An independent United Nations human rights expert commended Egypt’s efforts to combat human trafficking, while highlighting several challenges that need to be tackled, including a lack of awareness about the full extent of the problem and an absence of accurate data.
Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, presented her preliminary findings at a news conference in the capital, Cairo, as she concluded her 11-day mission to the country.
The absence of accurate data on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, which has made it impossible to measure the magnitude of the scourge in Egypt, is among her “issues of immediate concern,” according to a statement issued.
Ezeilo, who visited Cairo, Alexandria and Sharm el-Sheikh during the mission, added that the forms and manifestation of trafficking in persons are not well understood and there is a “general lack of awareness and knowledge” about the problem.
“There is a growing trend of sexual and economic exploitation of young Egyptian girls by their families and brokers, who execute marriages that are also popularly known as ‘seasonal or temporary’ marriage,” the statement noted. “These types of marriages sometimes provide a smokescreen for providing sexual services to foreign men.”
Common forms of trafficking in Egypt also include child labour, domestic servitude and other forms of sexual exploitation and prostitution. Although the country has been described as a transit country for trafficking, it may also be a source and a destination country, said the statement.
Among the other issues raised by the Special Rapporteur are the lack of infrastructure and services specifically designed for assisting and rehabilitating trafficking victims, such as shelters and hotlines, and limited participation of and consultation with civil society organizations in formulating anti-trafficking policies and programmes.
Ezeilo makes a number of preliminary recommendations to the Government, including providing programmes to enhance knowledge and awareness of human trafficking, developing a comprehensive national action plan to combat it, and tackling the root causes of trafficking such as poverty, unemployment, and gender discrimination.
On the positive side, she congratulated the Egyptian Government on the adoption of the Law on Combating Trafficking in Persons and called for its full implementation, voicing her hope that the law “will contribute in particular to the eradication of trafficking in persons for the purposes of temporary or seasonal marriages.”
She also noted the high level of political will to combat human trafficking, as reflected by the Government’s ratification of numerous international treaties on the issue and steps taken at the national level, as well as the “visionary” leadership of the First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak, in raising public awareness and mobilizing the Government, the corporate sector and civil society organizations in the fight.
During her fact-finding mission, Ezeilo met with representatives of the Government and the judiciary, as well as international and civil society organizations involved in combating human trafficking.
The Special Rapporteur, who works in an independent and unpaid capacity, will present her report to an upcoming session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.