Cablegate: Egypt: Mixed Messages On Tip


DE RUEHEG #3560/01 3651454
R 311454Z DEC 07






E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. CAIRO 3031
B. CAIRO 2536
C. CAIRO 2030

Sensitive but unclassified, not for Internet distribution.

1. (SBU) Summary: During G/TIP Reports and Political Affairs Officer
Gayatri Patel's December 11 - 17 visit to Cairo, Egyptian officials
at the Ministries of Interior (MOI), Justice (MOJ), and Social
Solidarity (MOSS) asserted that Trafficking-in-Persons (TIP) is not
an internal Egyptian problem, in contrast to Ministry of Foreign
Affairs (MFA) assurances that that Egypt's inter-ministerial
anti-TIP committee is taking a comprehensive approach to combating
TIP. We emphasized the importance of taking concrete action to
address TIP, and offered USG assistance to help Egypt arrest and
prosecute traffickers under current laws, keep records of those
actions, conduct research to better understand the extent of the TIP
problem in Egypt, and train police on victim identification and
protection procedures. The quasi-governmental National Center for
Criminological and Social Research (NCCSR) and the UN Office of
Drugs and Crime (UNODC) are undertaking studies of the trafficking
problem in Egypt, the MOJ is studying strengthening Egypt's anti-TIP
legislation, and legislation strengthening anti-TIP provisions
regarding children is on the agenda in parliament. However, our
contacts at international organizations focused on TIP say that both
governmental and non-governmental action will be limited until MOI
officials accept that TIP is an internal Egyptian issue. End

GOE Officials: TIP is "Not a Big Problem"

2. (SBU) Discussing TIP during G/TIP Reports and Political Affairs
Officer Gayatri Patel's December 11 - 13 visit to Cairo, MOI
Assistant Minister for Legal Affairs General Ahmed Diaa Eldin, MOJ
Assistant Minister Osama El Ataweya, and MOSS Special Advisor Ahmed
Abul Kheir all asserted that TIP is "not a big problem" in Egypt,
and consists mostly of third-country victims being trafficked
through the Sinai Peninsula to Israel. All conceded, however, that
young girls are sold into marriages with wealthy Gulf residents,
street children face sexual exploitation, and that children are
heavily involved in the informal work force such as cotton farming
and domestic work, though the extent of trafficking in these cases
was uncertain. MFA Assistant Minister for Multilateral Affairs
Naela Gabr, who chairs the inter-ministerial "National Committee to
Combat and Prevent Trafficking in Persons," repeated previous MFA
assurances that the committee is taking a comprehensive approach to
studying and combating TIP in Egypt (reftel). She noted that
raising awareness among Egyptian officials and citizens is the most
important next step, saying that the Ministry of Information is
currently developing a plan for a broader public awareness campaign.
State-owned Egyptian television began airing UN-produced public
service announcements on labor trafficking in early July (reftels).

3. (SBU) We emphasized to all GOE interlocutors the importance of
making tangible progress on the stated aims of the inter-ministerial
committee, namely arresting and prosecuting traffickers under
current laws, quantifying those actions, and comprehensively
studying the extent of the TIP problem in Egypt. We also noted,
particularly with the MOI and MOSS, the importance of training
police on victim identification and protection procedures and
offered USG assistance to those efforts.

Street Children: GOE Acting, Though TIP Problem "Small"
--------------------------------------------- --

4. (SBU) Abul Kheir noted that the issue of street children is
widely acknowledged as a problem in Egypt and, with the backing of
First Lady Suzanne Mubarak and in conjunction with the
quasi-governmental National Center for Childhood and Motherhood, the
MOSS is increasing its efforts to provide services for these
children. NCCM Spokeswoman Ramona Canaan told us that the
amendments to Egypt's Child Law that broaden and strengthen its
anti-TIP provisions regarding children (reftel) are on the agenda in
the lower house of parliament, and she expected they will be passed
by the full parliament by the end of the 2007-2008 parliamentary
session. Once passed, each governorate will be mandated to
establish a committee to implement child protection procedures,
headed by a judge and with NCCM representation, reporting directly
to the prime minister's office, she said. Abul Kheir noted that the
MOSS already runs 28 shelters for street children.

5. (SBU) Nevertheless, the consensus among GOE officials and
representatives from international organizations was that
trafficking, for either sex or forced labor, is not a primary issue
facing street children. UNICEF Child Protection Officer Nadra Zaki
said that, although cases exist of street children being sold for
sex, they are unusual and organized trafficking rings do not exist.
Regarding forced labor, she said, street children are able to earn
enough money via begging that they do not need to be sold for work.

Quantifying the Potential Problem

6. (SBU) IOM Regional Representative Shahid Abdul Haque told us that
Egypt may face a large trafficking problem, giving extensive
poverty, discrimination, and demand for work both internally and
from regional countries, but that no data exists to quantify the
extent of the potential problem. However, Dr. Melegy from the NCCSR
said that the NCCSR, in coordination with the inter-ministerial
committee, is undertaking a comprehensive survey of TIP in Egypt.
The study, he said, will focus on forced marriages of young girls to
primarily Gulf residents, abuse of street children, and child
domestic workers. UNODC Regional Representative Dr. Nihal Fahmy
told us that the UNODC is also conducting a research and data
collection project under the UN Global Initiative to Fight Human
Trafficking (GIFT).

7. (SBU) MFA TIP staffer Amira Fahmy noted that the
inter-ministerial committee plans to develop a centralized data
unit, to better organize information on the extent of TIP in Egypt
and statistics on arrests and prosecutions etc. Additionally, Diaa
Eldin provided us with general statistics on anti-prostitution and
anti-child labor arrest, and agreed to provide records of arrests
and prosecutions for forced prostitution, in order to determine what
anti-TIP law enforcement actions are already being taken.

Studying Comprehensive Legislation

8. (SBU) El Ataweya said that the MOJ is reviewing current law to
see how best to strengthen Egypt's anti-TIP legal provisions, and
will use the Arab League's model law on TIP as a non-binding guide.
Ataweya noted that, as Egypt's largest problem regarding TIP is
trafficking of third-country nationals to Israel, the MOJ is
particularly focused on legislation aimed at limiting the entrance
and employment of foreigners. Ataweya said that the study will also
focus on how better to criminalize traffickers, rather than victims,
but emphasized that some prostitutes are not victims and should be
prosecuted for their crimes. Diaa Eldin also opined that some
prostitutes under age 18 have the capability to consent and should
be arrested; we noted that, under international standards, the age
of consent is 18.

The Way Forward: MOI Must Buy-In

9. (SBU) Under the nascent direction of the inter-ministerial
committee, GOE bodies are moving, albeit in fits and starts, to
better understand and combat TIP in Egypt. However, In Abdul
Haque's words, no governmental or non-governmental body will be
willing to take strong action on TIP without explicit MOI support,
and MOI officials have not yet acknowledged that TIP is potentially
a problem internally in Egypt, rather than only one of transit.
Increased public discourse on TIP could eventually help push MOI
officials toward action, and we, along with international
organizations here, will continue to encourage action and offer
technical and capacity-building assistance.

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