Egypt is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children who are subjected to conditions of forced labor and sex trafficking. Men and women from Egypt, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa may be subjected to forced labor in Egypt. Some workers in domestic service in Egypt have been held in conditions of forced labor, including foreign women from Indonesia, the Philippines, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and possibly Sri Lanka. Indonesians make up the largest number of foreign domestic servants, including those who are held in conditions of forced labor. Some of these conditions include: lack of time off; sexual, physical, and emotional abuse; withholding of wages and documents; and restrictions on movement. Employers may use some domestic workers’ lack of legal status and lack of employment contracts as coercive tools.
Instances of human trafficking, smuggling, abduction, torture, and extortion of migrants, including asylum seekers, and refugees—particularly from Eritrea, Sudan, and to a lesser extent Ethiopia—continue to occur in the Sinai Peninsula at the hands of criminal groups. Many of these migrants are reportedly held for ransom and forced into sexual servitude or forced labor during their captivity in the Sinai, based on documented victim testimonies. Reports of physical and sexual abuse continue to increase. While the flow of these migrants into Israel slowly decreased by mid-2012, likely in part because of the construction of Israel’s border fence, there has not been a documented decrease in the number of migrants entering the Sinai. Whereas criminals previously abandoned the migrants at the Israeli border after collecting ransom payments, perpetrators now sometimes abandon migrants—some of whom are trafficking victims—at police stations and medical facilities in Cairo and in remote areas of the Sinai. There continue to be infrequent reports that Egyptian border patrols shoot and sometimes kill these migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and trafficking victims in the Sinai as they attempt to cross the Israeli border; many are also arrested and detained in Egyptian prisons in the Sinai.
Some of Egypt’s estimated 200,000 to one million street children—both boys and girls—are subjected to sex trafficking and forced begging. Informal criminal groups 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, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait reportedly continue to travel to Egypt to purchase “temporary” or “summer marriages” with Egyptian women and girls; these arrangements are often facilitated by the women and girls’ parents and marriage brokers who profit from the transaction. Children involved in these temporary marriages are subjected to both sexual servitude and forced labor at the hands of their “husbands.” Child sex tourism—the commercial sexual exploitation of children by foreign tourists—occurs in Egypt, particularly in Cairo, Alexandria, and Luxor. Egypt is a destination country for women and girls forced into prostitution, including refugees and migrants, from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and to a lesser extent the Middle East. Egypt also is a source country for workers subjected to conditions of forced labor in neighboring countries. Young and middle-aged Egyptian men filled construction, agriculture, and low-paying service jobs in Jordan. NGO and media reports indicate some Egyptians are forced to work in Jordan and experience conditions of forced labor, namely 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, but it is making efforts to do so. The government reported prosecuting and convicting trafficking offenders, though it failed to investigate and prosecute government officials allegedly complicit in trafficking offenses, particularly the forced labor of domestic workers in their private residences. By some accounts, police ignored potential trafficking-related offenses in the Sinai. Egypt began to implement its national referral mechanism, identifying an increased number of trafficking victims. NGOs, international organizations, and foreign diplomats also noted increased capacity, sensitivity, and awareness of some government officials in identifying and providing services to trafficking victims. Despite this success, there were reports that many government officials failed to employ the referral mechanism systematically to identify victims among vulnerable groups, including foreign migrants abused in the Sinai, people in prostitution, and women in domestic servitude, and as a result victims were often treated as criminals.
Recommendations for Egypt: Increase investigations and prosecutions against all forms of trafficking; investigate and punish government officials complicit in trafficking offenses; investigate, prosecute, and punish perpetrators responsible for the human trafficking, smuggling, torture, abduction, and extortion of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in the Sinai; proactively identify and provide appropriate assistance to victims of trafficking in the Sinai and cease shooting foreign migrants, including possible trafficking victims, in the Sinai; continue to use the national victim referral mechanism to identify and assist victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, including those arrested for prostitution, street children, and undocumented migrants, and continue to adequately train law enforcement officials and prosecutors on the referral mechanism; ensure identified trafficking victims, including those subject to forced prostitution, are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking; expand the scope of protection services, including adequate shelter, and make these services available to all victims of trafficking; encourage victims of trafficking to assist in investigations against their traffickers; and provide adequate legal protections for domestic workers.
