As reported over the past five years, Lebanon is a source and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking and a transit country for Eastern European women and children subjected to sex trafficking in other Middle Eastern countries. Women and girls from South and Southeast Asia and an increasing number from East and West Africa are subjected to domestic servitude in Lebanon, facilitated by recruitment agencies that at times engage in fraudulent recruitment. Under Lebanon’s sponsorship system, foreign workers who leave their employers’ houses without permission forfeit their legal status, increasing their vulnerability to re-trafficking. Lebanese government officials and NGOs report most employers withhold their workers’ passports, putting workers at risk of trafficking. Women from Eastern Europe and North Africa enter Lebanon to work in the adult entertainment industry through Lebanon’s artiste visa program, which sustains a significant commercial sex industry and enables sex trafficking; 11,284 women entered Lebanon under this program in 2016, more than double the number of women that entered under this program in 2015. The terms of the artiste visa prohibit foreign women working in adult nightclubs to leave the hotel where they reside, except to “perform,” and nightclub owners withhold the women’s passports and control their movement; these women also experience physical and sexual abuse, withheld wages, and domestic servitude. Some women from East and West Africa also are subjected to sex trafficking in Lebanon. An increasing number of children, including Lebanese and Syrian children, are observed in the streets begging and selling trinkets; some of them may be victims of forced labor.
Men, women, and children among the estimated 1.5 million registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon are at risk of sex trafficking and forced labor. Restrictions on Syrians’ ability to work legally in Lebanon, as well as strict enforcement of visas and residence permits, increase this population’s vulnerability to trafficking. Child labor among the Syrian refugee population continues to increase, particularly in agriculture, construction, and street vending and begging; these children are highly vulnerable to forced labor, especially in the agricultural sector of Bekaa and Akkar and on the streets of main urban areas such as Beirut and Tripoli. NGOs report that some children are forced or coerced to conduct criminal activity. An international organization reported in 2015 evidence of bonded labor within refugee communities where child labor is used in exchange for living in informal tented settlements. Syrian gangs force Syrian refugee men, women, and children to work in the agricultural sector in the Bekaa Valley. Syrian women and girls are highly vulnerable to sex trafficking. The Lebanese government and media reported in late March 2016 an extensive sex trafficking ring exploiting primarily Syrian women and girls in Beirut; the majority of the women and girls were recruited from Syria with false promises of work and subjected to commercial sexual exploitation where they experienced mental, physical, and sexual abuse and forced abortions. Syrian girls are brought to Lebanon for sex trafficking, sometimes through the guise of early marriage. Lebanese pimps coerce some Syrian LGBTI refugees into prostitution. An international organization reported in 2016 that some Lebanese children are involved in armed tribal violence in Bekaa and Tripoli, some of whom may be forced to conduct such activity. There is also evidence of children within the Syrian refugee community in Lebanon that are associated with armed groups, who have either fought in the Syrian conflict or intend to fight in Syria as child soldiers.