Human Trafficking in Jordan
On Wednesday, March 3, 2021, Jordan’s Lower House of Parliament approved a draft law to make amendments to the nation’s Anti-Human-Trafficking Law. The newly adjusted law aims to reduce human trafficking in Jordan by increasing the penalties for human traffickers, while also providing further support to victims and persons these crimes affect. Additionally, the Lower House established a special fund that compensates trafficking victims for the harm they received. According to Jordan’s Minister of State, Mahmoud Kharabsheh, “the draft law protects young beggars who are exploited and protects people from bonded labor.”

The Situation

This initiative aptly responds to the 2020 U.S. Trafficking in Person’s Report on Jordan, which declared that the country did not meet the requirements for the elimination of trafficking. The report designated Jordan as a Tier 2 country, meaning that although the country has not met the standards for reducing human trafficking, it is making significant efforts to do so.

In 2020, the Jordanian government made several efforts to prevent human trafficking, including distributing relevant cautionary information to all foreign migrant workers. However, the in Person’s report also mentioned that the government did not make any efforts to decrease commercial sex acts and the prostitution of minors. For this reason among others, it is evident from the 2020 report that Jordan’s government still has a long way to go in implementing anti-human-trafficking legislation. The country’s new Anti-Human-Trafficking Law passed on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, is a timely step in the right direction.

Trafficking Victims in Jordan

The victims of human trafficking in Jordan are primarily migrant workers from South and Southeast Asia, East Africa, Egypt and Syria. Foreign migrant workers are the most vulnerable to human trafficking due to a variety of reasons. Oftentimes these people have left their home country to escape dangerous conditions or abuse, or in the hope of earning more money. Syrian refugees in Jordan are a prominent example of a vulnerable population not only in search of safe living conditions but requiring jobs as well. Because many of Jordan’s foreign workers are undocumented, their illegal status makes them unlikely to complain about their employers or leave in fear of experiencing deportation. The many disadvantages that foreign migrant workers in Jordan face make them especially vulnerable to human trafficking.

Although it is difficult to quantify human trafficking in Jordan, some relevant statistics exist that help to illustrate the scope of the issue. A study that the Jordanian Women’s Union in 2020 published found that “the number of human trafficking cases in Jordan that the police had dealt with between 2009 and 2019 was 224.” Of these cases, “forced domestic labor topped the figures with 55.8 percent… while sexual exploitation cases represented 6.3 percent, followed by exploitation of prostitution cases with 5.8 percent.” Considering that 800,000 undocumented foreign workers had employment in Jordan in 2016 alone, the number of human trafficking cases that the police dealt with is disproportionately small.

In conjunction with the study’s findings, Muhannad Dweikat, one of the experts who prepared the JWU’s study, emphasized the need for more anti-trafficking legislation in Jordan. He remarked, “Based on the figures… it is important to create a national mechanism for human trafficking cases, which would be considered as a reliable reference when dealing with such cases.”

Looking Ahead

Human trafficking in Jordan is a big problem that requires more national attention in order for the country to move out of the Tier 2 Watch list. The majority of human trafficking victims in Jordan are foreign migrant workers, however, an upwards trend has taken place seeing that, “in 2019, the government identified nine trafficking victims, which represented a significant decrease from the 40 identified victims in 2018.” This data, along with the solidification of new anti-human trafficking legislation in Jordan, illustrates that the humanitarian crisis has gained more prominence within the country. Jordan is taking strides to end human trafficking, and its recent successes prove it.

– Eliza Kirk
Photo: Flickr