Jordan is a destination and transit country for adults and children subjected to forced labor and, to a lesser extent, sex trafficking. Women from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines voluntarily migrate to Jordan for employment as domestic workers; some are subjected to conditions of forced labor after arrival, including through unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, nonpayment of wages, threats of imprisonment, and physical or sexual abuse. Jordan’s sponsorship system binds foreign workers to their designated employers without adequate access to legal recourse when they face abuse and without the ability to switch employers, thereby placing a significant amount of power in the hands of employers and recruitment agencies. Migrant workers are further vulnerable to forced labor due to indebtedness to recruiters, negative societal attitudes toward foreign workers, and legal requirements that foreign workers rely on employers to renew their work and residency permits. Sri Lankan, Indian, Chinese, Malagasy, Bangladeshi, Burmese, Nepali, and Vietnamese men and women continue to migrate for work in factories in Jordan’s garment industry; approximately 3,000 Burmese workers were recruited to work in the garment industry in 2012. Some of these workers encounter conditions indicative of forced labor, including unlawful withholding of passports, delayed payment of wages, forced overtime, unsanitary living conditions, and verbal and physical abuse; female factory workers are also vulnerable to sexual harassment. Workers in the garment sector continue to protest forced labor conditions. Egyptian migrant workers may experience forced labor in the construction and building maintenance sectors, while Egyptians and, to a lesser extent, Syrian workers also face conditions of forced labor in the agricultural sector.
Ongoing violence in Syria has caused thousands of Syrians, as well as third country nationals living in Syria, to flee to neighboring countries, including Jordan. An increased number of Syrian refugees, particularly women and children, are working in the Jordanian economy in undocumented status, making them vulnerable to trafficking. Anecdotal reporting suggests that Syrian refugee children in Za’atri refugee camp in Jordan peddle goods, and there are increasing numbers of Syrian refugee children begging in Jordanian cities. Additionally, unconfirmed media reports suggest that Syrian women and girls are forced into marriages with men from Jordan and the Gulf.
Moroccan, Tunisian, and Eastern European women are subjected to forced prostitution after migrating to Jordan to work in restaurants and night clubs. Moreover, some out-of-status Indonesian, Filipina, and Sri Lankan domestic workers are reportedly forced into prostitution. NGO reporting suggests that some Egyptian women receive marriage offers from Jordanian men as second wives, but are then subjected to conditions of forced labor, forced begging, or forced prostitution. Small numbers of Jordanian adults are subjected to forced labor as low-skilled workers in Qatar and Kuwait, while Jordanian children employed within the country as mechanics, agricultural laborers, and beggars may be exploited in situations of forced labor. Some Jordanian girls are forced to drop out of school to perform domestic service under conditions of forced labor; these “homebound girls” are confined to the home and denied their constitutionally protected right to complete their education. NGOs reported that administrators at several rehabilitation institutions for persons with disabilities allegedly forced disabled residents to work on farms or as domestic workers without compensation.
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. During the year, the government did not convict any trafficking offenders, and its legal framework for addressing trafficking remained flawed. Police facilitated an international organization’s repatriation of some victims and continued to identify and refer some trafficking victims to NGO-run shelter services. The government did not, however, fund or provide adequate shelter services for victims of trafficking despite a provision in the anti-trafficking law authorizing the establishment of shelters, and victims continued to face punishment.
Recommendations for Jordan: Amend the forced labor statute to increase prescribed penalties for forced labor offenses; increase efforts to prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenses with jail time using the anti-trafficking statute; strengthen efforts to proactively identify victims of forced labor and forced prostitution; enhance protective services for trafficking victims to include the availability of adequate shelter; ensure identified victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking; ensure that identified trafficking victims are promptly referred by law enforcement, social services, and labor officials to protection services using a standardized procedure; issue regulations governing work in the agricultural sector; and implement an awareness campaign to educate the general public and foreign migrant workers in all sectors on human trafficking, particularly forced labor and the proper treatment of domestic workers under Jordanian law.
The government made limited law enforcement efforts in responding to Jordan’s multi-faceted human trafficking problem. The 2008 Anti-Human Trafficking Law prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of six months to 10 years’ imprisonment for forced prostitution, child trafficking, and trafficking of women and girls; these penalties are sufficiently stringent, but not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Penalties prescribed for labor trafficking offenses against men that do not involve aggravating circumstances are limited to a minimum of six months’ imprisonment and a fine—penalties that are not sufficiently stringent and do not reflect the heinous nature of this serious crime. Jordan’s labor law assigns administrative penalties for labor violations committed against Jordanian or foreign workers, yet these penalties also are not sufficiently stringent to deter the crime of human trafficking. The government acknowledged that it had difficulty tracking human trafficking cases as they passed from the police and the labor inspectorate to the court system and social services. In 2012, the Public Security Directorate’s (PSD) anti-trafficking unit reported two sex trafficking investigations and 19 forced labor investigations, three of which involved domestic servitude. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) reported prosecuting eight cases of trafficking in 2012 under the anti-trafficking law; however, because the MOJ was unable to provide additional information on these prosecutions, it was unclear whether these cases involved sex or labor trafficking. The government did not report convicting any trafficking offenders in 2012, a decrease from the four convictions in the previous reporting period. In response to the allegations of forced labor of disabled residents by government rehabilitation institution administrators, the Ministry of Social Development replaced these administrators; the case remained under investigation at the end of the reporting period. There was no evidence that any employers in the garment sector were investigated or prosecuted. The government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of government employees for alleged complicity in trafficking–related offenses during the reporting period.
