- Lack of awareness about the full extent of human trafficking and an absence of accurate data in Egypt is one of the key challenges in the country's efforts to combat the crime. Especially women and children are in danger.
An independent human rights expert, 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, at the conclusion her 11-day mission to the country. She said the absence of accurate data on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, which had made it impossible to measure the magnitude of the scourge in Egypt, is among her "issues of immediate concern".
According to a statement issued at the end of the visit, Ms 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."
The statement said 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 organisations in formulating anti-trafficking policies and programmes.
Ms Ezeilo made 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 mobilising the government, the corporate sector and civil society organisations in the fight.
During her fact-finding mission, Ms Ezeilo met with representatives of the government and the judiciary, as well as international and civil society organisations involved in combating human trafficking.
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