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Egypt (Tier 2)

The Government of Egypt does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Egypt remained on Tier 2. These efforts included increasing prosecutions and fully operationalizing a specialized trafficking shelter. In addition, the government established eight specialized prosecution offices to manage trafficking and irregular migration cases and acquitted 120 trafficking victims wrongfully charged with prostitution and other crimes. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Courts decreased convictions, and the government identified fewer victims. In addition, the government used trafficking charges to prosecute politically-motivated, non-trafficking cases thereby undercutting the government’s efforts to hold sex and labor traffickers criminally accountable. Police reportedly arbitrarily arrested and subjected at least 30 refugees and asylum seekers to forced labor during the reporting period. While the government drafted a new national referral mechanism (NRM), it remained unimplemented, and at times authorities penalized potential victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit, such as immigration and prostitution violations.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Finalize, disseminate, implement, and utilize country-wide procedures and guidelines for law enforcement, judicial, and other relevant officials to proactively identify and refer trafficking victims to appropriate care.
  • Increase investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of sex and labor trafficking, and punish offenders—including complicit officials and child sex tourists—with sufficiently stringent sentences.
  • Expand protection services and shelters to victims of all forms of trafficking—including male and foreign victims—and allocate adequate resources and staffing for these services.
  • Increase efforts to ensure authorities do not penalize trafficking victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit, such as immigration or prostitution violations.
  • Cease targeting of non-traffickers through non-germane, politically-motivated trafficking charges.
  • Fully utilize specialized trafficking courts and continue to train judicial officials in these courts on a victim-centered approach for the treatment of victims and witnesses of trafficking crimes during investigations and court proceedings.
  • Continue to train government officials, including police, security officials, judges, prosecutors, and social workers, on implementation of the anti-trafficking law, victim identification techniques, and victim referral procedures.
  • Provide a legal and regulatory environment that allows NGOs to provide services to trafficking victims and populations vulnerable to human trafficking.
  • Increase efforts to address and reduce the demand for “summer marriages” and commercial sex acts.
  • Amend the labor law to include labor protections for Egyptian and foreign domestic workers and increase overall efforts to improve protections for domestic workers.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained uneven law enforcement efforts. The 2010 anti-trafficking law criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties from three to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine for offenses involving an adult victim and up to life imprisonment and a fine for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government reported that although courts and government bodies were able to remain fully open, the pandemic continued to impact the government’s law enforcement efforts. Some witnesses were reluctant to testify in courts for fear of infection despite precautionary health measures, and traffickers rapidly shifting to online methods of recruitment and exploitation challenged investigators’ ability to collect evidence. In 2021, the government investigated 149 cases of alleged sex and labor trafficking crimes involving 535 suspects, compared with 259 cases involving 373 suspects for investigations initiated in 2020. The 149 investigated cases included 23 sex trafficking cases, 103 forced labor cases, and 23 cases involving an unspecified form of trafficking; the government also continued investigations into three forced labor cases and one case involving an unspecified form of trafficking begun in previous years. The government prosecuted 77 alleged perpetrators (nine for sex trafficking, 51 for forced labor, and 17 for an unspecified form of trafficking) in 2021, an increase from the 41 alleged perpetrators the government prosecuted in 2020. Courts convicted 22 perpetrators (seven perpetrators for sex trafficking, 13 perpetrators for forced labor, and two perpetrators for unspecified forms of trafficking) in 11 cases in 2021, a significant decrease from 67 traffickers convicted in 11 cases in 2020. Sentences ranged from three years’ imprisonment, seizure of assets, cost of expenses, and a fine of 100,000 Egyptian Pounds ($6,380) to 15 years’ imprisonment, seizure of assets, cost of expenses, and a fine of 100,000 pounds ($6,380).