In December 2012, the Higher Judicial Council authorized the creation of a committee of judges responsible for overseeing judicial activities related to human trafficking, including analyzing cases that have entered into the judicial system since the anti-trafficking law was enacted, amending training materials, and coordinating judicial trainings. The government did not fund anti-trafficking training for Jordanian officials in this reporting period, though the PSD anti-trafficking unit provided training to other regional governments, including Saudi Arabia, in cooperation with Prince Nayef University.
The government made insignificant progress in protecting victims of trafficking during the reporting period, and its lack of proactive protection provisions continued to be harmful to victims. It did not provide any specialized services to trafficking victims, nor did it adequately ensure that identified victims were not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. It continued, however, to identify and refer trafficking victims to donor-funded shelter services, and it helped an international organization repatriate hundreds of identified victims of trafficking sheltered within foreign embassies. The anti-trafficking unit identified and referred 30 potential female trafficking victims to a local NGO-operated shelter, a slight increase compared to the previous reporting period. Despite this, the inter-ministerial National Screening Team, which is responsible for identifying trafficking victims, was inactive for most of the reporting period and did not seek to interview potential victims among high-risk populations. While the anti-trafficking law contains a provision for the opening of shelters, the country continued to lack adequate shelter services for female or male victims of trafficking. Shelters run by foreign embassies continued to fill with female domestic workers who fled abusive employers and who, in the event that their employer did not keep their legal status current, cannot leave Jordan without an exit permit and the payment of overstay fees. In April 2012, the Cabinet approved bylaws under which the government could establish a shelter for victims of trafficking, but the government took no steps to either construct a government shelter or solicit NGO proposals to operate a trafficking shelter. The government paid for five male trafficking victims to reside at a hotel during the reporting period. The anti-trafficking unit’s eight female officers performed limited duties for victims and did not conduct interviews for the purpose of an investigation. The government did not attempt to identify trafficking victims among detained foreign domestic workers and out-of-status migrant workers, even those who claimed abuse; domestic workers often sought refuge at their respective embassies.
Pursuant to a directive from the former prime minister in August 2012, the government granted a one-time amnesty for out-of-status domestic workers, waiving their overstay fines and granted exit permits for Sri Lankan, Indonesian, and Filipina women and girls—some stranded for at least eight months in their embassies—many of whom were domestic workers who fled abusive employers, and some were identified as trafficking victims. This directive allowed over 750 women to return to their country of origin during the reporting period. At the end of this reporting period, however, domestic workers continued to flee abusive employers and sought shelter at their embassies. Additionally, in January 2013, the government instructed the PSD to disregard flight notifications of those at border crossings, thus allowing for individuals to be repatriated at will without punishment. Per this directive, an international organization and some foreign governments repatriated 1,250 women at the end of this reporting period. In December 2012, the Ministry of Labor announced a short-term amnesty for third-country domestic workers whose immigration documents had expired, which granted them waivers of their accumulated overstay fines and new work permits. This amnesty program regularized the status of 6,000 domestic workers. However, observers noted that women whose employers had filed “flight notifications” with the government were not able to benefit from this program, as they were barred from leaving the country. It is unknown how many of these workers were trafficking victims, as there was no effort to identify and assist trafficking victims among this large group of domestic workers. The anti-trafficking unit also assisted NGOs to repatriate some Moroccan and Egyptian trafficking victims.
Victims continued to be vulnerable to arrest and detention—sometimes for extended periods of time—if found without valid residency documents, and some foreign domestic workers fleeing abusive employers were incarcerated after their employers filed false claims of theft against them. For example, in September 2012, the PSD anti-trafficking unit led an effort to round up Filipina women to check for valid residency and work permits; those who could not produce their legal documents were immediately detained until their sponsors could claim them. In so doing, the PSD made no effort to proactively identify trafficking victims among those they temporarily detained. NGOs reported that police forcibly returned potential labor trafficking victims to their employers during this reporting period. The fining of foreign workers without valid residency documents—including identified trafficking victims—served as a strong disincentive to remain in Jordan and pursue legal action against traffickers. The government did not actively encourage victims to participate in the investigation or prosecution of trafficking offenses committed against them. Labor regulations prevented the three-person labor inspectorate dedicated to addressing abuses against domestic workers from investigating abuses in private homes, which continued to isolate domestic workers and “homebound girls.” Additionally, the government lacked specific regulations to govern the agriculture sector, which left labor abuses and trafficking victims in this sector largely undetected.
The government’s efforts to prevent trafficking stagnated during the reporting period. The government distributed anti-trafficking brochures to foreign migrants at border crossings, police stations, and in the garment sector. The anti-trafficking committee was required by law to meet quarterly, but it was unclear if it met during the reporting period. The government made minimal efforts to rectify weaknesses in the bylaws that provide standards for employing domestic workers. However, the labor inspectorate continued to enforce a directive that requires employers of domestic workers to deposit their salaries into bank accounts. In 2012, the labor inspectorate investigated the practices of 39 recruitment agencies, recommended closing six agencies, and effectively closed two. The Ministry of Labor (MOL) Inspection Department only had 120 labor inspectors for the entire country, which government officials and NGOs agreed was insufficient to fulfill its mandate. The PSD signed a memorandum of understanding with the MOL to establish a joint unit focused on combating trafficking, which consisted of police officers, MOL officers, and labor inspectors. The MOL continued to operate a hotline to receive labor complaints, which included interpretation services available in some source-country languages; however, the hotline did not maintain complete records of calls received and it was only operational during daytime hours. The government did not undertake any discernible measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor during the reporting period. The government provided an optional anti-trafficking training for its nationals being deployed abroad for peacekeeping operations.