Cablegate: Trafficking in Persons Report -- Yemen
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 SANAA 000611
STATE FOR G/TIP, G, INL, DRL, PRM, IWI, NEA/RA, NEA/ARP
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SMIG ASEC PREF ELAB KCRM KWMN KFRD YM TRAFFICKING PERSONS
SUBJECT: TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS REPORT -- YEMEN
REF: A. SECSTATE 07869
B. SANAA 505
C. 02 SANAA 2848
D. 02 SANAA 2028
1. (SBU) Following is Post's response to ref A questions.
2. (SBU) Ref A para 18 (Overview of a Country's Activities
to Eliminate Trafficking in Persons)
A. Yemen may be a country of origin, transit and destination
for internationally trafficked persons. In the past,
trafficking has not been a known problem in Yemen, but some
indications exist that one may be emerging.
Several cases of children being trafficked within Yemen and
to Saudi Arabia for street begging were caught by ROYG in
2002 (confirmed) and perhaps in 2003 and 2004 (unconfirmed).
These cases involve smugglers known to families who allow
their children to be taken for begging purposes. The
Ministry of Interior (MOI) has made arrests in several cases
and given instructions for police to investigate and stop the
practice. In addition, several ROYG ministries are working
with UNICEF to investigate the problem.
In 2003 and 2004, increasing numbers of prostitutes,
particularly from Iraq, may point to a possible problem with
sex trafficking. Unreliable and unconfirmed estimates from
several sources place the number of prostitutes from 1,000 to
as high as 5,000 in Yemen. The increase is directly related
to the new development of Iraqi women acting as prostitutes.
The prostitution appears organized, although by whom or what
is unknown at this time. Two prostitutes told Emboffs they
were forced via threats against their family in Iraq to
become prostitutes. It is unknown but suspected that some
prostitutes may be under unreasonable debt bondage or
underage. The ROYG has begun an investigation (ref B).
Smuggling of migrants from the Horn of Africa (HOA) is a
problem, although there is no evidence that any are forced
into prostitution or exploitative labor. The ROYG is aware
of the smuggling problem, and treats those who arrive in
Yemen as prima facie refugees.
Numbers of possibly trafficked persons are impossible to
estimate accurately. Yemen has poor government
infrastructure and little ability to collect and maintain
reliable statistics. Children affected in the 2002 cases
numbered 20, with no confirmed information on further cases
of child smuggling in 2003-2004. While the number of
prostitutes is estimated to be between 1000 and 5000, Post
can only confirm two instances where Iraqi prostitutes
indicated they were forced.
B. The children smuggled were trafficked from areas in
northern Yemen near the Saudi border to Saudi Arabia by
persons known to their families for begging purposes. The
prostitutes who might be trafficked come primarily from Iraq.
Other prostitutes and migrants come from Horn of Africa
(HOA) countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea.
C. Post became aware of an increase in the numbers of Iraqi
prostitutes in Yemen in late 2003. Although it is unclear
how many of these prostitutes fit the trafficking definition,
it is likely that the sex trafficking problem increased in
D. The ROYG and UNICEF have undertaken a project to examine
the nature and extent of possible internal and external child
smuggling. The project is in its nascent stages, with survey
work beginning in March 2004.
ROYG ministerial officials were unaware of any possible
problem with sex trafficking until Post began raising it in
January 2004. In February 2004, the Minister of Human Rights
informed Ambassador that an investigation by relevant ROYG
ministries into possible sex trafficking had begun (ref B).
Because trafficking is a nascent issue in Yemen, no surveys
or reports have been available previously.
E. The prostitutes that may be trafficked into Yemen live
mostly in Aden and Sana'a. In Aden, they provide their
services through hotels and clubs. In Sana'a, brothels are
normally found in houses, although some services can be
obtained at major hotels. It is not known what conditions
they might live in when not at work.
