The government demonstrated uneven victim identification and protection efforts. The government did not formally adopt draft procedures for the identification and referral of victims to NGO services; in practice, officials continued to identify and refer trafficking victims to care on an ad hoc basis. The ISF, DGS, and Ministry of Labor (MOL) identified a total of 63 victims and referred 56 of them to NGO protection services during the reporting period. The MOJ also reported 34 victims were involved in prosecutions initiated in 2019. The number of victims identified in 2019 represented a substantial decrease from the 149 victims the government identified in 2018. However, the government increased the total number of victims it referred to protection services in 2019 to 56, compared with 32 victims referred in 2018. In addition, the government reported a DGS-operated hotline received 23 calls, two of which involved women holding artiste visas—a visa program that was inherently exploitative. One of the women reported the owner of a nightclub physically abused her, and the DGS responded by issuing a warning to the owner. Another woman reported a nightclub customer raped her, to which the DGS responded by issuing an arrest warrant against the perpetrator; following the complaint, the victim chose to repatriate. Through the MOL’s complaints office and 24-hour hotline, it received 107 complaints from foreign domestic workers, some of whom may have been trafficking victims; the MOL reported it resolved the majority of the cases but did not provide additional details.
The government did not directly provide protection services to trafficking victims but continued to work in partnership with NGOs to provide essential victim services. NGO-run victim care facilities in Lebanon were dedicated only to female and child victims of trafficking; there were no services available or government resources dedicated to male trafficking victims, even though trafficking of men in the construction sector reportedly continued. Pursuant to a longstanding memorandum of understanding, renewed during the reporting period, between the government and an NGO, the DGS referred female victims to an NGO-run safe house and provided security for the location; victims were not allowed to work while receiving assistance at the safe house. In 2019, the safe house assisted 294 trafficking victims. The Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA) also continued to coordinate and fund the provision of protection services to child trafficking victims through contractual agreements with NGOs. In December 2019, the DGS reported that—as part of an amnesty program—it waived overstay fines and provided plane tickets for an unspecified number of migrant workers, some of whom the DGS identified as trafficking victims. An NGO further reported the DGS provided these exemptions and services to 1,000 Filipina domestic workers, some of whom may have been trafficking victims. During the reporting period, MOSA coordinated with an international organization to provide technical support for the development of a law to create a victim assistance fund; the law remained in draft form at the end of the reporting period. The government did not adopt the draft labor law amendment extending legal protections to foreign workers, nor the draft law to increase labor protections for domestic workers.
The government continued to arrest, detain, and/or deport unidentified victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit, such as domestic workers who fled abusive employers, out-of-status or irregular migrant workers, women holding artiste visas, and persons in commercial sex. Under Lebanon’s sponsorship system, foreign workers—including foreign trafficking victims—who left their place of employment without permission from their employer forfeited their legal status, thereby increasing the risk of arrest, detention, and deportation. Foreign workers without valid residence and work permits were subject to detention for one to two months—or longer in some instances—followed by deportation. Furthermore, women holding artiste visas were subject to immediate deportation upon arrest for prostitution violations; however, DGS reported it did not deport any artiste visa holders during the reporting period and instead repatriated 29 following investigations. The DGS continued to operate a 750-person detention center where authorities detained foreign domestic workers for violating the terms of their work contracts or visas. For the last several years, the DGS has allowed an NGO to operate a permanent office inside the detention center that allowed staff unhindered access to detainees to provide medical and psycho-social services. However, due to a decrease in funding to the NGO during the reporting period, the NGO was unable to continue providing health services to detainees—including trafficking victims—and was only able to provide social and legal services. The DGS also continued to permit the NGO to interview detainees to identify trafficking victims among the detention center population; it identified 49 trafficking victims in the detention center in 2019, which was an increase from the 25 victims it identified in 2018. The NGO continued to report an increased level of professionalism, sensitivity, and awareness among DGS officials and investigators, which allowed the NGO to more effectively identify victims among detainees.
Victims were able to file civil suits to obtain compensation. Victims also were allowed to reside in Lebanon during an investigation of a trafficking case upon a judge’s decision, but the government did not report if any judges issued such a decision during the reporting period. NGOs continued to report that foreign victims preferred quick administrative settlements followed by repatriation rather than long criminal prosecutions because of the lack of protection services or resettlement options during the criminal proceedings. Therefore, authorities faced challenges pursuing potential cases of trafficking when victims chose voluntary repatriation rather than facing an often-lengthy trial process because they were not present in the country to testify against their traffickers. The government did not provide temporary or permanent residency status or other relief from deportation for foreign trafficking victims who faced retribution or hardship in the countries to which they would be deported.