EGYPT: Tier 2 Watch List
Egypt is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Egyptian children, including those among the estimated 200,000 to one million street children, are vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor in domestic service, begging, and agricultural work. Individuals from the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, purchase Egyptian women and girls for “temporary” or “summer” marriages for the purpose of prostitution or forced labor; these arrangements are often facilitated by the victims’ parents and marriage brokers, who profit from the transaction. Child sex tourism occurs primarily in Cairo, Alexandria, and Luxor. In 2011, the government’s National Center for Social and Criminological Research found 40 percent of women in jail charged with crimes of prostitution had been forced or coerced into prostitution. An international organization reported in 2013 some Egyptian women were subjected to sex trafficking in Sri Lanka. Egyptian men are subjected to forced labor in construction, agriculture, and low-paying service jobs in neighboring countries. Syrian refugees who have settled in Egypt are increasingly vulnerable to trafficking.
Men and women from South and Southeast Asia and East Africa are subjected to forced labor in domestic service, construction, cleaning, and begging. Indonesians make up the largest number of foreign domestic workers in Egypt, though there has been an observed increase in Sri Lankan domestic workers. Employers use some domestic workers’ lack of legal status and employment contracts to threaten arrest and abuse if they escape or complain of poor conditions. Women and girls, including refugees and migrants, from Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East endure sex trafficking in Egypt. From 2011 to 2013, instances of human trafficking, smuggling, abduction, and extortion of African migrants in the Sinai Peninsula occurred at the hands of criminal groups; many of these migrants were forced into sexual servitude or forced labor during their captivity in the Sinai. However, since mid-2013, international organizations observed the flow of these migrants into the Sinai nearly ceased, due in part to an aggressive Egyptian military campaign. Anecdotal reports suggest these criminal groups have relocated from the Sinai to Egypt’s western border with Libya; these migrants remain vulnerable to the same abuses inflicted upon them in the Sinai, including trafficking.
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. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Egypt is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. For the first time, the government conducted a nationwide data call to district courts to gather information on trafficking cases from the last five years to properly allocate training and prioritize trafficking efforts. In addition, the national anti-trafficking hotline call center was operational and its services were expanded. The Egyptian president also publicly acknowledged the vulnerability of Egyptian street children to trafficking and announced the allocation of approximately 100 million Egyptian pounds ($14 million) to address this issue. However, the government did not adequately address the needs of foreign trafficking victims and focused primarily on Egyptian victims. Moreover, it did not provide some shelter services to foreign trafficking victims in 2014. Though the government continued to partner with NGOs and international organizations to identify and refer victims to protective services, it identified a smaller number of trafficking victims in 2014, continuing the decrease from the previous reporting period. Reports indicated many officials—particularly those outside of city centers—failed to systematically identify victims among vulnerable groups, and the government had no procedures to do so. As a result, victims were routinely treated as criminals and punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. The government prosecuted some traffickers in 2014 but failed to convict any offenders for a second consecutive year; many trafficking cases were settled out of court, failing to adequately punish offenders or serve as a sufficient deterrent to the commission of trafficking crimes.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EGYPT:
Significantly increase prosecutions and convictions of all forms of trafficking, and adequately punish offenders; continue to use the national victim referral mechanism to systematically identify and assist trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, including those arrested for prostitution, street children, and foreign migrants; 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 foreign and domestic trafficking victims; encourage trafficking victims to assist in investigations and prosecutions against their traffickers; increase training for all government officials on the anti-trafficking law and victim identification and referral procedures; implement nationwide awareness campaigns; and provide adequate legal protections for domestic workers.
