Egypt is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children who are subjected to 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; informal criminal groups are sometimes involved in this exploitation. An international organization noted that the poor economic situation in Egypt led to an increase of street children in 2013, and that they are at risk of forced labor and sex trafficking. Egyptian children are also recruited for domestic service and agricultural labor; some of these children face forced labor through restrictions on movement, nonpayment of wages, threats, and physical or sexual abuse. In addition, wealthy individuals from the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, continue to travel to Egypt to purchase Egyptian women and girls for “temporary” or “summer marriages” for the purpose of sexual exploitation, prostitution, or forced labor; these arrangements are often facilitated by the parents of women and girls and by marriage brokers who profit from the transaction. Child sex tourism—the commercial sexual exploitation of children by foreign tourists—occurs in Egypt, particularly in Cairo, Alexandria, and Luxor. Egyptian men are subjected to forced labor in construction, agriculture, and low-paying service jobs in neighboring countries, such as Jordan; NGO and media reports indicate that some workers experience withholding of passports, forced overtime, nonpayment of wages, and restrictions on their movements. An international organization reported in 2013 that a small number of Egyptian women may be subjected to sex trafficking in Sri Lanka.
Men and women from Egypt, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa are subjected to forced labor in Egypt in domestic service, construction, cleaning, begging, and other sectors. Some domestic workers, primarily women from Indonesia, the Philippines, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Sri Lanka are held in forced labor, experiencing sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, withholding of wages and documents, restrictions on movement, and no time off. Employers use some domestic workers’ lack of legal status and employment contracts as coercive tools to threaten arrest and abuse if they escape or complain of poor conditions. Indonesians make up the largest number of foreign domestic workers in Egypt, though an international organization reported an observed increase in Sri Lankan domestic workers at risk of forced labor and a decrease in Sudanese domestic workers in 2013. Women and girls, including refugees and migrants, from Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and to a lesser extent the Middle East, are forced into prostitution in Egypt. Instances of human trafficking, smuggling, abduction, and extortion of migrants—primarily from Eritrea and, to a lesser extent, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Cote d’Ivoire—continue to occur in the Sinai Peninsula at the hands of criminal groups. According to documented victim testimonies, many of these migrants are held for ransom, and forced into sexual servitude or forced labor—such as forcing migrants to work as cleaners or on construction sites—during their captivity in the Sinai. In mid-2013, international organizations observed a temporary decrease in the flow of these migrants into the Sinai, likely in part due to an aggressive Egyptian military campaign in the Sinai in August 2013, as well as to Israel’s construction of a fence along the Israel-Egypt border. Nonetheless, international organizations reported that new groups of African migrants—some of whom may be trafficking victims—entered the Sinai and were held by criminal groups in November 2013. There continue to be infrequent reports that Egyptian border patrols shoot and sometimes kill migrants, including potential trafficking victims, in the Sinai; many are also arrested and detained in Egyptian prisons in the Sinai, while some were transferred to Qanatar prison in the greater Cairo area in 2013.
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. The government reported investigating and prosecuting an increased number of suspected traffickers. It continued to partner with NGOs and international organizations to identify and refer trafficking victims to protective services through its national referral mechanism, as well as to implement public awareness campaigns. Although the government prosecuted other serious crimes, it achieved no trafficking convictions, a decrease from the five convictions in the previous reporting period. The government also did not investigate or punish government officials complicit in trafficking crimes despite reports of such corruption. The government identified a significantly smaller number of victims in 2013 compared to 2012. There continued to be reports that many government officials failed to systematically to employ the referral mechanism to identify victims among vulnerable groups, including foreign migrants, people in prostitution, street children, and women in domestic servitude; as a result, victims continued to be treated as criminals and punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. Law enforcement officials continued to ignore potential trafficking-related crimes in the Sinai and failed to identify trafficking victims among the vulnerable groups of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers abused in the Sinai.
