CAIRO: The Middle East and Africa region hosted the highest percentage of victims of human trafficking with 68 percent, according to a Wednesday statement by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
July 30, 2014 marked the first World Day against Human Trafficking.
Human trafficking is the act of trading humans, within one country or trans-nationally, by means of kidnapping, use of force, deception or other forms of coercion for different purposes including; sexual slavery, forced labor, extraction of human organs and forced marriage.
In his message on the event, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that human trafficking is a “callous global industry that denies victims their rights and dignity and generates billions of dollars for organized criminal networks.”
Moon attributed the reason of the rising of the phenomenon to “Extreme poverty, entrenched inequality and a lack of education and opportunity.”
Among the trafficked victims, there are children and women who were deceived and exploited for harsh work and sex to work in conditions close to slavery.
More than a quarter of all human trafficking victims detected are children, and the percentage is higher in some regions, according to UNODC statement, which noted that among each four victims there is one child.
UNODC launched a social media campaign entitled #igivehope to encourage people to show solidarity with the victims of this crime.
Progress on “human trafficking” in Egypt
The Secretary General of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood Azza el-Ashmawy said that Egypt has taken important procedures to combat human trafficking, referring to the articles stipulating this in the 2014 constitution.
The practices of human trafficking were prohibited in the 2014 constitution under the Article 89 which reads, “All forms of slavery, oppression, forced exploitation of human beings, sex trade, and other forms of human trafficking are prohibited and criminalized by the law.”
Ashmawy added to Youm7 Thursday that Egypt managed, over the past years, to foil many attempts of human trafficking, including trafficking of women and children, as well as what is called “Deal marriage” which means forcing young girls to marry older men.
These acts were intercepted and investigated by public prosecution under Article 291 in the penal code, she said.
According to a 2014 report by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Egypt was promoted to 2nd rank on the list, noting that although it does not comply with standards, it exerted significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with those standards.
Egypt has faced criticism over ongoing practices of slavery trade and smuggling Africans, as Egypt is considered an influential passage.
In an investigative report by Al-Ahram in June 2012, it quoted human rights activist Hamdi el-Azazi saying that international organizations’ estimations of smuggled Africans from Egypt to Israel from year 2006 to 2011 reached 30,000.
It is estimated that 25,000–30,000 people were victims of Sinai trafficking between 2009–2013 and that the Sinai trafficking industry generated $622 million in ransoms, according to a report titled “The Human Trafficking Cycle: Sinai and Beyond,” issued in Dec. 4, 2013.
Human Rights Watch said in a February 11 report, according to dozens of interviewees that “traffickers have kidnapped, tortured, and killed refugees, most of which were from Eritrea, in eastern Sudan and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.”
Criticism also increased around frequent arrests of survivors of human trafficking in Sinai Peninsula, and treating them as illegal immigrants.
Youm7 reported in June 2014 an incident where parents sold their four-month daughter in return for 85,000 EGP. The two parents were detained over the charge of human trafficking.
“Human Trafficking” in the law
The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children explains that the act has to be carried out without the consent of the victim.
It entered into force in December 2003 and was ratified by 159 states as of February 2014. Egypt ratified the protocol in March 5, 2004.
The protocol is one of three supplementary protocols to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
The purposes of the protocol are, “to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, paying particular attention to women and children; to protect and assist the victims of such trafficking, with full respect for their human rights; and to promote cooperation among state parties in order to meet those objectives.”
The UNODC’s statement added that less than half the countries in the world had legislation criminalizing human trafficking.
Additional reporting by Osama Abdel Hameed