‘Jordan increased efforts against human trafficking, but more is needed’

Jordan Times - Despite “significant” efforts, the Jordanian government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, a US government report said on Thursday.

The US Department of State’s “Trafficking in Persons Report June 2018”, released on June 28, stated that the Jordanian government has demonstrated “increased efforts” in the fight against human trafficking, as compared to last year’s report, but has failed to increase their international tier ranking this year.”

“The government increased its efforts by identifying and providing care to an increased number of [human trafficking] victims and demonstrated strong efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers,” the report said, noting that Jordan “also continued to improve the standard operating procedures (SOPs) within the national victim referral mechanism for authorities to systematically identify and refer victims to protection services.”

However, the government did not meet several minimum standards including failing to enact draft amendments to the Anti-trafficking Law, charging offenders with light penalties in comparison to similar crimes and a lack of resources for victim identification and care.

“Victims — including victims of domestic servitude — continued to be vulnerable to arrests, imprisonment and deportation for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, such as immigration violations and fleeing abusive employers,” the  report indicated.

“Jordan is a source, transit, and destination country for adults and children subjected to forced labour, domestic servitude and sex trafficking. Trafficking victims in Jordan are primarily from South and Southeast Asia, East Africa, Egypt and Syria,” according to the US report.

The same recommendations have been reiterated in the US government report for the past five years, according to Linda Kalash, director at Tamkeen, an NGO that works to combat human trafficking in Jordan.

Kalash said that Jordan has been “rapidly advancing” in tackling the problem of human trafficking, “but the efforts started fading in 2015”.

“Opening the human trafficking shelter in recent years was a very important step, but the human trafficking law still needs amendments in several areas including increasing the punishment and expanding the definition of human trafficking,” Kalash told The Jordan Times.

She highlighted the “urgent need” to increase awareness of human trafficking and include better training for individuals working in the field.

Government Coordinator for Human Rights Basil Tarawneh said the government has adopted a special system in dealing with such local, regional and international reports.

“The government’s human rights committee is tasked with studying and analysing the content of such reports to eventually refer observations to the concerned authorities for implementation and follow up,” Tarawneh told The Jordan Times.

He added that the Public Security Department (PSD) has a special unit for following-up on human trafficking violations. 

“We have conducted 100 trainings and lectures with the PSD, labour ministry workers and relevant local organisations offering help to the victims,” Tarawneh explained, noting that since the beginning of this year until the end of June, “the concerned authorities conducted several raids on establishments where they recorded 147 violations.”

“The cases included 182 females and 11 males who were victims of human trafficking. We have detained 201 perpetrators, including 133 men and 68 women,” he continued. 

Recommendations outlined in the report included, “amending the Anti-trafficking Law to ensure penalties for sex trafficking crimes are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes [and] ensuring victims are not inappropriately punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking”.

The report also focused on law enforcement and prison officials by recommending increases in trainings to proactively screen for, identify and refer trafficking victims to protection services, with a special focus on detained foreign migrants, domestic workers, women in prostitution, and other vulnerable populations.

The report also called for the full implementation of the national victim referral mechanism, a framework for identifying and assisting trafficking victims, and its distribution to all relevant officials.