Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

JORDAN: Tier 2

Jordan is a source, destination, and transit country for adults and children subjected to forced labor and, to a lesser extent, sex trafficking. Women from Southeast Asia and East Africa voluntarily migrate to Jordan for employment among the estimated 50,000 foreign domestic workers in the country; some domestic workers are subjected to forced labor. Many of these workers are unable to return to their home countries due to pending criminal charges against them or due to their inability to pay overstay penalties or plane fare home. Some migrant workers from Egypt—the largest source of foreign labor in Jordan—experience forced labor in the construction, service, and agricultural sectors. Syrians may face forced labor in the agricultural sector, while some refugee children are subjected to the worst forms of child labor. Men and women from throughout Asia migrate to work in factories in Jordan’s garment industry where some workers experience forced labor. Jordan’s sponsorship system places a significant amount of power in the hands of employers and recruitment agencies, preventing workers from switching employers or receiving adequate access to legal recourse in response to abuse. Some Sri Lankan women engaged in prostitution in the country may be trafficking victims.

An increasing number of Syrian refugees—particularly women and children—work illegally and informally in the Jordanian economy, which puts them at risk of trafficking. There is a reported increase in Syrian refugee children working alongside their families in shops and marketplaces in cities and the agricultural sector, as well as peddling goods and begging. According to media reports, some Syrian refugee women and girls endure sex trafficking. In early 2014, an international organization reported a case of a Syrian woman whose Syrian husband forced her into prostitution in a nightclub in Jordan. Jordanian law enforcement, NGOs, and the media reported some instances of Syrian refugee women and girls being sold into “temporary” or forced marriages to Jordanians and men from the Gulf for the purpose of prostitution. Syrian, Lebanese, North African, and Eastern European women may be forced into prostitution after migrating to Jordan to work in restaurants and nightclubs; some Jordanian women working in nightclubs may also be forced into prostitution. Some out-of-status domestic workers from Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka are reportedly forced into prostitution after fleeing their employers. Jordanian children employed within the country as mechanics, agricultural laborers, and beggars may be victims of forced labor. There are reports of organized child begging rings involving Jordanian, Syrian, and Egyptian children. Some Jordanian girls are forced to drop out of school to perform domestic service in their families’ homes.

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 substantially increased efforts to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders, and continued to identify and refer to protection services an increased number of trafficking victims. Authorities also increased referrals of trafficking victims to a government-run shelter for gender-based violence (GBV) victims; as of early 2014, this shelter provided specific care for trafficking victims. Furthermore, in March 2015, the government completed construction of a shelter dedicated exclusively to trafficking victims, and was in the process of equipping and staffing the facility at the end of the reporting period; it was also in the process of drafting a national victim referral mechanism at the end of the reporting period. Though the government improved its law enforcement and victim identification and referral efforts, it did not systematically investigate potential cases of trafficking that involved withholding of passports and wages. Trafficking victims—particularly domestic workers who ran away from abusive employers—continued to face arrest and imprisonment.


Continue to increase efforts to prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenses with adequate jail time under the anti-trafficking law; investigate and punish individuals for withholding workers’ passports under Jordan’s passport law; continue to proactively identify trafficking victims, particularly among vulnerable populations, such as detained foreign migrants, domestic workers, children and women in prostitution, and Syrian refugees; implement standardized referral procedures for authorities to promptly refer identified victims to protection services; make the newly constructed trafficking shelter fully operational, and adequately train staff to provide care specifically for trafficking victims at both the new trafficking shelter and the GBV shelter; ensure identified victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, such as immigration or prostitution violations or escaping from an abusive employer; issue regulations governing work in the agricultural sector; and continue to implement anti-trafficking awareness campaigns.


The government significantly increased law enforcement efforts to combat all forms of trafficking, including those involving the most vulnerable populations. The 2009 anti-human trafficking law prohibits all forms of sex and labor 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 are not sufficiently stringent; offenses against adult male victims that do not involve aggravating circumstances are limited to a minimum of six months’ imprisonment and a fine. Jordan’s labor law assigns administrative penalties for labor violations committed against Jordanian or foreign workers, yet these penalties are not sufficiently stringent to deter the crime of human trafficking. The withholding of passports is a crime under Jordan’s passport law, which prescribes six months’ to three years’ imprisonment, as well as financial penalties.

The Public Security Directorate (PSD) and Ministry of Labor (MOL) joint anti-trafficking unit increased its investigations of potential trafficking cases. In 2014, the joint anti-trafficking unit reported investigating 311 potential trafficking cases and referred for prosecution 53 cases involving 91 male and 24 female alleged trafficking offenders; this was a substantial increase from the 24 investigations and 17 prosecutions in 2013. Ten of these cases involved sex trafficking, nine involved alleged forced labor violations, and 34 involved exploitation of domestic workers. In December 2014, the joint unit investigated and referred for prosecution six suspects for forcing a 17-year-old Syrian refugee girl into 21 “temporary” marriages over a two-year time period—for the purpose of prostitution—to various men including those from the Gulf; she was also forced to undergo seven hymen reconstruction surgeries. The “marriage broker”, doctor, fake sharia judge, two witnesses, as well as the victim’s mother in absentia, were charged under the anti-trafficking law and remained in detention at the end of the reporting period. The Ministry of Justice reported the government’s conviction of 28 offenders under the anti-trafficking law in 2014—also marking a significant increase from two convictions in 2013. The penalties applied against the convicted trafficking offenders ranged from one to 10 years’ temporary hard labor, three to six months’ imprisonment, and financial fees.

