Egypt's ranking has been downgraded, meaning it is among the most vulnerable in the world for human trafficking.
Egypt’s ranking in human trafficking globally has dropped in 2015, following a poor record of addressing sexual exploitation of women and children, according to the Trafficking in Persons Report released by the US Department of State today.
A source, transit, and destination country for victims of forced labor and sex trafficking, Egypt was downgraded to the Watch List in this year’s report, as antitrafficking efforts have not significantly increased and, despite there being a nationwide hotline to address the issue, efforts are focused on Egyptian nationals in detriment of foreign trafficking victims.
The report, which has been heavily criticised by anti-trafficking groups for removing Malaysia from the worst category due to political interests, alerts on the existence of child sex tourism in Cairo, Alexandria, and Luxor, where “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,” the report adds.
Syrian refugees who have settled in Egypt are increasingly vulnerable to trafficking, while men and women from South and Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia and Sri Lanka, as well as East Africa are subjected to forced labor in domestic service, construction, cleaning, and begging.
In 2014, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that hundreds of refugees from East Africa, mostly Eritrean, had been kidnapped and sold to traffickers in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula between 2010 and 2013, where they were held and tortured until their relatives paid tens of thousands of dollars in ransom money.
The TIP report indicated that since mid-2013, the flow of migrants observed by human rights organisations into Sinai significantly decreased, in part due to an aggressive Egyptian military campaign. Other reports, however, suggest that these criminal groups have relocated from the Sinai to Egypt’s western border with Libya and that these migrants remain vulnerable to the same abuses inflicted upon them in the Sinai, including trafficking.
The report also indicates that despite efforts to fight trafficking, such as nationwide data call to courts to gather information and the setup of a national anti-trafficking hotline, “Egypt does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”
“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,” the report states.
Although Egypt’s National Center for Social and Criminological Research found in 2011 that 40% of women in jail charged with crimes of prostitution had been forced or coerced into prostitution, many officials failed to systematically identify victims among vulnerable groups, and “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.”