The Egyptian government made some progress in implementing its anti-trafficking statute, successfully prosecuting and convicting trafficking offenders for the first time under this law. However, allegations that government officials were complicit in and went unpunished for forced labor offenses continued, and police in the Sinai failed to investigate or accepted bribes from criminals transporting trafficking victims to the Sinai. Egypt prohibits all forms of human trafficking through its 2010 anti-trafficking law (Law No. 64), which prescribes penalties from three to 15 years’ imprisonment along with fines ranging from the equivalent of approximately $8,300 to $33,300. 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 and prescribe sentences of at least five years’ imprisonment, which also are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes. The government reported that it prosecuted and convicted five individuals under its anti-trafficking law, which is the first time Egypt successfully used this law. Of the five convictions, four trafficking offenders were convicted in July 2012 for operating a criminal network to exploit women and girls for prostitution; three were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and one was sentenced in absentia to 15 years’ imprisonment. In the fifth conviction, one trafficking offender was sentenced in November 2012 to three years’ imprisonment for kidnapping and selling a child for exploitation purposes, though the details of this case were unclear. The government reported two additional sex trafficking prosecutions and seven investigations of trafficking—two of which were in North Sinai—that were ongoing at the end of the reporting period, though the details of these cases were not known. The National Coordinating Committee (NCC) on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Persons continued to develop a database to track trafficking-related cases, though the database was not complete at the end of the reporting period.
The government did not report any efforts to punish government officials for complicity in human trafficking offenses, despite reports of such corruption. In the previous reporting period, international organizations and source country embassies reported that the government failed to investigate accusations that multiple government officials, including judges, Ministry of Interior officials, and other high level government leaders, forcibly held Indonesian domestic workers inside their homes, and in some cases physically and sexually abused them. The government reported no action taken to investigate or punish these officials. Police reportedly failed to investigate vehicles used by criminals to transport migrants—some of whom may be trafficking victims—across Ministry of Interior-controlled bridges into the Sinai. Uncorroborated anecdotal reports alleged that police also accepted bribes from criminals transporting the migrants and trafficking victims into the Sinai. Additionally, there were some reports that Egyptian border security personnel in the Sinai continued to shoot some undocumented migrants attempting to enter Israel. In October 2012, a Ugandan newspaper reported that an Egyptian diplomat allegedly brought two Ugandan girls from Uganda to Egypt with false promises of jobs, and upon arrival in Egypt, subjected them to forced labor; however, Egyptian government officials and international organizations were unaware of this case and could not provide further details.
The government provided trafficking-specific trainings to officials, but it relied in many cases on funding from international organizations and NGOs, though the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) and the public prosecutor conducted trainings for 569 officials on the anti-trafficking law and victim identification. An international organization funded and conducted most specialized anti-trafficking trainings—in cooperation with NCCM—for 454 government and NGO officials.
The Government of Egypt made some progress in its efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period. The government, in conjunction with an international organization, continued to distribute copies of victim identification guidelines and began implementation of its national trafficking victim referral mechanism in 2012, resulting in an increased number of identified victims in this reporting period. International and local NGOs and NCCM worked together to identify and assist 277 trafficking victims, a significant increase from 122 victims identified in the previous reporting period. Despite this success, there were reports that many government officials failed to employ the referral mechanism to proactively and systematically identify victims among vulnerable groups, including foreign migrants and women in domestic servitude. While NCCM officials acknowledged that some of the migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers abused in the Sinai were trafficking victims, the NCC largely considered this vulnerable group as irregular migrants, and authorities made little attempt to proactively identify trafficking victims among this group or provide them with appropriate protective services.
