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Jordan: UN rights expert calls for prevention of human trafficking by improving working conditions for Jordanians, migrants and refugees

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Amman, 4 February 2016 - Following an invitation by the Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, I conducted an official visit to the countryfrom 28 January to 4 February 2016 to assess the situation of trafficking in persons, especially women and children and identify the progress made and remaining challenges in combating this phenomenon. 

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Government for this invitation, as well as the full cooperation extended to me prior and during my visit which enabled me to obtainfirst-hand information regarding the current legislative, policy and institutional framework and programmes in place to address human trafficking.The fact that the Government welcomed my visit demonstrates the country’s commitment to combatting trafficking in persons.

In the past 8 days, I exchanged with a number of government officials from the Ministries of Justice; Social Development; Interior; Labour; Industry and Trade as well as the National, Anti-Trafficking committee; the National Council for Family Affairs; the Jordanian National Commission for women; the National Center for Human Rights. I interacted with members of the Judiciary (the court of cassation, the criminal courts, the public prosecutor’s office; the civil registry and the religious court) and the Anti-trafficking unit within the Public Security Department. I also visited the Karama shelter for victims of trafficking under the Ministry of Social Development and another one run by the Jordanian Women’s Union where I was able to interact with victims of trafficking. I also visitedthe women section of the Juwaidah Correctional and rehabilitation center and the Al Azraq refugee camp for Syrian refugees and asylum seekers. Finally, I met with representatives of the United Nations Agencies and Programmes.

Victims of trafficking in Jordan are women, men, girls and boys who are, for the most subjected to trafficking for forced labour and domestic servitude in the country. While trafficking for sexual exploitation exists, its extent is not fully known.

Jordan is a destinationfor women, men, girls and boys from Asia and Africa who are subjected to trafficking for forced labour in the construction, garment, service, and agricultural sectors. Women from Southeast Asia and East Africa voluntarily migrate to Jordan for employment as domestic workers and at times are subjected to trafficking for domestic servitude.After fleeing the abuse of their employers – a situation that leads to an irregular situation in Jordan - some domestic workers are reportedly forced into prostitution by the employment agencies. An increasing number of Syrian refugees and asylum seekers —particularly women and children—work informally in the Jordanian economy, which puts them at risk of trafficking.

To a lesser extent there is evidence of Syrian refugee women and girls being trafficked for sexual exploitation through the practice of “temporary” or forced or early marriages to Jordanians and men from the Gulf countries. There is also information indicating that women from the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europeend up as victims of trafficking for forced prostitution after migrating to Jordan with the false hope of working in restaurants and nightclubs. There is also anecdotal information on cases of trafficking for the purpose of organ trafficking involving Jordanians as victims.

As well as a destination country, Jordan is to a lesser extent a transit for trafficked women and girls within the region and to Europe. While information on internal trafficking of Jordanians was not available, the possibility of this form of trafficking cannot be ruled out, particularly related to early forced marriages.

Positive developments

I would like to underline Jordan’s resolve to fight trafficking in persons, as reflected by the country’s ratification of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (Palermo protocol) and other international human rights instruments including: the Slavery Convention of 1929, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the ILO Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), ILO Abolition of Forced Labour, 1957 (No.105)  and the ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999 (No.182)   

Furthermore, I acknowledge the legal framework in Jordan which is primarily based on the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (2009) aimed to eradicate trafficking in persons in Jordan. I further note other national laws and policies in the area of labour, regulation of employment agencies, immigration and refugee matters, child protection, prevention of crime including trafficking for the purpose of organ removal which complement the trafficking act. The National Anti-Trafficking Strategy (2010-2012), which is still used in spite of its cut-off date further contributes to strengthening the anti-trafficking framework.