The government made limited progress in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Egypt prohibits all forms of human trafficking through its 2010 anti-trafficking law, which prescribes penalties from three to 15 years’ imprisonment and fines. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Child Law 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 those prescribed for other serious crimes. Articles 80 and 89 of Egypt’s constitution include provisions prohibiting and criminalizing sex trafficking, compulsory exploitation, and forced labor. For the first time, in 2014, the government conducted a nationwide data call to district courts to gather information on trafficking cases from the last five years. The government reported it conducted 27 potential trafficking investigations, and an international organization reported the government initiated 15 prosecutions under the anti-trafficking law in 2014; however, the government did not provide the details of these cases. The government did not convict any trafficking offenders in 2014. Though prosecutions increased from 2013, the lack of convictions remained a concern. Law enforcement officers lacked understanding of the anti-trafficking law and investigation techniques, while trafficking cases were oftentimes settled out of court, failing to adequately punish trafficking offenders for their crimes. In 2014, the government incorporated anti-trafficking training in curricula for newly appointed prosecutors, and—in coordination with an international organization—it provided anti-trafficking trainings for over 1,000 judicial and law enforcement officials throughout 2014. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government demonstrated decreased efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims, specifically refusing to provide some services to foreign victims. The government identified and assisted 68 victims in 2014, of which 44 were male and 22 were female, subjected to physical, mental, or sexual abuse. This represents a significant and ongoing decrease from the previous two reporting periods in which the government identified 173 victims in 2013 and 277 in 2012. Though the government continued to coordinate with NGOs to identify and refer victims to protection services, it did not adopt written procedures to guide officials in the proactive identification of trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, including domestic workers—who were not covered under labor laws—street children, foreign migrants, and women and girls in prostitution. The national victim referral mechanism, which included counseling and legal assistance to those who called the national anti-trafficking hotline, lacked clear standard operating procedures, and many officials failed to utilize the mechanism. Furthermore, police were reportedly reluctant to refer victims to shelter services. The lack of trafficking awareness among police, security, and judicial officials outside of urban areas contributed to the lack of victim identification and referral to protection services, as well as punishment of victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. As in the previous reporting period, authorities often treated unidentified trafficking victims as criminals, prosecuting them on charges of prostitution, robbery, or immigration violations. However, unlike in the previous reporting period, as of early 2015, the government was not holding any African migrants in Egyptian detention centers in the Sinai. In addition, in September 2014, Egyptian authorities identified four Nigerian females as trafficking victims after they had been initially arrested and properly referred them to shelter services.
The government’s provision of protection services to foreign victims, including shelter, declined. International organizations observed a decrease in the attention authorities paid to appropriately assisting foreign trafficking victims; in some instances, authorities refused provision of shelter services to foreign victims. The government jointly operated a shelter with an international organization, which was designated for female and child trafficking victims and offered medical, psychological, legal, vocational, and repatriation assistance. Despite this, the international organization reported the shelter’s quality of care for foreign victims was so poor it temporarily shut down parts of the shelter twice in 2014 and victims were inadequately housed in the remaining space of the shelter. The shelter reportedly assisted 19 trafficking victims, 16 of whom were foreign and three children. The Ministry of Health, with international assistance, operated a medical recovery unit for foreign and domestic, male and female trafficking victims at a Cairo hospital; however, the government did not report its use of this unit to assist any victims in 2014, a significant decrease from the 68 victims it assisted in 2013.
Though the government relied on international organizations and civil society to fund victim assistance, it did not—in turn—provide financial assistance or support to these organizations, presenting an obstacle in their ability to offer continued provision of protective services to trafficking victims. In the absence of adequate protection services, some victims sought refuge at their respective embassies. The government rarely granted temporary residency to foreign trafficking victims and expected victims to request this option on their own without providing them adequate guidance on the procedures to do so. The government assisted in the repatriation of nine trafficking victims, yet the victims were required to pay exit fees during the repatriation proceedings; the government failed to provide relief from such penalties. Some foreign trafficking victims were not offered legal alternatives to removal to countries in which they faced hardship or retribution.
The government made uneven efforts to prevent human trafficking. In February 2015, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi publicly acknowledged the growing problem of street children and announced the allocation of approximately 100 million Egyptian pounds ($14 million) to combat the issue; however, it was unclear to relevant ministries how this funding was to be allocated for anti-trafficking measures. The government continued to implement its national anti-trafficking action plan. Under this plan, the government partnered with an international organization to improve data collection and combat trafficking among street children and domestic workers. In 2014, the government conducted a series of research studies on trafficking in Egypt and held online awareness campaigns, yet these campaigns only reached a small portion of Egyptian society. The government operated and fully-staffed a telephone hotline to report trafficking abuses, which reportedly was responsible for referring an unknown number of trafficking victims in 2014. The government also expanded the hotline in 2014 to include on-call counselors and an online referral team. The government proposed the establishment of a database to collect trafficking data and cases, but it was not implemented by the end of the reporting period. The government did not report if the Ministry of Manpower and Migration inspectors, trained to investigate employers suspected of child labor or trafficking crimes, identified any trafficking cases during routine inspections in 2014. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor, and it did not raise awareness of the problem of child sex tourism. The government offered anti-trafficking training for Egyptian troops before deploying them on international peacekeeping missions. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.