Although not explicitly reported as human trafficking, the government investigated multiple cases of Egyptian peacekeepers serving in the UN peacekeeping operation in the Central African Republic for alleged sexual exploitation involving transactional sex and exploitative relationships in incidents with trafficking indicators from 2019, 2020, and 2021; the investigations were ongoing at the end of the reporting period. Aside from these cases, the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking crimes. However, an NGO reported police arbitrarily arrested at least 30 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers in December 2021 and January 2022, beat them, and forced them to perform physical labor at a security facility before releasing them; the government did not report holding the officers involved accountable. During the reporting period, the government convicted five female social media “influencers” on charges of trafficking, “recruiting young women to share inappropriate content online,” and publishing inappropriate content. Multiple NGOs and international observers commented the charges and convictions were inappropriate, undercut the government’s efforts to hold sex and labor traffickers criminally accountable, and confused the public on the meaning of human trafficking.

In September 2021, the Prosecutor General’s Office announced the establishment of eight specialized prosecution offices, one in each appellate court district, to manage trafficking and irregular migration cases. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) maintained eight specialized judicial circuits in the courts of appeal with 30 judges assigned to prosecute human trafficking cases. During the reporting period, the National Coordinating Committee for Combating and Preventing Illegal Migration and Trafficking in Persons (NCCPIM & TIP), in partnership with international organizations, organized anti-trafficking training sessions, capacity-building workshops, and international exchanges on victim identification, referral, and protection; the anti-trafficking law; and other anti-trafficking topics for officials, including prosecutors, judges, labor inspectors, hotline operators, law enforcement, diplomats, social workers, and aviation officials.

PROTECTION

The government maintained overall victim protection efforts. Services remained insufficient for male and foreign victims, and unidentified victims continued to be penalized for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. The government reported identifying 272 potential trafficking victims (30 sex trafficking victims, 209 forced labor victims, and 33 victims of unspecified forms of exploitation) in 2021; this was a decrease compared with the 519 trafficking victims identified in 2020. Of the 272 victims, at least 270 were Egyptian and one was a foreign national; at least 130 were adults (109 men and 21 women), and at least 142 were children (91 boys and 51 girls). The government reported referring 95 identified victims to shelter and services, compared with all 519 victims in 2020, but did not specify what types of assistance were provided or whether the other 177 identified victims received any assistance. Although NCCPIM & TIP reported providing victim identification training to officials, the government did not report having comprehensive standard operating procedures (SOPs) to identify trafficking victims. The government reported that individual agencies used their own victim identification SOPs. Although the government maintained an NRM, authorities reportedly did not use it consistently throughout the reporting period. While some NGOs reported they received victim referrals from various governmental entities, NGOs continued to report the NRM was ineffective and underutilized, and various government stakeholders were unaware of its existence. To address these deficiencies, NCCPIM & TIP drafted an updated NRM and socialized the updated NRM with relevant government agencies; the updated NRM was pending finalization and implementation at the end of the reporting period. The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) also maintained 361 child protection committees and sub-committees in 27 governates around the country and worked with 15 NGOs to identify potential child trafficking cases.

Authorities typically relied on NGO referrals or for victims to self- identify; however, NGOs reported that Egyptian and foreign female victims—particularly those among African migrants and refugees—were hesitant to report or file criminal complaints against traffickers or speak to interpreters due to fear of social stigmas. Although an international organization reported improvements in the government’s ability to identify trafficking victims, inconsistent victim identification and referral procedures continued to contribute to authorities potentially punishing or penalizing unidentified victims for illegal acts traffickers compelled them to commit, such as immigration violations and prostitution. For example, NGOs reported police arrested and detained female victims of sex trafficking on wrongful charges of prostitution or debauchery; judges typically released these victims due to insufficient evidence to support the charges of the crimes. During the reporting period, the government sentenced two child sex trafficking victims to prison sentences on prostitution charges. However, the government acquitted 120 trafficking victims wrongfully charged with prostitution and other crimes. Foreign female trafficking victims reported the government required them to pay overstay fees, thus preventing them from leaving the country and potentially hindering them from leaving trafficking situations.