In terms of the institutional framework, I welcome the establishment of the National Anti-Trafficking Committee, a multi-sectoral committee with members drawn from relevant ministries and government departments, chaired by the Minister of Justice. The Committee plays a coordination role with regards to the implementation of the Anti-Trafficking Act and formulates policies and programmes to prevent and combat trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants. The Anti-trafficking Unit within the Public Security Department also plays a key role in addressing human trafficking through its dedicated staff and its bilingual hotline set up to receive information on trafficking in persons. I also visited two shelters 1)the newly opened Karama Shelter home for the care and protection of trafficked men, women, girls and boys run by the Ministry of Social Development and2) the Shelter run by the Jordanian Women’s Union. My visit to the Juwaidah correctional and rehabilitation center and the Al Azraq camp for Syrian refugees and asylum seekers also provided me with insights on the situation of trafficked person. The National Center for Human Rights also refers cases of trafficking received through its hotline and complaint mechanismsand isinvolved in awareness raisingactivities.  The Ministry of Labour in also actively engaged in combatting trafficking through its regularly revised labour laws and regulations,and Labour inspections which can also be undertaken in households and the Qualified Industrial zones. The establishment of various units such as those dedicated to domestic workers, refugees and labour inspection also indicate the Ministry of Labour endeavour to address issues related to trafficking in cooperation with international organisations - a case in point is the Better Work Project with ILO which aims to improve compliance with labor standards and working conditions in the garment industry, while at the same time promoting competitiveness at the enterprise level. I also welcome the ongoing discussion of looking into the possibility of opening the labour market to Syrian refugees and asylum seekers. The current discussion of the possibility of establishing a victim fund that will provide a comprehensive compensation scheme for victims of trafficking is also encouraging.

I also learnt of the steps taken by the Government in terms of fostering bilateral, regional and international cooperation to combat trafficking in persons.

Critical areas of concerns

Notwithstanding these positive steps, I have noted a number of challenges that must be addressed by the Government of Jordan if it is to succeed to effectively combat trafficking in persons and protect the human rights of trafficked victims.

While the majority of identified cases of trafficking are limited to trafficking for labour exploitation – the rate is low when compared to the large number of migrant workers in the country and the exploitative conditions that some find themselves in. Attention must therefore continue to be paid to trafficking for labour exploitation including domestic servitude mostly affecting young women coming from South East Asia and Africa, and exploitation of Syrian refugees and asylum seekers including a large number of children in agriculture and other sectors such as construction and garments. In addition, stronger action is needed to prevent and counteract trafficking for sexual exploitation and internal trafficking. The refugee population is particularly affected by early marriages of girls with foreigners resulting in servile and exploitative situations including forced prostitution. The possibility of the sexual exploitation of Jordanian women and girls may also exist, and can only be identified if there is an active search for them.

Moreover, given the influx of migrants arriving in Jordan with the perspective of work and the government’s immigration policy based on repatriation of undocumented migrants, I am concerned of the possibility that trafficked persons may, eithernot be identified or be misidentified as irregular migrants, detained and subsequently deported without provision of adequate specialist support for social reintegration and recovery. While acknowledging the government’s ongoing efforts to further addressirregularities related to employment of domestic workers, I wish to call for further work in this area to curb practices such as retention of passports, payment of inadequate wages, long working hours which sometimes amount to trafficking for domestic servitude.My fear is heightened also by the fact that there is a lack of standard tools and protocols for victim identification and a capacity gap in terms of ability for quick and accurate identification of victims of trafficking by front line officers. The influx of refugees/asylum seekers to Jordan and their extremelylimitedpossibility to regular access to the labour market, also presents an increased risk of trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation.

Indeed to date, the rate of prosecution of cases for all types of trafficking remains low, while convictions rate for trafficking is even lower. Moreover, there is concern about the lengthy judicial process and the lack of speedy judicial trials for trafficking cases. This contributes to impunity of traffickers and perpetuates the abuses faced by victims who abandon the case and live the country in order to earn a living somewhere else.

