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—to a lesser extent—a destination country for Syrian refugee men subjected to forced labor. Women and girls from South and Southeast Asia and an increasing number from East and West Africa are subjected to domestic servitude in Lebanon. 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, and NGOs report that abuse of domestic workers is typically underreported. Many migrant workers arrive in Lebanon through legal employment agencies, but are subsequently placed in abusive or exploitative situations with their employers; some employment agencies recruit workers through fraudulent or false job offers. Women from Eastern Europe and North Africa legally enter Lebanon to work primarily as dancers in nightclubs through Lebanon’s artiste visa program, which is valid for three months and can be renewed once. The government reported 10,363 women entered Lebanon under this program in 2017; 11,284 artiste visa holders entered Lebanon in 2016. The terms of the artiste visa prohibit foreign women working in these nightclubs to leave the hotel where they reside, except to work in the nightclubs which sponsor them, 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. There are increasing reports that traffickers, including parents, force children to beg in the streets.
Men, women, and children among the estimated 1.3 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon are at high risk of sex trafficking and forced labor. There are some restrictions on Syrians’ ability to work legally in Lebanon and the enforcement of visas and residence permit laws increase this population’s vulnerability to trafficking. Syrians are commonly involved in the exploitation of other Syrians in Lebanon, particularly targeting refugees fleeing the conflict. For example, traffickers hold Syrian refugee men, women, and children in bonded labor in order to pay for food, shelter, and the cost of transit to Lebanon, and contract out groups of refugees to work in the agricultural sector in the Bekaa Valley. 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. 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 labor trafficking, 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. Syrian women and girls are highly vulnerable to sex trafficking. In March 2016, Lebanese authorities reported on 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 in which 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. Some Syrian refugee women and girls are forced into sex acts or early marriage, often by family members or powerful local families, in order to ease economic hardships; these women and girls are highly vulnerable to trafficking. Syrian LGBTI refugees continue to be vulnerable to sexual exploitation. An international organization reported in 2017 that some employers coerce Syrian refugee men to perform sexual acts through threats of withholding their pay or terminating their employment. 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.