Two Emboffs were told by two different Iraqi prostitutes that
they were forced into prostitution via threats against their
families in Iraq. In addition, the prostitution rings appear
to be well-organized. One source reported that the Iraqi
women are brought into Yemen on three-month rotations (see
classified reporting). It is not known whether any are
subject to debt bondage. It is not confirmed but suspected
by one source that some may be under the age of 18 (marriage
age in Yemen is 15).
F. Ministry of Interior forces caught persons who were
smuggling children across the Yemen border to Saudi Arabia
for the purposes of begging. MOI arrested 8 persons in three
incidents involving 20 children. According to several
sources, including non-governmental, the smugglers were from
the same areas as the children and known to the families, in
some cases relations. The families let their children go for
begging because they live in extreme poverty and they were
either given or promised money. There is no/no evidence that
any children have been smuggled against their families
knowledge, nor is there evidence that any children did not
return to their families. MOI explained to the families that
smuggling was illegal. As with the child labor problem (ref
D), Yemeni culture and tradition do not lend themselves to
the understanding that these issues are wrong.
G. Trafficking in persons is not/not a high-profile issue in
Yemen because it has not been a problem in the past, the
scope of the problem now is unknown, and counterterrorism is
their primary concern. However, high-level ROYG political
will to combat trafficking was recently evidenced by 1)
active cooperation with UNICEF on a study to examine child
smuggling, including minister-level instructions given to MOI
offices in remote governorates to help gather statistics;
and 2) an immediate response to Post's queries about the
possibility of Iraqi prostitutes being trafficked via A) the
decision to require entry visas for Iraqis (ref B); and B) an
immediate investigation launched into possible sex
trafficking (ref B).
Because trafficking has not been a problem in the past, it is
unknown whether the ROYG would be willing to take action
against government officials if they were involved in
H. It is unknown whether individual members of government
forces facilitate or condone trafficking. Should the
prostitution issue be confirmed to contain incidents of sex
trafficking, it is possible that some government officials
would have been aware or involved, including customs and
border officials as well as law enforcement and the military.
For example, hotels in Aden where prostitutes ply their
trade are always monitored by MOI and Political Security
Organization (PSO) officers. Corruption is a problem in
I. The ROYG's ability to combat trafficking faces several
limitations, including extreme poverty, porous borders with
Saudi Arabia and along its 1400 km coastline, and lack of
training for police and security officials in identifying and
preventing cases of trafficking.
J. The ROYG does not systematically monitor or report its
anti-trafficking efforts, because it was not/not a problem in
K. All aspects of prostitution are illegal and criminalized,
including the activities of the brothel owner/operator and
others. See para 4.
L. Marriage age in Yemen is 15 years old. Young marriage is
a problem, particularly in rural areas where by tradition
girls can marry as young as 13 years old. However, these
instances of young marriage do not seem to fit the parameters
of buying and selling of "child brides," but rather come from
Yemen's traditional society. There is no evidence that
Yemenis go abroad to purchase "child brides."
3. (SBU) Ref A para 19 (Prevention)
A. The issue of trafficking in persons is too new for the
ROYG to admit to an overall problem because ROYG officials
both lack understanding of the issue and do not yet know the
scope and type of any potential problem. However, when
specific problems arise, such as child smuggling, the ROYG
has admitted to a possible problem and taken action against
it, e.g., arrests and prosecution of the child smugglers and
undertaking a study to examine the issue. When Post raised
the issue of possible trafficking of Iraqi prostitutes and
noted the difficulty of tracking numbers and cases because
Iraqis were not required to have a visa, the ROYG responded
within weeks by issuing a ruling to require entry visas for
Iraqis (ref B).
B. ROYG agencies involved with any anti-trafficking efforts
would include: Ministries of Human Rights, Interior
(including immigration and border control), Labor and Social
Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Justice; the Prosecutor General.
C. Because trafficking was not/not a problem, the Government
has not run any anti-trafficking information or education
D. Yes, the ROYG supports many programs that indirectly help
prevent trafficking problems, although they are not
specifically targeted at trafficking. For example, several
programs on women's literacy, combating violence against
women and increasing women's rights have been supported by
the ROYG and NGOs. Combating child labor is a ROYG priority
(see para F below).