In terms of protection for victims of trafficking, I have noted that assistance is provided to victims identified as such in the newly established government run shelter which provides adequate living conditions for male, female and children victims.I understand that psychological, medical, legal, language and other support services are also foreseen to be provided. At the time of my visit, I have noted an overall lack of standard operating procedures for the provision of adequate protection and assistance to victims of trafficking in such shelters by well trained staff. Furthermore, assisted victims have limited freedom of movement on their own outside the shelter. The relatively short length of stay in the shelter which does not allow victims to stay throughout the lengthy court procedure can also be a reason for not opting to pursue or to drop judicial action. 

While acknowledging the current efforts forraising awareness on trafficking in persons targeted at the National Anti-Trafficking Committee and its members, prevention remains at an infant stage. Regularly revised laws and regulation related to the licensing of recruitment/ employment agencies has not prevented abuses such as domestic servitude and exploitation of victims of trafficking.The general population and particularly employers of domestic workers also remain unaware of the issue of trafficking and government’s actions to combat and prevent it.

The capacity of government authorities, law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities to identify cases of trafficking in persons limits the prosecution and punishment of all forms and manifestations of trafficking in persons. Another related challenge is linked to the small number of labour inspectors with adequate capacity for an effective oversight/identification of possible trafficking cases compared to the numerous workplaces/ businesses to inspect.

In spite of initiatives of the National Anti-trafficking Committee, Coordination within and across concerned authorities, service providers and CSOs is at present incoherent as a result of the not updatedNational Anti –Trafficking strategy (2010-2012) which is still in use and standard operating procedures to combat trafficking.

In view of the above observations, I make the following preliminary recommendations to Jordan.

NATIONAL FRAMEWORK

  • Fast track the amendment of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act for a clearer definition and effective prevention and protection of the rights of trafficked persons and other relevant regulations (such as those related to migrant workers especially domestic workers, refugees, employment agencies…) for a comprehensive anti-trafficking legal framework in compliance with the requirements of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children.
  • Undertake baseline research in collaboration with civil society organisations to collect credible data on the phenomenon of human trafficking, its causes and consequences, including on trafficking trends, links to sexual exploitation, trafficking involving refugees/asylum in and outside camps as well as internal trafficking of Jordanians.
  • Fast track the developmentand establishment of the National anti-trafficking strategy with clearly identified objectives and adequately financed activities, delineated responsibilities, and clear indicators to measure progress and impact on anti-trafficking initiatives. The new strategy should build on the evaluation of the outcomes and lessons learnt of the 2010-2012 strategy and be elaborated in consultation with all stakeholders.

SUPPORT FOR TRAFFICKED PERSONS

  • Protect and assist all victims of trafficking, including those victims of labour trafficking, domestic work, refugees and asylum seekers and children, with full respect for their human rights, and include a human rights based approach in the investigation and prosecution of cases of trafficking that requires the rights of all victims to be placed at the core of any response.
  • Provide victims of trafficking unconditional and comprehensive assistance such as shelter, social, psychological, medical, legal support, as well as translation assistance and interpretative services.Suchassistance must be provided to allvictims, be theyreferred to services by the police or by NGOs.
  • Ensure that victims in shelters have freedom of movement outside the facilities and the right to stay and work while awaiting the outcome of their legal proceedings and beyond
  • Developfurthercooperation withCSOs with relevant capacity to, provide supports and assistance to victims of trafficking and consideragreements with suchCSOsas a preferredoption tomanagesheltersand to providevictims with qualifiedservices, counseling and trainingincludingvocational training.
  • Specifically establish protocols/guidelines for the identification of victims, defining red flags and indicators to look for while screening vulnerable persons including exploited migrant workers, domestic workers who are considered as irregular migrants.
  • Establishdedicatedprocedures to identifyprevioussituations of exploitationeventuallyamounting to trafficking among migrants in administrative detention waiting for deportation.
  • Establish appropriate tools and indicators to enable labour inspectors to identify victims of trafficking during labour checks including in agriculture, the construction sectorand garment industries accompanied by immediate protection measures for victims found to be in enforced labour.
  • Ensure that the hotline/helpline of the Anti-Trafficking Unit within the Public Security Department is serviced by multi-lingual staff who have received specialized training on trafficking in persons.
  • Consider providing victims of trafficking who do not wish to return to their countries of origin due to fear of retribution, hardship or re-trafficking, alternatives to remain and work legally in Jordan, including through granting  special work permits and employment visa.
  • Establish a victim fund that will provide a comprehensive compensation scheme for victims of trafficking.
  • Maintain close cooperation between relevant government ministers, with Civil society organisations and with relevant United Nations Agencies and programmes in the country as well as diplomatic missions for the safe return of trafficked victims in their country having due regard to the need, if any, of international protection of the victims;