The government, in partnership with international organizations and NGOs, provided shelter and a range of protective services to trafficking victims during the reporting period. A joint IOM-NCCM operated shelter designated for female and child trafficking victims received some in-kind support from the government and provided female victims of forced prostitution and forced labor with medical, psychological, legal, vocational, and repatriation assistance. The facility provided shelter for 12 victims for up to six months and was usually at full capacity, indicating a need for additional space or shelters. In this reporting period, the shelter assisted 24 foreign and 15 Egyptian victims of trafficking; most were victims of forced labor, with some cases involving sex trafficking and forced marriage. The Ministry of Health, with international assistance, continued to operate a Medical Recovery Unit for victims of trafficking at a Cairo hospital. This unit provided services to 177 victims of trafficking in the reporting period, most of whom were from Eritrea, as well as from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Egypt; it is not, however, intended as an overnight or long-term facility. In mid-2012, the government changed its referral policy for the medical unit, requiring international organizations and NGOs to provide trafficking victims’ personal data to the Ministry of Interior for the purpose of assisting investigations and prosecutions. Fearing police detention and deportation, victims—primarily from the Horn of Africa—refused to share their information, and referrals to the medical unit decreased significantly. Reportedly no trafficking victims were deported or punished as a result of this policy, and referrals began to increase in late 2012. In addition, an international NGO, in partnership with the government, continued to run a day center in Cairo to care for abused street boys involved in forced begging or petty crime; the center provided counseling, medical care, and literacy and computer classes. NGOs reported that government-run facilities for women and children were in disrepair, crowded, unsanitary, lacked funds, and did not provide specialized services to trafficking victims. Cairo-based NGOs reported good cooperation with NCCM and the public prosecutor’s office, particularly when NGOs requested expedited processing on trafficking victims’ cases. However, while NGOs based outside of Cairo reported improvement this year in the trafficking victim referral system, they noted a lack of support from NCCM, the public prosecutor’s office, and police as well as slow processing of cases compared to those in Cairo.
Due to uneven implementation of proactive identification of trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, trafficking victims, including many street children, women in prostitution, and foreign migrants abused in the Sinai, were often treated as criminals rather than victims; some were prosecuted on charges of prostitution, robbery, or immigration violations. In late 2012, after the Ministry of Interior received reports that 11 Ethiopian female victims of trafficking were detained in the Sinai, government officials asserted that the women were not trafficking victims and kept them in detention. Research conducted in 2011 by the government’s National Center for Social and Criminological Research found that 40 percent of women in jail charged with crimes of prostitution were forced or coerced into prostitution. In addition, there were reports some law enforcement officers may have further mistreated trafficking victims, including minor girls, through verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Some possible child trafficking victims were sent to juvenile detention centers that are in poor condition, while others were subject to incarceration with adults despite the Child Law, which prohibited this practice. Some foreign trafficking victims were not offered legal alternatives to removal to countries in which they faced hardship or retribution. Anecdotal reporting suggested that some trafficking victims were deported during the reporting period. The government encouraged some victims to assist in investigations against trafficking offenders, although the exact number of victims who assisted in cases is unknown. Domestic workers were not covered by existing labor laws, making them highly vulnerable to abuse and forced labor.
The government made some efforts to prevent trafficking in persons during the reporting period; however, lack of financial resources remained a significant impediment to the implementation of anti-trafficking programs, and international and local NGOs funded and conducted most specialized anti-trafficking prevention programs in collaboration with NCC. NCCM conducted, but did not fund, awareness-raising campaigns for students, educators, the public, and NGOs. The government continued to implement its 2010 comprehensive national action plan to combat trafficking in persons and publicly released an evaluation of it in December 2012. The government drafted a second national plan of action that prioritizes combating trafficking of street children, domestic workers, and migrants in the Sinai; however, the plan was not publicly released at the end of the reporting period. The NCC sent an anti-trafficking expert to Sudan—in coordination with and funded by an international organization—to collaborate with the Sudanese government on trafficking prevention. NCCM continued to support a free telephone hotline to report trafficking abuses; however, operation of the hotline was limited, as it lacked staffing, and calls frequently went unanswered. There was no evidence the government took measures to prevent forced domestic servitude; it did not make efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex or to raise awareness of sex tourism. The government provided anti-trafficking training for 20 Egyptian troops before deploying them to international peacekeeping missions.