BLOG: Strengthening the capacity of the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit in Jordan

Experts will support the Public Service Directorate to combat human trafficking in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

Blog post by TAP-EDM consultants Wayne Hissong and Andrea Wojtak 

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is largely a destination country for victims of human trafficking but is also a source and transit country. International victims come from an array of countries but are primarily from South and Southeast Asia, East Africa, Egypt and Syria. Undocumented migrant workers travel to Jordan seeking better economic lives. This renders them vulnerable to abusive working conditions and human traffickers. Jordan is also host to hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing wars, particularly from Syria. In 2021, it was reported that Jordan hosts 760,000 refugees, the vast majority of those being from Syria. Syrian refugees have been allowed to work in several sectors of the Jordanian economy since 2016. Although, according to The UN Refugee Agency, a record number of work permits were issued to Syrians in 2021 (62,000), this still leaves most Syrians without access to legal employment opportunities. This, along with significant unemployment rates in Jordan (23%), renders displaced persons very vulnerable to human traffickers as they need sources of income. As a result, they can end up placing their trust in the wrong people.

There is a scarcity of statistics in Jordan on the true scope of the human trafficking problem. A study by the Jordanian Women’s Union indicates that 224 trafficking cases were handled by various policing units between 2009 and 2019. Of those cases, more than half involved forced labour in the domestic sector. The next most prevalent form of trafficking in Jordan was trafficking in organs. Other forms of trafficking in Jordan involve sexual exploitation, selling of children, forced marriage, forced begging and forced labour in a number of sectors including agricultural, industrial and construction.  Following  an assessment by Tamkeen Fields for Aid and a report by the Human Rights Council on the Special Rapporteur trafficking in persons, there is concern however, that the scope of the problem is much larger than this and that human trafficking cases are being misidentified.

According to the US State Department, Jordan “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts do so”. The government of Jordan has devoted resources to training of law enforcement personnel, provision of a government-run trafficking shelter, conducted anti-trafficking awareness campaigns and is working in partnership with community-based organizations. However, the government also recognizes that more victims of trafficking need to be identified and referred to support services. The government also acknowledges that more work has to be done to strengthen the abilities of the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) and other first-line responders to both identify victims and effectively investigate and prosecute traffickers.

To this end, the Public Service Directorate (PSD) of Jordan has requested help from the Government of Canada to strengthen capacities of its AHTU and other relevant government stakeholders, to combat human trafficking.

At the end of June 2022, through its Global Affairs Canada- funded Technical Assistance Partnership- Expert Deployment Mechanism (TAP-EDM), Canadian experts, working with Alinea International, travelled to Amman.  TAP-EDM matches Canadian experts work with national entities in countries eligible for Canada’s official development assistance. Through TAP, the experts were able to meet with the PSD, and other stakeholders, to forge relationships and better understand the training needs of the AHTU. The experts were met by Major Mohammad Alkhilfat, the head of the AHTU, who provided an overview of the work of his unit and the progress that has been made combating human trafficking in Jordan. Canadian experts also met with representatives from: the Jordanian Women’s Policing Unit; Ministry of Labour; Ministry of Justice; Karama, the government-funded trafficking shelter; international organizations such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, International Organization for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee; other foreign donors as well as community-based organizations.

All of these stakeholders agreed that approaches to combating human trafficking in Jordan are essential and that any training conducted by Alinea, in conjunction with the PSD, will focus on these approaches. Victim-centered, trauma informed approaches minimize retraumatization by ensuring that survivors of human trafficking are partners in the criminal justice process and that at the forefront of any investigation are the victims’ needs, dignity and empowerment. Identifying instead of criminalizing victims of trafficking is the first step in implementing a victim-centered approach. Following victim identification, there is a systematic focus on his/her needs or concerns with a commitment to ensuring that a victim feels safe and protected.

Alinea’s training will help strengthen capacities of the AHTU and front-line responders to identify victims of trafficking and refer them to both government and community-based support services. Alinea will also work with the PSD to develop basic and advanced investigation training which will include curriculum on interviewing victims, implementing proactive investigative strategies, assessing risks to victims and operations and implementing multi-disciplinary approaches to trafficking investigations.

Alinea looks forward to designing and delivering a training curriculum, in partnership with the PSD, that is responsive, meets its needs and will be sustainable long-term – so that the needs of victims of human trafficking in Jordan will continue to be the priority of the Public Service Directorate and front-line responders.