E. As a poor country, Yemen's ability to support prevention
programs is limited.
F. Because trafficking has not been a problem, there is no
relationship per se between the ROYG and NGOs on the
trafficking issue. However, generally the ROYG and NGOs
cooperate closely on related issues such as combating
violence against women, promoting women's rights and
children's work. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor
funded ILO-International Program for the Elimination of Child
Labor (IPEC) program combating child labor in Yemen
cooperates with ROYG entities and with local NGOs working on
similar issues (ref D).
G. In response to the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 and the
9/11 attacks, the ROYG embarked on a comprehensive border
control improvement program with U.S. assistance. Yemen's
borders are ocean, rugged mountains and desert, which are
very difficult to control. Smuggling and illicit trade are
problems. Border agreements with Saudi Arabia and Oman were
agreed in 2000, with border demarcation proceeding. The U.S.
is assisting the ROYG with border control through the
Terrorist Interdiction Program (TIP), using the Pisces
system, and through assistance to establish a Yemeni Coast
Guard to patrol the seas. While border control improvements
began in response to the terrorist threat in Yemen, increased
border control has the added affect of improving the ROYG's
ability to identify and prevent instances of trafficking
should they exist.
At the same time, effective border control remains nascent
and the ability to monitor emigration and immigration
patterns for trafficking is limited. A U.S. training program
in this regard may be warranted.
H. Because trafficking in Yemen has not been a problem,
there is no inter-agency working group or task force to
combat the problem. Should a task force be established, it
would likely involve the entities listed in para 3.B. above
and be coordinated by the Minister of Human Rights.
I. Because trafficking has not been a problem, the ROYG does
not coordinate with multinational or international working
groups to prevent, monitor and control trafficking. At the
same time, the ROYG is actively involved with related groups,
such as the UN Commission on Human Rights.
J. Because trafficking has not been a problem, the ROYG does
not have a national plan of action to address the issue.
K. Because trafficking has not been a problem, the ROYG does
not have a specific person or entity identified that is
responsible for developing anti-trafficking programs.
However, as noted above, any efforts in this regard would
likely be coordinated by the Minister of Human Rights, who
has broad responsibilities to improve human rights in Yemen
Investigation and Prosecution
4. (SBU) Ref A para 20 (Investigation and Prosecution of
A. Article 248 of the Yemeni Penal Code stipulates a jail
sentence of 10 years for "anyone who buys, sells, or gives as
a present, or deals in human beings; and anyone who brings
into the country or exports from it a human being with the
intent of taking advantage of him." Article 249 punishes
kidnappers for seven years, with the death penalty in cases
where the kidnapping included killing or sexual assault.
Article 280 provides sentences of 15 years to death in the
second offense for persons who "accept adultery for his wife,
female members of his family or those he is taking care of,"
which presumably could be used to punish sex traffickers.
Persons accused of trafficking, especially that involving
coerced labor or prostitution, would also presumably be in
violation of Article 47 of the Yemeni Constitution, which
stipulates that "the State shall guarantee to its citizens
their personal freedom, preserve their dignity and their
security...personal freedom cannot be restricted without the
decision of a competent court of law." Article 161 of the
Child's Rights Law imposes upon the State to "protect the
child from all forms of sexual molestation and economical
disadvantage" and to protect the child from carrying out
immoral activities or using them in prostitution or
molestation or other illegal activities.
The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor.
While only Article 248 appears to explicitly punish
trafficking, the other articles outlined above could
presumably be used as well.
B. The penalty for traffickers under Article 248 is up to
ten years in prison, while other offenses carry penalties up
to and including the death penalty.
C. The penalty for rape by an individual is up to seven
years in prison. If the rape is committed by two or more
persons, the punishment is a minimum of two years and a
maximum of ten years. If the victim is less than 14 years
old, the penalty is a minimum of three years and a maximum of
D. In 2002, the ROYG arrested 8 persons for attempting to
smuggle 20 children to Saudi Arabia for begging purposes.
