Human trafficking in Jordan
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Jordan is a destination and transit country for women and men from South and Southeast Asia trafficked for the purpose of forced labor. Jordan is also a destination for women from Eastern Europe and Morocco for prostitution; there were no reports that any of these women were trafficked for sexual exploitation. Women from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines migrate willingly to work as domestic servants, but some are subjected to conditions of forced labor, including unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, non-payment of wages, threats, and physical or sexual abuse. Trafficking of domestic workers is facilitated by the fact that the normal protections provided to workers under Jordanian labor law do not apply either to domestic or agricultural laborers, leaving them highly vulnerable to abuse by exploitative employers. In response to a high rate of abuse of Filipina domestic workers by employers in Jordan, the Government of the Philippines instituted a ban on additional Filipina workers migrating to Jordan for domestic work during the reporting period. In addition, some Chinese, Bangladeshi, Indian, Sri Lankan, and Vietnamese men and women have encountered conditions similar to forced labor in several factories in Jordan’s Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZs), including unlawful withholding of passports; non-payment of wages; and physical abuse. In past years, Jordan was a transit country for South and Southeast Asian men deceptively recruited with fraudulent job offers in Jordan, but instead trafficked to work involuntarily in Iraq. There have been no substantiated reports of this, however, during this reporting period.
The Government of Jordan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Nevertheless, Jordan is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking in persons over the previous year, particularly in the area of law enforcement against trafficking for forced labor. The government made minimal efforts to investigate or prosecute numerous allegations related to exploitation of foreign domestic workers employed in Jordanian homes throughout the year. National labor laws do not apply to domestic or agricultural workers, including allegations of physical and sexual abuse. There were continuing reports of abusive conditions in some QIZ factories, but the number decreased from the preceding year. Though the government made some efforts to improve enforcement of its labor laws through inspections and administrative means, Jordan failed for a second year to criminally prosecute and punish those who committed acts of forced labor. Moreover, domestic and agricultural workers remain exempt from the protections of Jordan’s labor laws, facilitating the ability of unscrupulous employers to subject them to conditions of involuntary servitude. Jordan also continues to lack victim protection services, and its failure to distinguish between trafficking and illegal immigration creates vulnerability for punishment of victims of trafficking.
The Government of Jordan continued to make inadequate efforts to criminally punish trafficking offenders during the reporting period. Jordan does not specifically prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, but the government prohibits slavery through its Anti-Slavery Law of 1929; prescribed penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment under this statute are not sufficiently stringent, but are commensurate with those penalties prescribed for grave crimes, such as rape. Neither labor nor sex trafficking is otherwise explicitly prohibited. However, the government can use statutes against kidnapping, assault, rape, withholding of passports, and physical restraint to prosecute trafficking-related offenses. In this reporting period, the government’s Human Rights Center hotline received 2,479 complaints, including some for conditions of forced labor; although authorities reported resolving 77 percent of these cases, the government did not provide evidence of any prosecutions, convictions, or jail sentences for forced labor of domestic workers. In addition, despite well-documented evidence of serious cases of forced labor in the QIZs from previous years, the government responded with primarily administrative penalties; courts convicted three individuals for physical abuse of foreign workers in a factory and sentenced them to fines rather than sufficient prison sentences that would create a deterrent against future forced labor crimes. The government shut down one factory in January 2008 after repeated violations of non-payment of wages, non-payment of overtime, physical abuse, and poor living conditions; no one has been prosecuted or criminally punished yet for these offenses. Through training of labor inspectors, almost all QIZ workers are reportedly in possession of their passports, and the number and severity of violations of workers’ rights decreased substantially. Nonetheless, in March, an NGO reported that 176 Vietnamese workers complained, that their employer forced them to work 14–18 hours per day, withheld their passports, and did not give them their promised wages. The government returned their passports and assisted workers who wished to be repatriated to return home.
The Government of Jordan made inadequate efforts to protect trafficking victims during the reporting period. Jordan does not operate a shelter for trafficking victims. The Government of Jordan provides non-financial support to international organizations that have anti-trafficking programs, such as UNIFEM and IOM. The government also lacks formal procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as foreigners arrested for illegal migration or prostitution. As a result, some victims of trafficking are punished for acts committed as a result of being trafficked. In cases where foreign domestic workers run away from their employers or approach authorities to claim abuse, an employer will often accuse them of theft, for which they will be imprisoned. The government may put victims of sexual assault – including foreign workers assaulted by their employers – into jail. In February, the Ministry of Interior waived over-stay fines for 185 runaway Filipina domestic workers in order to allow them to be repatriated, but did not report helping them receive compensation for their abuses. Other workers who are unable to pay their overstay fines – including those who run away from abusive employers or who are out of legal status because their employers did not file necessary documents – may be imprisoned until their fines are paid and then deported. Victims are not encouraged to participate in investigations against their employers; sources allege that workers are discouraged from filing complaints or pressing charges and that some police dissuade workers from formally lodging claims for sexual assault. The government does not provide foreign victims of trafficking with legal alternatives to removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution.
Jordan made limited efforts to prevent trafficking in persons this reporting period. The Ministry of Labor trained labor inspectors on anti-trafficking, and recruitment agencies on the rights of domestic workers. The government continued to publish a guidebook for domestic workers on their rights and offered hotline numbers that workers can call to report abuse. Although the Government did not financially sponsor anti-trafficking campaigns for workers in the QIZ factories, government officials participated in anti-trafficking seminars for QIZ factory management and workers organized by international and non-governmental organizations. Jordan made no discernible effort to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Similarly, the government did not institute a public awareness campaign or other measure targeting citizens traveling to known child sex tourism destinations abroad, although there is no indication that Jordan is a point of origin for child sex tourism. Jordan has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.