In an effort to eliminate or slowly diminish human trafficking, the United States State Department Trafficking in Persons issues an annual report on most countries around the globe, including the Middle East and the MENA regions.
The report, which addresses down a number of areas Middle Eastern countries need to focus on, said human trafficking is a crime against humanity and "it is not a problem to be managed; but a crime to be stopped."
The report divides countries into 4 different rankings: Tier 1 includes all countries that are making the highest efforts to eliminate human trafficking. Tier 2 countries are making a strong effort while the Tier 2 Watchlist includes countries that are making making less than average efforts. Tier 3 are countries that are do not "fully comply with minimum standards and are not making the effort to do so."
The annual report, which was released Monday, exposed many countries and the lack of efforts made to end human trafficking. Middle Eastern countries are spread throughout Tier 3, Tier 2 and the Tier 2 Watchlist.
Middle Eastern countries that are in the Tier 3 list include Algeria, Libya, Syria, Iran, Kuwait and Yemen.
Algeria for instance is said to be both a destination and a source country for women to be subjected to forced labor along with sex trafficking and men are often subjected to forced labor, too. Civil society groups are reporting that Algeria is being a destination for undocumented migration and human trafficking. Criminals and traffickers smuggle people in and out of the country and are sold to neighboring countries. The report urges the Algerian government to investigate and prosecute traffickers and establish formal legal procedures as well as establishing a policy to ensure that identified or suspected victims are not prosecuted for crimes they were forced to commit.
Other countries that are in Tier 3 also lack legal policies and procedures that criminalizes human trafficking and laws protecting victims of the trade. The report says that when laws exist, there are loopholes causing human trafficking to increase instead of decrease.
Jordan, Oman and and the UAE were the only three Middle Eastern countries from the region that were placed in Tier 2.
Women from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines voluntarily travel to Jordan to work as domestic servants, which is common in the Arab region. However, too often these women are forced to work in dire conditions upon arrival. For instance, some have their passports unlawfully confiscated, their movement restricted and often are the victims of physical and sexual abuse. The Jordanian government has made multiple attempts and created a variety of policies to aid these workers, who became human trafficking victims, that are not in a position to travel back home.
For the countries listed in Tier 2, the report recommends the increase of prosecution and conviction of traffickers as well as intensifying efforts made to identify suspected victims. It also recommends creating and staffing shelters with trained personnel that would aid victims regain and rebuild their lives after such trauma.
The Tier 2 Watchlist includes multiple countries in the region such as Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Sudan. Countries placed in Tier 2 Watchlist are those who are unable to maintain a comprehensive effort towards eliminating human trafficking. Men, women and children are at high risk of being forced into hard labor, sex trafficking, and other forms of human trafficking.
The report warned that Egypt "does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking."
"The Egyptian government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to previous reporting periods," it stated.
Furthermore, Egypt has reportedly decreased its efforts to address the growing epidemic and is not providing the needed help or assistance to domestic or foreign victims. With decreased efforts to successfully identify and protect victims, the Egyptian government helped 68 Egyptian victims in 2014, of which 44 were male and 22 were female and suffered major physical, sexual and mental abuse. This number of victims identified is an example of the ongoing decrease from the last two reports: In 2013, the government rescued 173 victims and 277 in 2012. For this reason, the reported pressures the government to step up their efforts in identifying and helping all trafficking victims.
For the Tier 2 Watchlist, the report calls for the significant increase of prosecutions and convictions of perpetrators who commit any sort of human trafficking and to ensure that identified trafficking victims are not prosecuted for criminal acts committed as a result of ordeal. The report also calls for adequate shelters for domestic and foreign victims, providing all needed services to these victims as well as encouraging them to assist in investigations and prosecution of their traffickers.
The report also calls for the training for all governmental officials who are working on anti-trafficking laws and victim identification and referral is also needed; the implementation of nationwide awareness campaigns in every country must be done on regular basis; providing legal protection for the victims is also highlighted in the report.
Lastly, the irregular efforts made by the governments in the Tier 2 Watchlist to prevent human trafficking can no longer be tolerated nor accepted. In order to put a stop to this growing a epidemic, governments must take all necessary measures to identify, protect and assist foreign and domestic victims. They also need to enforce harsher penalties on traffickers, create nationwide awareness campaigns and establish adequate shelters equipped with trained personnel.