(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Jordan is a destination and transit country for adults and children subjected to forced labour and, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation, according to a US State Department report.
However, the report showed that Jordan has kept its classification at Tier 2 for the fourth year in a row.
Issued annually to measure countries' efforts in combating trafficking in persons, the Trafficking in Persons Report said some of the domestic helpers who voluntarily migrate to the Kingdom for employment are subjected to conditions of forced labour after arrival.
The report cited practices such as unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, non-payment of wages, threats of imprisonment and physical or sexual abuse.
Referring to migrant workers in the Qualifying Industrial Zones, the report said "some of these workers encounter conditions indicative of forced labour, including unlawful withholding of passports, delayed payment of wages, forced overtime, and verbal and physical abuse; female factory workers are also vulnerable to sexual harassment".
With regards to the thousands of Syrian refugees who poured into the Kingdom since the Syrian crisis started in March 2011, the US State Department said "some of these migrants" could include trafficking victims.
They may also "be further susceptible to situations of forced labour or forced prostitution in Jordan", the report said.
"Moroccan, Tunisian and East European women are subjected to forced prostitution after migrating to Jordan to work in restaurants and nightclubs," it added.
The report said although the government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, it is making significant efforts to do so.
"During the year, the government sustained law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders and police continued to refer trafficking victims to shelter services."
"The government's anti-trafficking efforts, however, continued to be hindered by several government reshuffles, limited capacity in key ministries, and a general lack of inter-ministerial coordination and cooperation," said the report.
The US study recommended that the government take serious measures to address loopholes in the efforts to eliminate trafficking in persons, such as using the anti-trafficking statute, increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict and sentence trafficking offences.
Furthermore, the report suggested strengthening efforts to proactively identify victims of forced labour and prostitution and to increase penalties for forced labour offences.
Other suggestions included implementing an awareness campaign to educate the general public and foreign migrant workers in all sectors on human trafficking, particularly forced labour and the proper treatment of domestic workers under Jordanian law.
Citing the 2008 Anti-Human Trafficking Law, the report said the law prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of six months to 10 years imprisonment for forced prostitution, child trafficking, and trafficking of women and girls, adding that these penalties are sufficiently stringent, but not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape.
With regards to protection efforts, the report said the government made minimal efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period and did not provide any specialised services to trafficking victims.
"It did, however, identify and refer trafficking victims to shelter services, and it took initial steps to identify victims of trafficking sheltered within foreign embassies."
"The police reportedly referred 26 potential female trafficking victims to a local NGO-operated shelter, a noted improvement compared with the previous reporting period when the government did not refer any victims," the report argued.
Earlier this month, the labour ministry and the Public Security Department signed an agreement to coordinate efforts to combat human trafficking in the Kingdom.
Labour Minister Atef Odeibat said at the signing ceremony that trafficking in Jordan "is not a big issue and does not qualify as organised crime".