The Ministry of Interior (MOI) reported that most of the
arrestees were related to those children recovered from their
custody (mostly elder brothers) and provided the names of
those arrested and those children recovered to Post. The
children were returned to their families, who had allowed the
children to be taken, and MOI held discussions with the
families to explain why what they were doing was wrong. MOI
also issued a circular to the governorates that border Saudi
Arabia instructing MOI offices to be alert to the problem of
child smuggling and to arrest perpetrators.
MOI indicated that those arrested in 2002 were referred to
the judicial authorities. Post was unable to obtain
confirmation from the General Prosecutor or Ministry of
Justice on the status of these cases in time for this report.
This inability to provide detailed case information is not
surprising. The Yemeni judicial system is fragmented and
disorganized, with court decisions still hand-written and
court records decentralized among individual clerks within
courts. Post will report such information when it becomes
In 2003, the Minister of Justice issued circular 13 for 2003
to the Heads of Appeals courts of all governorates in which
he noted that rulings issued by primary courts against
kidnappers and smugglers did not correspond with the "size
and danger" of the phenomenon of smuggling.
E. Regarding child smuggling, research is underway to
determine the scope and methods of such operations (see para
2) but initial indications are that smugglers are free-lance
operators who are often related to the children in question
or at minimum well-known to the families. It would appear
that such smuggling is due to dire economic conditions and is
not organized internationally or related to large crime
Regarding possible sex trafficking, the problem is too new to
determine yet who might be behind the trafficking. One
source identified a particular company, but that information
is not corroborated (see classified reporting).
Regarding migrant smuggling that could possibly include
instances of trafficking, it is unknown who might be behind
F. The ROYG has actively investigated instances of child
smuggling (see para 4.D above). The ROYG has launched an
investigation into possible sex trafficking (ref B).
Overall, however, because trafficking has not been considered
a problem in Yemen, the ROYG's investigative focus has been
on counterterrorism rather than trafficking. In addition,
the MOI's abilities in investigation and surveillance remain
limited and rudimentary.
G. Because trafficking has not been a problem in Yemen, Post
does not believe specialized training has been provided.
Should such training be identified as necessary, Post would
welcome ideas on how U.S. assistance might help because the
ROYG's capabilities in this regard are limited.
H. Because trafficking has not been a problem in Yemen, it
is doubtful that the ROYG formally cooperates with other
governments on TIP.
I. Post is unaware of any extradition of persons charged
with trafficking to other countries. The ROYG maintains
active counterterrorism cooperation with several countries,
including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where some wanted persons
have been exchanged. However, under the Constitution, Yemeni
citizens cannot be extradited to another country.
J. Post cannot confirm any government involvement in or
tolerance of trafficking. However, should the prostitution
problem be identified as sex trafficking, it is likely that
low-level ROYG officials would have been, at minimum, aware
of it because most prostitution takes place in hotels where
there is a large presence of both Ministry of Interior and
Political Security Organization officers.
K. Because it is not confirmed that government officials are
involved in trafficking, no steps have been taken by the ROYG
to end such participation. The ROYG is undergoing an
investigation into possible sex trafficking that may uncover
low-level government involvement.
L. The government signed and ratified ILO Convention 182
Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the
Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in 1999. It
ratified the Slavery Convention of 1926 in 1987, and the
Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and
Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others in 1989. Yemen
ratified the Rights of the Child Convention in 1991. The
ROYG has signed but not yet ratified the Optional Protocol to
the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Sale of Children
and Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the
Child in Armed Conflict in 1991.
Protection and Assistance to Victims
5. (SBU) Ref A para 21 (Protection and Assistance to
A-I. Because trafficking has not been a problem in Yemen,
questions A-I in paragraph 21 of ref A do not yet apply in
Yemen. No NGOs address this problem specifically (see para
3). The children recovered from the child smuggling incidents
were returned to their families. The possible sex
trafficking problem is too new to establish what, if any, aid
to victims might be provided. Post will seek information
from G/TIP to give to the ROYG about what kind of assistance
ROYG should provide that best meets international standards
in case a problem is confirmed.