In 2005, some 191 million people — 3 percent of the world’s population — lived outside their country of origin. The magnitude and complexity of international migration makes it an important force in development and a high-priority issue for both developing and developed countries. The fact that about half of all migrants are women, most of reproductive age, is another reason that this is a pressing issue for UNFPA.
Internal migration within countries is also on the rise, as people move in response to inequitable distribution of resources, services and opportunities, or to escape violence or natural disaster. The movement of people from rural to urban areas has contributed to the explosive growth of cities around the globe.
Egypt is both a country of destination and departure. It is a recipient country for Iraqis, Sudanese, Somalis and Eritreans, while being an emigrant country for Arab Gulf Countries, Europe, Canada and the United States, among others.
Encouraging legal migration as a milestone to alleviate unemployment and demographic trends is at the center of Egyptian migration policy. Legal migration brings the opportunity to fill labour market gaps in the recipient countries, while at the same time maximizing economic benefits of regular migration through their remittances and ensuring the welfare of Egyptian migrants abroad.
The majority of Egyptian migrants are youths who want to migrate with the intention of returning to Egypt after a temporary stay in the countries of destination. The main purpose for migration is overwhelmingly economic. Young males migrate to achieve specific economic goals and then return to Egypt. Egyptian youth regards migration — legal or illegal — as a possible way to escape poverty and unemployment.
With respect to the reason for migration, different studies
have indicated that the main reasons behind migration are the low wages and salaries in Egypt compared to other countries, bad living conditions, and the lack of job opportunities in Egypt, especially among new graduates.
With regard to refugees in Egypt, UNHCR Egypt
covers a large urban refugee and asylum-seeker population, totally 42,500 cases of concern in 2007. Iraqis account for 25 percent out of the total registered cases. Among the 36 countries represented by refugees and asylum-seekers in Egypt, Iraqis are followed by large numbers of Eritreans, Somalis and Sudanese.
Although Egypt is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the 1967 Protocol and the 1969 OAU Convention regarding specific problems of refugees in Africa, the Government does not yet have with any national asylum legislation and procedures. Therefore, all activities relating to refugees living in Egypt are carried out by UNHCR. Among the main concerns are the difficult living conditions and restrictions on access to basic facilities, such as education, employment and health, although emergency and primary health care are available through public facilties to everybody with legal residency.
"Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs."
According to the protocol supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, trafficking has been defined as "the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation".
The Problem in Egypt
The latest report issued, stated that Egypt is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation. It is placed in the 2009 United States TVPA Report as a Tier 2 Watch List Country
because absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking has been significantly increasing over the last year.
Some of Egypt’s reports estimated one million street children — both boys and girls — are exploited in prostitution and forced begging. Local gangs are, at times, involved in this exploitation. Egyptian children are recruited for domestic and agricultural labor; some of these children face conditions indicative of involuntary servitude, such as restrictions on movement, non-payment of wages, threats and physical or sexual abuse.
In addition, Arab men from a variety of countries reportedly travel to Egypt to purchase “tourism marriages” with Egyptian females, including girls who are under the age of 18; these arrangements are often facilitated by the females’ parents and marriage brokers. Child sex tourism is increasingly reported in Cairo, Alexandria and Luxor.
Young female Sudanese refugees, including those under 18, may be coerced into prostitution in Cairo’s nightclubs by family or Sudanese gang members. Egypt is a transit country for women trafficked from Eastern European countries to Israel for sexual exploitation; organized crime groups are involved in these movements.
Although the Government has enacted amendments to the Child Law prohibiting child trafficking, provided training for government officials on the use of these amendments, and begun prosecution of several alleged sex trafficking offenders, there remains insufficient progress in anti-trafficking law enforcement. Formal victim identification procedures and protection services are missing. Although, the First Lady has supported anti-trafficking advocacy meetings during 2008 that have led to a substantial increase in press coverage on the subject, there is not a public campaign yet articulated to raise awareness among the general public.
Prosecution is still very weak in the Egyptian penal code, which does not prohibit all forms of trafficking. The Unified Labour Law does not define forced labour and there are no provisions against it.
However, some efforts have been made since June 2008, when the government enacted amendments to the Child Law (No. 126 of 2008), which include provisions prohibiting the trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour. The sentences prescribed are equal to other grave crimes, with the minimum term of imprisonment set at five years.
In addition, the National Council on Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) is in the process of drafting by-laws to guide the implementation of the amendments to the child protection law. The Anti–Prostitution Law protects children against the use of coercion, threats or abuse to induce a person into prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation, with penalties of up to seven years’ imprisonment. Still, child domestic workers are not protected under the existing labour laws or any other legal framework. Finally, in September 2008, the National Coordinating Committee to Combat and Prevent Trafficking in Persons began drafting a comprehensive anti-trafficking law.
Besides this, a number of prosecutors offices, such as those of Alexandria and South Giza, have commenced with the prosecution of several cases, and have initiated a training program for prosecutors working with children. NCCM complemented their efforts with the training of 45 prosecutors and judges on human trafficking.
However, the Government is not yet applying either a formal procedure to identify victims of trafficking, nor comprehensive services. As a result, trafficking victims, including street children and women arrested for prostitution, are often treated as criminals rather than as victims. The Ministry of Social Solidarity operates 19 drop-in centers. Yet they only open during day time. In prisons or detention centers, the situation appears no better, with reports that law enforcement officers may have further mistreated victims once detained, and victims are not encourage to present charges against their traffickers.
The National Center for Criminological and Social Research (NCCSR) officially began in 2008 a comprehensive study on the scope of trafficking in Egypt. In November 2008, the National Council for Human Rights held a seminar and a roundtable discussion on human trafficking. During the second half of 2008, the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) trained 107 social workers, 35 health inspectors and 191 officials from various ministries on amendments to the Child Law and the UN TIP Protocol
. The First Lady’s anti-trafficking advocacy led to a substantial increase in press coverage on the subject. Nonetheless, the government did not institute any public campaigns to raise awareness on trafficking as yet.