YEMEN (Tier 3)

Yemen is a country of origin and, to a much lesser extent, a transit and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Some Yemeni children, mostly boys, migrate to the Yemeni cities of Aden and Sanaa, or travel across the northern border to Saudi Arabia and, to a lesser extent, to Oman where they end up working in forced labor in domestic service, small shops, or as beggars. Some of these children are forced into prostitution by traffickers, border patrols, other security officials, and their employers once they arrive in Saudi Arabia. Some parents may have refrained from sending their children to Saudi Arabia for fear of them encountering violence in northern Yemen, while other Yemeni children attempting to reach Saudi Arabia were abducted by rebel groups to serve as combatants. A Saudi study conducted in 2011 reported that most beggars in Saudi Arabia are Yemenis between the ages of 16 and 25. The Yemeni government and international NGOs estimate that there are approximately 1.7 million child laborers under the age of 14 in Yemen, some of whom are subjected to conditions of forced labor. In addition, some sources report that the practice of chattel slavery still exists in Yemen; while no official statistics exist detailing this practice, sources report that there could be 300 to 500 men, women, and children sold or inherited as slaves in Yemen, including in the Al-Zohrah district of Al-Hudaydah Governorate, west of Sanaa, and the Kuaidinah and Khairan Al-Muharraq districts of the Hajjah Governorate, north of the capital.

To a lesser extent, Yemen is also a source country for girls subjected to sex trafficking within the country and in Saudi Arabia. Girls as young as 15 are exploited for commercial sex in hotels and clubs in the governorates of Sanaa, 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 subjected to sex trafficking or abandoned on the streets of Saudi Arabia. Yemen is a transit and destination country for women and children from the Horn of Africa. UNHCR estimated that nearly 103,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from the Horn of Africa crossed the Gulf of Aden to reach Yemen during 2011, twice the number from 2010. Ethiopian and Somali women and children travel voluntarily to Yemen with the hope of working in other Gulf countries, but some are subjected to sex trafficking or domestic servitude in Yemen. Others migrate based on fraudulent offers of employment as domestic servants in Yemen, but upon arrival are subjected to sex trafficking or forced labor. Some female Somali refugees are forced into prostitution in Aden and Lahj governorates, and Yemeni and Saudi gangs traffic African children to Saudi Arabia. Smugglers capitalize on the instability in the Horn of Africa to subject Africans to forced labor and prostitution in Yemen.

Despite a 1991 law that stipulates that recruits to the armed forces must be at least 18 years of age, credible reports indicate that children as young as 11 have been conscripted into official government armed forces – as well as into government-allied tribal militias and militias of the Houthi rebels – since the sixth round of the intermittent war in Sa'ada from August 2009 to January 2010. A local NGO estimated that children may make up more than half of some tribes' armed forces, both those fighting with the government and those allied with the Houthi rebels. The number of child soldiers reportedly increased during this reporting period as pro- and anti-government military units recruited tribesmen directly into their ranks.

The Government of Yemen does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Throughout 2011, Yemen faced prolonged political, economic, and security crises, leading to the nearly complete collapse of government services. Following the signing of a Gulf Cooperation Council-sponsored political transition deal in November 2011, the creation of a new government in December 2011, and the election of a new president in February 2012, the government still faced severe challenges through the end of the reporting period. Due to these prolonged crises, the Government of Yemen's anti-trafficking efforts, including dedicating resources and attention to the issue, were severely curtailed during this reporting period. The Government of Yemen was unable to provide law enforcement data to contribute to this report, and it did not institute formal procedures to identify and protect victims of trafficking or take steps to address trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.

Recommendations for Yemen: Increase law enforcement efforts against trafficking in persons, including trafficking of women, men, and children for sex trafficking and forced labor; take measures to investigate and eradicate the practice of chattel slavery in Yemen, including by enforcing the prohibition against slavery, including against slave "owners"; expand victim protection services, including rehabilitation of victims of forced prostitution; make greater efforts to stop the forcible recruitment of child soldiers and provide protection services to demobilized children; institute a formal victim identification mechanism to identify and refer trafficking victims to protection services; implement educational and public awareness campaigns on trafficking to include information on the sex trafficking of children and adults; and adopt and dedicate resources to a national plan of action to combat trafficking.


The Government of Yemen reported no progress in enforcing laws against human trafficking during the reporting period. Article 248 of Yemen's penal code prescribes up to 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." Although this statute's prescribed penalty is commensurate with that prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape, its narrow focus on transactions and movement means that many forms of forced labor and forced prostitution are not criminalized. Article 161 of the Child Rights Law specifically criminalizes the prostitution of children. The government did not report official statistics on its efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, or sentence trafficking offenders. The Ministry of Interior operated women's and children's units during part of the reporting period that could be used to investigate trafficking offenses; however, the unit effectively shut down in early 2011. The government made no known efforts to investigate or punish the practice of chattel slavery. There was no evidence of prosecutions or punishments of government officials for complicity in trafficking during the reporting period.


The Yemeni government's efforts to protect victims decreased during the reporting period. The government continues to lack formal victim identification procedures to proactively identify and assist victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as women arrested for prostitution or individuals detained for illegal immigration. As a result, the Government of Yemen did not ensure that victims of trafficking were not inappropriately incarcerated, fined, or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Although the government, in partnership with UNICEF and NGOs, operated two reception centers to rehabilitate child labor trafficking victims in Sanaa and Harath, it is unknown whether these centers continued to operate during the political crisis or how many children – if any – were assisted in these centers during the reporting period. The government does not provide protection services to adult victims of either forced prostitution or forced labor. The government did not encourage victims to assist in investigations or prosecutions of their traffickers. The government did not provide assistance to its nationals who were repatriated as victims of trafficking. Although the government acknowledged the use of child soldiers, it took no measures to provide protective or rehabilitation services to child soldiers.


The Yemeni government made no efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. It was not clear if the government's interministerial anti-trafficking committee met during the year. Although the government formulated a national action plan on trafficking in 2008, the government made no progress implementing the plan during the last year. Government-funded anti-trafficking public awareness and education campaigns halted because of the political crisis. Moreover, the government did not take any measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or address the problem of child sex tourism. In 2010, the Ministry of Interior's Women and Children Unit and the Ministry of Justice developed and implemented a program for taxi and bus drivers to identify and report potential trafficking victims witnessed in their modes of transportation; however, it is unknown if this program continued throughout the entire reporting period. The government has not yet developed a universal birth registration system and many children, especially in rural areas, were never registered or registered only after several years, depriving them of a key identity document and consequently increasing their vulnerability to trafficking. It was unknown whether the government enforced its 2009 decree aimed at preventing trafficking through "temporary marriages." The government made no significant efforts to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers, as demonstrated in the observed increase of child soldiers in pro- and anti-government military units during the reporting period. The peacekeeping unit in the Yemeni armed forces receives regular pre-deployment training on severe forms of human trafficking. Yemen is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.


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