PREVENTION

  • Take urgent action using a multi-media approach to create public awareness about all forms of trafficking in persons, including for domestic servitude, forced labour, forced and organizedbegging, sexual exploitation, and the removal of organs, in order to promote understanding of what constitutes trafficking among the general population and migrant and refugee and asylum seekers.
  • Empower CSOs including through increased interaction and the provision of funds, to conduct sensitization on trafficking-related risks and handle complaints related to trafficking.
  • Mainstream anti-traffickingpreventionmeasures in all information, counseling andawarenessraisingactivitiesaddressed to refugeesleavingrefugeecamps, and the refugee and asylum seeking populationat large.
  • Develop, strengthen and increase options for safe migration and legal employment channels, acknowledging that the current approach to migration management, especially in relation to the recruitment of foreign or migrant labour via unscrupulous employment agencies may at times, favour the activities of traffickers.
  • Establish and implement stringent regulations regarding employment agencies, regularly check the activities of those already licensed, revoke their license and prosecute them in cases of illegal action involving trafficking in persons.
  • Continue to cooperate with UNHCR, the CivilRegistrationDepartment and ReligiousCourts in order to prevent early marriagesthatcouldresult in sexualslaveryand forced prostitution

PROSECUTION

  • Step up efforts to speedily investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers including employment agents involved in different forms of labour exploitation and sex trafficking.  Expedite cases involving trafficking in persons, whilst guaranteeing fair trail rights consistent with a human rights and child friendly based approach to criminal justice response.
  • Consider establishing specialized sections in CriminalCourtsand Prosecutor Officesin order to achievebetterresults in the repression of trafficking.

TRAFFICKING IN GIRLS AND BOYS

  • Actively identify and address all forms of trafficking of children, whether Jordanians or not, including those that involve labour and sexual exploitation (forced begging and early forced marriage) and for the purpose of organ removal.
  • Ensure that the best interest of the child is at the heart of all efforts to address trafficking of children, particularly by considering child friendly procedures during the stage of identification, protection and assistance.

TRAINING AND CAPACITY BUILDING

  • Continue building the capacity of the Anti-Trafficking Unit of the Public Security Department to enable it to identify all forms of trafficking including of Jordanians, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Ensure continued training for law enforcement officials and government authorities to enhance their capacity to identify trafficked persons promptly and accurately and to make referrals to appropriate services; 
  • Raise awareness on the linksbetween trafficking, irregular migration and labour while underlining the risks of migration and the influx of refugees and asylum seekers on trafficking.
  • Continue to provide training for criminal justice officials including prosecutors and judges to raise awareness about emerging trends of trafficking in persons, to ensure a human rights based and victim cantered approach to prosecution and punishment of criminals, and protect victims. Additionally, train all stakeholders involved in providing assistance and care to victims of trafficking.

INTERNATIONAL & REGIONAL FRAMEWORK

  • Ratify and domesticate relevant international human rights instruments including the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families of 1990, ILO Private Employment Agencies Convention (181), theILO Convention No. 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers and the ILO Forced Labour Protocol (2014).  
  • Strengthen partnership with source countries and extend cooperation for exchange of information and mutual legal assistance with these countries;
  • Provide some level of support in source countries to ensure prevention and awareness raising and establishment of policies, mechanisms and comparable implementation levels, as well as financial aid to create victim support funds in the less developed countries.

A full report of this visit will be submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2016.

For the use of the media; not an official record.