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Egypt faces growing threats of human trafficking, warns UN expert

CAIRO (21 April 2010)– The UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Ms. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, warned that Egypt faces growing trends in various forms of trafficking, despite commendable efforts by the Government and urged the Egyptian authorities to step up its efforts in the fight against human trafficking.

“There is a growing trend of sexual and economic exploitation of young Egyptian girls by their families and brokers, who execute marriages that are also popularly known as ‘seasonal or temporary’ marriage,” said the independent expert, noting that these trends also include other forms of sexual exploitation and prostitution, as well as child labour and domestic servitude.

During her fact-finding mission from 11 to 21 April, Ms. Ezeilo found “indications that trafficking for forced marriages, forced labour, transplantation of human organs and body tissues may be much more than current estimates.” Further, she noted that the incidence of internal trafficking is much higher than transnational trafficking. However, she warned that the absence of accurate data on trafficking in persons has made it impossible to measure the magnitude of human trafficking in Egypt.

In this context, the Special Rapporteur reminded the Government of the dynamic nature of human trafficking: “Trafficking in persons knows no borders and every country is affected either as a source, transit and/or destination,” she said, noting that Egypt has been variously described as a transit country, but it may also be a source and a destination country.

The UN independent expert, who visited Cairo, Alexandria, Hawamdia and Sharm el-Sheikh during the mission, added there is a “general lack of awareness and knowledge” about human trafficking in the country, and that its forms and manifestation are not well understood.

Ms. Ezeilo also noted the lack of infrastructure and services specifically designed for assisting and rehabilitating trafficking victims, such as shelters and hotlines, and limited participation of and consultation with civil society organizations in formulating anti-trafficking policies and programmes.

The Special Rapporteur made a number of preliminary recommendations to the Egyptian authorities, including launching programmes to enhance knowledge and awareness of human trafficking, developing a comprehensive national action plan to combat it, and tackling the root causes of trafficking such as poverty, unemployment, and gender discrimination.

Ms. Ezeilo congratulated the Egyptian Government on the adoption of the Law on Combating Trafficking in Persons and called for its full implementation, voicing her hope that the law “will contribute in particular to the eradication of trafficking in persons for the purposes of temporary or seasonal marriages.”

Ms. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo assumed her functions as Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children on 1 August 2008. Ms. Ezeilo is a human rights lawyer and professor at the University of Nigeria. She has also served in various governmental capacities, including as Honourable Commissioner for Ministry of Women Affairs & Social Development in Enugu State and as a Delegate to the National Political Reform Conference. She has consulted for various international organizations and is also involved in several NGOs, particularly working on women’s rights. She has published extensively on a variety of topics, including human rights, women’s rights, and Sharia law.

Check the end-of-mission statement by the Special Rapporteur: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/trafficking/docs/statement_egypt_april2010.pdf