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. Some of Egypt's estimated 200,000 to one million street children – both boys and girls – are subjected to sex trafficking and forced begging. Local gangs 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 reportedly 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. According to a March 2010 government survey, the majority of the men contracting temporary marriages are from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait. 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 from Iraq forced into prostitution and a transit country for women trafficked from Uzbekistan, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, and other Eastern European countries to Israel for commercial sexual exploitation.

Men and women from South and Southeast Asia and Africa may be subjected to forced labor in Egypt. UN sources report that Egypt may have a large number of foreign workers in domestic service who have been held in conditions of forced labor, particularly women from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Indonesia, the Philippines, and possibly Sri Lanka. Some conditions they face include no time off; sexual, physical, and emotional abuse; withholding of wages; and restrictions on movement. Employers may use the domestic workers' illegal status and lack of employment contracts as coercive tools. Some of the migrants and refugees who engage in prostitution may have been coerced to do so. During the reporting period some migrants claimed that organized Bedouin groups in the Sinai held Eritrean and other migrants captive as they attempted to migrate into Israel; an unknown number of these migrants were reportedly forced into sexual servitude or labor. Young female Sudanese refugees, including those under 18, may be coerced into prostitution in Cairo's nightclubs by family or Sudanese gang members. 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.

The Government of Egypt does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Due to political unrest in early 2011, the Government of Egypt was unable to provide complete law enforcement and prosecution data on its efforts to combat trafficking during the reporting period. Nonetheless, the government took steps to prosecute and punish those who facilitated "temporary marriages" of young girls for profit. Egypt also worked with and provided in-kind assistance to IOM to open a shelter for victims of trafficking in Cairo during the reporting period, and developed and published a comprehensive action plan to address all aspects of trafficking. Egypt did not, however, institute a formal procedure to proactively identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups or complete a referral mechanism to facilitate treatment for victims. The government also did not report significant efforts to address forced labor of children in domestic servitude and other sectors, and similarly failed to report efforts to address the problem of domestic servitude and other forms of forced labor of migrant workers.

Recommendations for Egypt: Implement the 2008 child trafficking law and the 2010 anti-trafficking law to increase substantially law enforcement activity against all forms of trafficking, including against domestic servitude and other forms of forced labor, as well as forced prostitution; 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 are not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; 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 migrant workers as domestic servants or in Egyptian factories; improve legal protections for domestic workers; make greater efforts to investigate and punish government officials complicit in trafficking offenses; and continue to raise awareness on the definition and dangers of trafficking.


The Government of Egypt made modest progress in enforcing laws against trafficking in persons 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 – and up to life imprisonment if aggravating circumstances are evident – along with fines ranging from $9,000 to $36,000. 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. These amendments prescribe sentences of at least five years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes. In 2010, the government established a documentation unit to compile these laws and law enforcement efforts by government bodies. Due to political unrest, however, the government did not report official data on its efforts to investigate, prosecute, or punish trafficking offenders using the 2010 law. Nonetheless, officials from the Ministry of Family and Population's (MOFP) National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) reported efforts to crack down on temporary marriages of young girls by investigating 50 cases of temporary marriages and convicting 29 imams, marriage brokers, and parents who profited from facilitating these marriages, as well as the men who attempted to purchase the young girls in marriage. For example, in May 2010, a court convicted and sentenced a 76-year-old Saudi national to 10 years' imprisonment and a fine for sexually exploiting a 14-year old girl in a temporary marriage; the marriage broker, a lawyer, and both of the girl's parents were convicted and sentenced to 10, two, and one year's imprisonment, respectively, under the Child Law. The government, however, reported only limited law enforcement efforts to enforce its anti-trafficking law, or other laws prohibiting specific forms of trafficking, such as domestic servitude or the sex trafficking of adults or street children. During the reporting period, the NCCM and Ministry of Justice continued to train government officials and other partners on trafficking, including judges, psychosocial workers, hotline operators, lawyers, police officers, community leaders in rural areas, NGOs, and representatives from the Ministries of Tourism, Health, Awqaf, Manpower, Education, and Social Solidarity. Nonetheless, the government did not report any efforts to investigate or punish government officials for complicity in trafficking offenses during the reporting period.


Egypt made some progress in its efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period. In December 2010, the government provided two apartments to house victims of trafficking. This shelter, managed by IOM, provided female victims of forced prostitution or forced labor with medical, psychological, legal, vocational, and repatriation assistance. IOM, with the assistance of NCCM, provided specialized training to shelter management and staff in November 2010. This shelter, however, can accommodate only 12 victims at a time and is accessible only to female victims of trafficking. In addition, the MOFP continued to operate a center where an NGO provides rehabilitation services to victims of child trafficking in Cairo's Dar El Salaam area. The government, however, assisted only a limited number of victims of trafficking in the new shelter during the reporting period; as of May 2010, the shelter assisted five victims of trafficking. In conjunction with IOM, the government in December 2010 developed a formal referral mechanism to transfer victims of trafficking to this trafficking shelter and other protection services; however, the mechanism was not finalized prior to the political unrest that began in January 2011. In addition, with international assistance, the Ministry of Health established a unit for victims of trafficking in a Cairo hospital. This medical unit, however, did not receive any victims of trafficking during the reporting period. In June 2010, the government began training diplomatic personnel stationed overseas on methods of identifying and assisting Egyptian victims of trafficking abroad.

Despite these positive efforts, the government continued to lack a formal victim identification and referral procedure to proactively identify and assist trafficking victims among vulnerable groups. As a result, trafficking victims, including many street children and women arrested for prostitution, were often treated as criminals rather than victims. In addition to failing to protect them, law enforcement officers may have further mistreated trafficking victims through verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Some children may be sent to juvenile detention centers, which are in bad condition, while others may be subject to incarceration with adults despite the Child Law, which prohibits this practice. Border security personnel in the Sinai continued efforts to interdict undocumented migrants, occasionally killing some of them, while showing no evidence of efforts to identify possible trafficking victims among this vulnerable population.

The government, in partnership with an international NGO, continued to run a day center in Cairo to rehabilitate abused street boys involved in forced begging or petty crime. The government provided counseling, medical care, and literacy and computer classes, while the NGO operated the facility. 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.


The government made significant efforts to prevent some forms of trafficking in persons during the reporting period. In December 2010, the government released a comprehensive national action plan to combat trafficking in persons. This plan of action describes specific activities to be undertaken by various government agencies to improve prosecution and prevention of trafficking and protection of victims, including ongoing activities such as developing victim identification guidelines, training government officials, and expanding public awareness campaigns. In addition, the MOFP undertook a grassroots awareness campaign to educate local communities about the dangers of "temporary marriages" and child marriages. Officials from the NCCM conducted site visits to stop marriage ceremonies in process and to raise awareness among parents and community members.

The government also established a microcredit loan system to provide alternative income to parents who might otherwise sell their children into exploitative marriages. NCCM continued its extensive training for government officials to raise their awareness of the definition and types of trafficking in Egypt. In addition, the government reported undertaking a broad public awareness campaign through television, radio, and other media to sensitize the general public to child trafficking. Nonetheless, there was no evidence that the government took measures to prevent other forms of trafficking, such as domestic servitude and other forced labor. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or to raise awareness of sex tourism. There were no reports of Egyptian government efforts to provide anti-trafficking training for its troops before deploying them to international peacekeeping missions.


This 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.