In November 2021, the government fully operationalized the specialized trafficking shelter in Qalyoubia governorate inaugurated in November 2020, which the NCCPIM & TIP opened in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MoSS), NCCM, an NGO, an international organization, and a foreign government; the shelter assisted at least three female victims during the reporting period. The shelter could accommodate 28 women and girls and was staffed by female psychologists, social workers, and medical staff. The government allocated 1 million pounds ($63,780) for annual shelter operations. Foreign victims could not access the shelter, despite recommendations from stakeholders to allow foreign victims to have access; the government reported it was planning to open the shelter to foreign victims in the future. Ten shelters (in nine governorates) for violence against women (VAW), run by the MoSS, could receive female and child trafficking victims; foreign victims could access all 10 VAW MoSS shelters; and male victims could access the remaining 45 MoSS shelters throughout the country. NGOs stated that MoSS shelters were not appropriate for some trafficking victims due to concerns about security, privacy, and a lack of adequately-trained staff. MoSS bylaws stated victims were able to access the shelters without identification documents for up to three days. The government’s ability to provide services to trafficking victims, especially foreign and male victims, remained limited, and the government was dependent on international organizations and NGOs to provide some victim services, including repatriation.

The government continued to mainly rely on international and civil society organizations to provide and fund victim assistance, but it did not provide financial assistance to these organizations, which affected their ability to offer protective services to victims. The government provided training to partner NGOs. The government supported victim assistance in investigations and prosecutions by offering legal assistance to all victims, protecting victims’ identities, and providing physical protection when necessary. To prevent re-traumatization, the government reported prosecutors and law enforcement interviewed victims in the presence of social workers and psychologists and prosecutors could request to hear victims’ testimony in closed court sessions. In the previous reporting period, the government piloted a courtroom in Giza specialized for child victims of crime, including trafficking, which included video conferencing, separate waiting rooms for child victims, and a barrier allowing children to give testimony while protecting their identity and privacy. However, female victims of domestic servitude or sex trafficking reported a reluctance to cooperate in pursuing charges against their traffickers due to the fear of social stigma and retaliation. In a high-profile case involving an influential defendant, an NGO reported the government released photos and audio recordings of child sex trafficking victims to the media that could have exposed the victims to retaliation and psychological harm. Article 27 of the 2010 anti-trafficking law provided for a victim compensation fund, but the government did not report establishing the fund. Prosecutors could pursue restitution in trafficking cases and victims could file civil suits against their traffickers; however, the government did not report whether any victims received restitution through criminal proceedings or damages from civil suits during the reporting period. The government did not report whether it had legal alternatives to removal to countries in which victims would face retribution or hardship. During the reporting period, an NGO reported the government forcibly deported Eritrean asylum seekers, including children, without assessing protection needs; the Government of Eritrea had a government policy or pattern of human trafficking exploiting its nationals in forced labor in its compulsory national service and citizen militia by forcing them to serve for indefinite or otherwise arbitrary periods.

