11th June 2021 - Vienna, Austria
Refugees who are fleeing conflict and crisis are being targeted by human traffickers who take advantage of their vulnerable circumstances and search for a better life.
Traffickers thrive in situations of instability and refugees, among them unaccompanied children, are at risk when they cross borders, travel inside a host country or even live inside a camp.
Conflicts, such as the wars in Syria and Iraq, have resulted in millions of people seeking refuge in countries in the Middle East, and cases of human trafficking
among these populations and in this region have been reported in recent years.
“People displaced in such circumstances often have no viable alternatives than to place their trust in strangers who make fake promises of jobs and other sources of income. Such a setting is a fertile breeding ground for exploitation,” said Anna Tsitsina, from UNODC’s Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section.
“Despite the efforts of the countries that offer a safe haven to refugees and displaced people, their vulnerable situation exposes them to the continuous risk of trafficking, primarily for sexual exploitation, forced labour and criminality, including forced begging or forced marriages,” she adds.
In response, UNODC is partnering with authorities in Jordan and Lebanon to address the protection and assistance needs of refugees and displaced people in these countries.
Jordan currently hosts over 750,000 refugees, mainly from Syria and Iraq. The country has already taken a number of measures to reduce the risks and vulnerabilities to trafficking of at-risk populations, increase the identification of trafficking cases and establish effective referral systems for victims.
In addition, Jordan recently passed an amendment to its anti-human trafficking law, which now includes forced begging as a type of exploitation.
This month, Jordan hosted the second UNODC workshop on the identification of victims of trafficking among refugees and how to respond to this crime.
The three-day event brought together law enforcement officers, labour inspectors, representatives from social services, the healthcare sector and non-governmental organizations from the Governorate of Irbid.
During her presentation, Dr. Hanan al Khalayleh, Director of the Human Rights Directorate, Ministry of Justice, referred to the necessity of standard operating procedures, referral mechanisms and an anti-trafficking law, but also stressed the important role of training in anti-trafficking efforts.
“Having adequate knowledge and awareness of human trafficking and continuously building the capacities of the first responders to this crime will also help the victims to get justice,” she said.
Dr Thaher Al Balas, from the Ministry of Health said he attended the workshop due to the “importance of the issue” and the presence of many refugees in Jordan.
“I’m now aware of the signs of a case of human trafficking. I will definitely use this knowledge as a doctor and will spread awareness in my field of work.”
Fellow participant, Bilal Al Rubay, from the Irbid Labour Inspection Directorate said the knowledge he gained will help him when dealing with complaints received by his department.
The Governorate of Irbid borders with Syria. According to the latest figures from UNHCR, the UN’s Refugee Agency, nearly 140,000 Syrian refugees are living in this region.
“When the complaints received match the indicators of human trafficking, I will make every effort to investigate. I will communicate with the relevant authorities to follow up on the issue until it has been handled properly,” said Mr. Al Rubay.
Later this year, similar workshops will be held in neighbouring Lebanon, which is the country hosting the largest number of refugees per capita. There are an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
“Ultimately, we want to see the identification of more victims of trafficking among refugees and displaced people in Jordan and Lebanon, so they can be provided with appropriate assistance,” says Anna Tsitsina.
“We also want to empower countries to prosecute such offences and punish those responsible,” she added.
The UNODC project is being implemented with the financial support of Switzerland, Cyprus, and the Sovereign Order of Malta