Recommendations for Egypt:
Significantly increase investigations and prosecutions against all forms of trafficking, and punish government officials complicit in trafficking offenses; investigate, prosecute, and punish perpetrators responsible for the human trafficking, smuggling, 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 systematically 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 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; continue to provide anti-trafficking training to government officials and implement awareness campaigns; and provide adequate legal protections for domestic workers.
The Egyptian government made minimal progress in law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders. 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 crimes, such as rape. The Child Law (No. 126 of 2008) includes provisions prohibiting sex trafficking and forced labor of children and prescribes sentences of at least five years’ imprisonment, which also are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes. Articles 80 and 89 of Egypt’s new constitution, which was approved in a public referendum in January 2014, includes provisions that explicitly prohibit and criminalize sex trafficking, compulsory exploitation, and forced labor. The government reported having investigated and initiated prosecutions of five cases of sex trafficking and three cases of forced labor in 2013, under the anti-trafficking law, the Child Law, and other penal code provisions; these trials were ongoing at the close of the reporting period. This represents a slight increase from the five prosecutions initiated in 2012. One of the ongoing cases involved an Egyptian celebrity who allegedly held a Filipina woman in domestic servitude. The government, however, did not convict any trafficking offenders in 2013, in comparison to five convictions it achieved in the previous reporting period. Though the government did not report investigating or prosecuting any trafficking cases involving victims in the Sinai, an NGO reported that the government prosecuted two Cairo-based Eritreans in 2013 under the anti- trafficking law for their role in facilitating Sinai-based criminal networks; the details of this case were unclear. Government officials reported that investigations of some trafficking allegations were temporarily suspended as a result of the ongoing violence and mass protests that began in July 2013. The National Coordinating Committee (NCC) on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Persons—which plays the lead role in coordinating Egypt’s anti-trafficking efforts—continued to develop a database to track trafficking-related cases that has been under development since the previous reporting period.
The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking, despite reports of such corruption. For the third consecutive year, 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. International organizations confirmed reports that in the previous reporting period, police 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, and police also accepted bribes from criminals transporting the migrants and trafficking victims into the Sinai. There were also reports of instances in which Egyptian border security personnel in the Sinai shot some undocumented migrants attempting to enter Israel; some of these individuals may have been trafficking victims. The government continued to provide anti-trafficking training—in coordination with and funding from international organizations and NGOs—to prosecutors and judges. The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM), in collaboration with an international organization, also produced a 180-page guidebook in 2013, which NCCM used to conduct anti-trafficking training sessions for judges and prosecutors.
The government made uneven progress in its efforts to identify and protect victims of trafficking. The government did not adopt written procedures to guide officials in the proactive identification of victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations, including domestic workers, street children, African migrants abused in the Sinai, and women in prostitution. However, the government continued to implement the national referral mechanism, which was initiated in 2012; the NCCM coordinated with NGOs, the Public Prosecutor’s office, and the NCC to identify and refer victims to protection services, including adequate shelter. The government identified and assisted 173 trafficking victims, a significant decrease from 277 in the previous reporting period. Five of these victims were Egyptian, while the majority were Eritrean, and were victims of slavery, domestic servitude, and sex trafficking. The NCCM tracked identified victims’ demographic data, type of exploitation, and assistance received and used this information to analyze trafficking trends. The NCCM’s staffing shortfalls, however, slowed the process of referring victims to protection services. In addition, many government officials failed to employ the referral mechanism to proactively and systematically identify victims among vulnerable groups, including migrants and women in domestic servitude. Government officials reported that the lack of trafficking awareness among police and Ministry of Justice officials in rural areas of Egypt limited the number of victim referrals and limited the government’s ability to provide services to potential trafficking victims in these areas. While officials acknowledged that some of those abused in the Sinai were trafficking victims, officials largely considered those abused in the Sinai as irregular migrants or criminals, and made little attempt to proactively identify trafficking victims among this group or provide them with protective services. For example, an NGO reported that five Eritrean men were arrested by police after having escaped Egyptian criminal groups in the Sinai. The men—who may be trafficking victims—remained incarcerated in Cairo for more than 10 months presumably based on their lack of legal status; there was no indication that officials attempted to screen them for indicators of trafficking. Domestic workers were not covered by existing labor laws, making them highly vulnerable to abuse and forced labor.
