically criminalizes the prostitution of children. Yemen's Parliament considered draft legislation criminalizing child trafficking during the reporting period. Law enforcement officials reportedly tolerated internal trafficking in girls and women for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation, making no known attempts to intervene during 2008. In February 2009, however, Haradh police arrested a Yemeni man and a Saudi national in connection with an illegal marriage of a Yemeni girl to a Saudi tourist; this is the first penal action taken by the government against "temporary marriages," which may constitute child trafficking. In the same month, a sting operation conducted by the Ministry of Interior resulted in the arrest of four individuals in Harath who were attempting to traffic 13 children to Saudi Arabia. In addition, in February 2009, the Ministry of Justice permanently removed a judge who approved a contract for the sale of a 26-year old slave. During the year, the Ministry of Interior trained 5,000 police officers and border guards in the northern governorates, where child trafficking is most prevalent, on recognition and prevention of trafficking.


The government made limited progress in protecting victims over the last year, but remained reluctant to acknowledge trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. In partnership with UNICEF and a local NGO, the government continued operation of two reception centers in Sana'a and Harath to rehabilitate child labor trafficking victims deported from Saudi Arabia. These facilities received 583 children during the reporting period – two of whom had been sexually exploited – and provided them with approximately two months of food, counseling, limited medical care, and family reunification services. Through contributions of facilities, buses, and educational materials, the government also supported three NGO-run rehabilitation centers for child laborers in Sana'a, Sayun, and Aden, which provided food, basic health services, and vocational training; the centers are jointly funded by the government and ILO-IPEC. The government-run al-Thawra Hospital in Sana'a provided free medical care for trafficked children and child laborers. The government, however, did not provide protection services for internal sex trafficking victims or adult victims of trafficking, and only assisted foreign victims by referring their cases to foreign missions in Yemen. For example, a Sudanese boy deported from Saudi Arabia to Sana'a in 2008 was turned over to the Embassy of Sudan for repatriation.

Child labor violations in Yemen, including forced child labor, were rarely reported, investigated, or prosecuted in major urban areas; investigations were nonexistent in more remote regions. Twenty child labor investigators under the authority of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MOSAL) Child Labor Unit each received only a $15 monthly allowance to conduct regional travel and inspect farms, fisheries, and factories in Aden, Sana'a, and Sayun, limiting their effectiveness in counteracting child labor trafficking. Child labor trafficking victims were not jailed in Yemen in 2008. However, the government did not differentiate between voluntary and forced prostitution, and punished persons engaged in the commercial sex trade, including children. The government did not employ procedures for proactively identifying victims of sex trafficking among high-risk groups and lacked a formalized victim referral process. It was not known whether the government encouraged victims to assist in investigations against their traffickers. There were no legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution.


Yemen made progress in preventing child labor trafficking during the reporting period, particularly by conducting far-reaching awareness campaigns and training programs, but did little to combat trafficking for sexual exploitation. MOSAL trained 1,560 local leaders – sheikhs, teachers, and government officials – in 2008 in the northern border governorates and other key areas with known child labor trafficking problems. Through lectures at taxi stands, MOSAL officials also trained 650 taxi and small bus drivers in Hudeidah, Hajja, Saada, and Sana'a to recognize signs of trafficking and identify children being trafficked for labor purposes. MOSAL also distributed 3,000 anti-trafficking posters and 5,000 stickers throughout the country. The Ministry of Information produced and broadcast public service announcements on child labor on 60 radio stations and five television stations in urban centers across Yemen in 2008. In cooperation with a local NGO, the government also organized a Children's Parliament that met three times in 2008 to hear testimony from and question government officials on child labor and trafficking. In August 2008, the government approved a three-year National Action Plan to combat child labor and sex trafficking. A Technical Committee coordinates the government's efforts to combat child trafficking and met quarterly in 2008. Throughout the year, government officials continued to press – without success – counterparts in Saudi Arabia to sign a memorandum of understanding to increase joint cooperation on human trafficking. The government, however, did not take any significant measures during the reporting period to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or address the problem of child sex tourism. Information was unavailable regarding measures, if any, adopted by the government to ensure its nationals deployed to peacekeeping missions do not facilitate or engage in human trafficking. Yemen has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.


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