The joint anti-trafficking unit settled 109 cases involving the withholding of passports, nonpayment of wages, and restricted freedom. Though these cases involved conditions indicative of trafficking crimes, the government did not categorize them as such. NGOs and foreign embassy representatives reported the joint unit preferred to settle potential cases of domestic servitude through mediation, rather than referring them for criminal prosecution. Foreign embassy officials reported the government failed to investigate cases in which workers’ wages had reportedly been withheld for at least five years. Despite reports employers continued to withhold garment workers’ documents, authorities did not routinely investigate or prosecute employers in this sector for document withholding or criminal trafficking offenses. The government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of government employees for complicity in trafficking-related offenses. The joint anti-trafficking unit trained other law enforcement officials on trafficking during internal PSD workshops in 2014.


The government continued to make progress in its efforts to proactively identify and protect trafficking victims. The government identified 121 female and 40 male victims in 2014; this represents an increase from 90 victims identified in the previous reporting period. The government referred 122 potential victims to a government-run shelter for GBV victims, a local NGO-operated shelter, and an international organization; this was a significant increase from 46 victim referrals in 2013. In March 2015, the government completed construction of a shelter solely dedicated to protecting trafficking victims; however, it was not operational and a designated budget was being developed cooperatively between the government and an international organization at the end of the reporting period. The government began development of a national victim referral mechanism; in the interim, it continued to shelter victims at a GBV facility and to refer victims to services. During the reporting period, the joint anti-trafficking unit agreed to regularly refer trafficking victims to a local NGO for legal aid; in December 2014, the unit referred five victims as a result of the agreement. In early 2014, the government officially expanded the mandate of a shelter for GBV victims to formalize its assistance to trafficking victims; it could house up to 50 female victims of violence and offered medical, psycho-social, educational, and legal assistance. The joint anti-trafficking unit referred 31 cases to the shelter during the reporting period and demonstrated professionalism and sensitivity when handling trafficking cases.

Foreign female domestic workers continued to seek refuge at their respective embassies, which provided shelters for hundreds of workers who fled abusive employers. Many of them were waiting for the return of their passports, back pay for unpaid salaries, or resolution of labor disputes or criminal charges. The government conducted outreach to foreign embassies and migrant workers, waived overstay fines to facilitate workers’ departure from the country, and waived fees for renewing expired work permits during its March to May 2014 and February to April 2015 amnesty periods. Nonetheless, victims remained vulnerable to arrest and detention if found without valid residency documents and the government incarcerated some foreign domestic workers fleeing abusive employers after their employers or recruitment agencies filed false claims of theft against them. NGOs noted trained law enforcement officials did not always interview or screen foreign migrant workers in administrative detention or those charged with crimes as potential trafficking victims. The fining of foreign workers without valid residency documents—including identified trafficking victims—served as a strong disincentive for trafficking victims to remain in Jordan and pursue legal action against traffickers. The government did not provide foreign victims with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they might face hardship or retribution.


The government continued efforts to prevent trafficking. The anti-trafficking committee met twice during the reporting period and its technical committee met 10 times. In April 2014, the anti-trafficking committee published a report documenting Jordan’s anti-trafficking efforts from 2010 to 2014. The government continued to distribute anti-trafficking brochures to foreign migrants at border crossings, police stations, airports, and in the garment sector. The government did not report taking measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government did not provide specific anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported its finance department directly paid locally-hired domestic staff of Jordanian diplomats posted abroad, in accordance with labor laws and wage rates in the host country. The government did not provide specific anti-trafficking training for its peacekeepers before their deployment abroad.

The MOL employed 160 inspectors, up from 120 employed in 2013, responsible for enforcing the labor code. In 2014, the MOL conducted 88,208 labor inspections, found 24,034 labor violations, and recommended the closure of 8,112 workplaces, of which 2,095 were subsequently closed. The MOL inspected 60 recruitment agencies and closed two. A 2011 decree issued by the labor minister requiring employers to pay their domestic workers by direct deposit to a bank account was not fully implemented or enforced in 2014. In February 2015, the government published regulations governing domestic worker recruitment agencies, which would require employers to provide insurance for health and labor incidents, as well as “runaway insurance” as part of the contract for foreign domestic workers; should a worker not complete his or her contract, this “insurance” ensures an employer will be reimbursed the original recruitment fee paid to acquire a worker. The MOL continued to operate a hotline that received labor complaints and included interpretation services available in some source-country languages.