PREVENTION

The government maintained efforts to prevent human trafficking. The government continued to implement the 2016-2021 National Strategy for Combating and Preventing Trafficking in Persons; the strategy was implemented using the budget allocated to NCCPIM & TIP and the 29 member agencies of NCCPIM & TIP. The government drafted a 2022- 2026 national anti-trafficking strategy, which was pending approval at the end of the reporting period. NCCPIM & TIP continued to coordinate inter-ministerial anti-trafficking efforts throughout the reporting period. NCCPIM & TIP and other governmental entities continued to conduct multiple awareness-raising activities throughout the reporting period, which included some campaigns in partnership with international organizations. NCCPIM & TIP submitted semi-annual reports on its anti-trafficking efforts to the Prime Minister during the reporting period. The National Council for Human Rights, the National Council for Women, NCCM, and Administrative Control Authority continued operating hotlines to which the public could report trafficking cases. NCCPIM & TIP reported the hotlines referred 14 potential trafficking cases to prosecutors, resulting in investigations, and that NCCM’s hotline received 66 trafficking calls that it processed appropriately but did not report if any victims were identified or referred to protection services as a result. The government did not report whether Egyptian law prohibited employers, recruiters, or labor agents from switching contracts without workers’ consent or withholding wages, or whether worker-paid recruitment fees were prohibited. Egyptian labor law did not include specific protections for domestic workers, which continued to create greater vulnerabilities to trafficking among this population. Throughout the reporting period, the legislature continued reviewing labor legislation drafted during the previous reporting period to improve protections for Egyptian and foreign domestic workers; the bill was pending at the end of the reporting period. In the absence of labor law protections for domestic workers, the NCCPIM & TIP continued to promote a voluntary labor contract that employers of domestic workers could choose to use, which offered some protections for Egyptian domestic workers but did not provide protections for foreign domestic workers. The government did not make adequate efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or child sex tourism. The government reported providing anti-trafficking training to its troops prior to their deployment as peacekeepers. Although not explicitly reported as human trafficking, the government investigated multiple cases of Egyptian peacekeepers serving in the UN peacekeeping operation in the Central African Republic for alleged sexual exploitation involving transactional sex and exploitative relationships in incidents with trafficking indicators from 2019, 2020, and 2021; the investigations were ongoing at the end of the reporting period.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Egypt, and traffickers exploit victims from Egypt abroad. Traffickers subject Egyptian children to sex trafficking and forced labor in domestic service, street begging, drug trafficking, quarrying, and agricultural work in Egypt. Traffickers, including some parents, force Egyptian children to beg in the streets or exploit girls in sex trafficking. NGOs report the lack of economic and educational opportunities causes family members, including parents, husbands, and siblings, to subject women and girls to sex trafficking or domestic servitude to supplement family incomes. Child sex tourism occurs primarily in Giza, Cairo, and the Delta. Individuals from the Arabian Gulf, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates, purchase Egyptian women and girls for “temporary marriages” or “summer marriages” for the purpose of commercial sex, including cases of sex trafficking, as well as forced labor; the victims’ parents and marriage brokers, who profit from the transaction, often facilitate these arrangements. An NGO reported some parents forced underage girls in poor areas into permanent marriages where they were coerced into domestic servitude or commercial sex; an international organization also reported some husbands coerced their adult wives into sex trafficking or domestic servitude. Traffickers reportedly exploit Egyptian children in sex trafficking and forced begging in Europe. Traffickers subject Egyptian adults to forced labor in construction, agriculture, domestic work, and low-paying service jobs in the region. Due to pandemic-related restrictions, an international organization reported an increase in the use of online methods to recruit trafficking victims; during the reporting period, media reported a Saudi recruitment agency coordinated with an Egyptian marketing company to use a social media site to fraudulently recruit women into domestic servitude in other parts of the Middle East.

Traffickers subject men and women from South and Southeast Asia and East Africa to forced labor in domestic service, construction, cleaning, and begging, as well as sex trafficking. Male refugees and migrants are vulnerable to exploitative labor practices, including forced labor. Foreign domestic workers—who are not covered under Egyptian labor laws—primarily from Syria, Yemen, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, and parts of West Africa are highly vulnerable to forced labor; employers at times require them to work excessive hours, confiscate their passports, withhold their wages, deny them food and medical care, refuse to provide them with work visas, and subject them to physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. Some employers file false claims of theft to further exploit domestic workers. Traffickers subject women and girls, including refugees and migrants from Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East to sex trafficking in Egypt. In 2018, an international organization reported Colombian nationals were smuggled into Egypt to work in the entertainment industry, and in 2019, an NGO reported that employers in resort towns, such as Sharm El Sheikh, sexually exploit dancers from Colombia. Refugees from Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, and Yemen who live in Egypt are at risk of trafficking. For example, NGOs reported traffickers target Syrian refugees who have settled in Egypt for forced child labor, sex trafficking, and transactional marriages of girls that can lead to sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking, and forced labor. NGOs reported in January 2020 that unaccompanied children (UACs) among the African migrant population are at risk of trafficking in Egypt; Sudanese gangs reportedly target UACs to force or coerce the children to sell drugs or commit other petty crimes. Undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers from the Horn of Africa, who transit Egypt en route to Europe, are at risk of trafficking along this migration route. During the previous reporting period, there were reports trafficking networks fraudulently recruited women from Guinea for employment in Egypt; traffickers then exploited the women in domestic servitude or sex trafficking. Between 2017-2019, NGOs reported the government deported at least 21 Uyghur Muslims, the majority of whom were students at Al-Azhar University, back to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) where they were vulnerable to arbitrary detention, harassment, and forced labor.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future