The government continued to rely on international organizations and civil society to provide funding for victim assistance programs, including the provision of adequate shelter and legal assistance to victims. A joint IOM-NCCM operated shelter designated for female trafficking victims assisted 17 victims of forced labor, sexual exploitation, forced marriage, and forced begging, a decrease from the 24 victims the shelter assisted in the previous reporting period. These victims were Ethiopian, Eritrean, Sri Lankan, and Egyptian, ranging in ages from eight to 57 years old. This shelter provided victims with medical, psychological, legal, vocational, and repatriation assistance. The Ministry of Health, with international assistance, continued to operate a Medical Recovery Unit for victims of trafficking at a Cairo hospital. Though the unit was not intended as an overnight or long-term facility, it provided medical services to 68 victims in 2013, most of whom were from Eritrea, as well as from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Egypt. This was a significant decrease from the 177 victims the unit assisted in the previous reporting period. NGOs continued to report that government-run facilities for women and children were in disrepair, overcrowded, unsanitary, lacked funds, and did not provide specialized services to trafficking victims.
Unidentified trafficking victims were often treated as criminals, as some were prosecuted on charges of prostitution, robbery, or immigration violations. For example, 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 had been forced or coerced into prostitution. There were reports that 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 were in poor condition, while others were subject to incarceration with adults despite the Child Law prohibiting this practice. The government made no efforts to identify potential trafficking victims among women imprisoned on prostitution charges; however, the NCCM partnered with a unit within the Ministry of Interior’s Human Rights Department in 2013 to provide services for the children of some of these women; NCCM reported that these children were at high risk of trafficking. Some foreign trafficking victims were not offered legal alternatives to removal to countries in which they faced hardship or retribution. The government encouraged some victims to assist in investigations against trafficking offenders, although the exact number of victims who assisted in cases was unknown. Government officials reported that trafficking victims were responsible for requesting temporary residency during the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers, though the process for doing so was unclear and victims were rarely, if ever, granted this benefit.
The government made sustained efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. While international organizations and local NGOs funded and conducted most specialized anti-trafficking prevention programs in collaboration with the inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee, the government conducted 154 anti-trafficking education sessions throughout Egypt for government officials, NGOs, and populations at risk of child marriage—a practice that puts children at risk of domestic servitude or sex trafficking. The NCCM produced trafficking awareness pamphlets and advertisements and relied on social media to raise awareness of human trafficking. The government continued to implement its 2012 national action plan to combat trafficking in persons, which prioritized combating trafficking among vulnerable populations. While NCC officials reported successes under the plan, including implementing the national referral mechanism and training law enforcement officers, they also reported the need to improve the statistical data management system and combating trafficking among street children and domestic workers. Identification of trafficking victims among the persons abused in the Sinai continued to be a secondary priority for the NCC. The NCCM continued to operate a free telephone hotline to report trafficking abuses, which reportedly did not receive a high volume of calls in this reporting period; however, calls to the hotline frequently went unanswered and it lacked staffing. The government did not report efforts to regulate, monitor, and inspect employment and recruitment agencies responsible for employing workers in Egypt and abroad. The government reported efforts to investigate and verify cases of illegal child labor, and NCCM provided technical and financial support to the Ministry of Manpower and Migration (MOMM) to train inspectors on child labor issues; however, inspectors did not differentiate between child labor and trafficking. MOMM reported that it referred 66 cases of child labor law violations to the public prosecutor during the reporting period, but it did not specify whether these violations amounted to human trafficking. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor, and did not raise awareness of the problem of sex tourism. The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training for Egyptian troops before deploying them to international peacekeeping missions.