Cablegate: Syria - 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report

DE RUEHDM #0172/01 0591152
O 281152Z FEB 10




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. STATE 002094
B. 09 DAMASCUS 000139
C. 09 DAMASCUS 000554
D. 09 DAMASCUS 000727
E. DAMASCUS 000036

1. (U) The following is Post's submission of the annual
trafficking in persons report. The Embassy's point of
contact is Anthony A. Deaton. Office telephone: ( 963) (11)
3391-3207. Fax ( 963) (11) 3391-4687. Mr. Deaton (FS-03)
spent 30 hours in preparation of the report, which is
structured to answer ref A.


2. (SBU) 25.A: The Syrian Arab Republic government (SARG) has
not, traditionally, made information publicly available on
police activities in general. Regarding trafficking in
persons (TIP) cases, the relevant government offices and
police authorities have received very little of the requisite
training and experience to identify and prosecute trafficking
cases in the country accurately and swiftly. As a result,
there are no reliable government-issued statistics. In fact,
Post is unaware that the SARG even compiles data on
trafficking crimes. Post sources on TIP come from a range of
local human rights contacts, lawyers, and women's issues
advocates, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees
(UNHCR), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA),
the International Office for Migration (IOM), and other
members of the international diplomatic community. Post
considers the aforementioned sources to be trustworthy.
(Note: UNHCR, UNRWA, and IOM do not want to be named in any
State Department reporting critical of the Syrian government
for fear it will seriously jeopardize their future access to
Syrian government officials and undermine their work in the
country. Post concurs with these organizations' concerns.
END NOTE). On January 11, the SARG published Syria's first
anti-trafficking law -- Legislative Decree No. 3 -- providing
a legal foundation for defining and prosecuting TIP crimes.
While the SARG did not respond to Post's request for
statistics on cases pursued by judicial and law enforcement
agencies, and on victims assisted (assuming they have the
data), recent anti-trafficking legislation requires ministry
officials to work with international partners in the future.
Such cooperation could include sharing data on specific
cases. During the reporting period, Post did meet with
representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on
August 5, 2009 (ref C) and the Ministry of Social Affairs and
Labor (MoSAL) on October 12, 2009 (ref D) to discuss TIP
issues. We hope these first steps will produce greater
collaboration and information sharing between the Embassy and
the SARG on TIP once an ambassador arrives at Post.

3. (SBU) 25.B: Syria is primarily a country of destination
and transit for victims of trafficking (VOT). Consistent with
last year's TIP report, Post sources contend that in 2008,
Syria was not a country of origin for trafficking, nor was
trafficking systematic throughout the country. While there
is prostitution in the major cities, it is difficult to
discern what percentage of prostitutes were trafficked. Nor
was there any official information on whether women, Syrian
or foreign, were trafficked internally for purposes of sex
work or other forms of forced labor. Diplomatic and local
contacts report, however, that there may be as many as
several thousand women who fall into this category. Contacts
suggest the vast majority of these women were involved in the
domestic labor market, most of them originating from South
East Asia and the horn of Africa, especially Indonesia, the
Philippines, Somalia, and Ethiopia. Post is unaware of

DAMASCUS 00000172 002 OF 011

Syrian men, women, or children being trafficked inside or
outside the country for the purposes of forced labor or
sexual exploitation. VOTs who are transited through Syria to
other countries include the aforementioned nationalities as
well as Iraqi women and children refugees, most of whom are
subjected to sexual exploitation and prostitution. These
individuals are trafficked through Syria to Europe or Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, and Lebanon.

4. (SBU) 25.C: Embassy sources report most trafficking
victims are women forced into domestic labor or prostitution.
Women forced into prostitution fall into two groups: (1)
those who arrive from former Soviet States (especially the
Ukraine), Somalia, and Morocco; and (2) Iraqi refugees.
Women employed as dancers were forced to live in unacceptable
conditions. Their employers, Post has learned, held their
passports and reportedly allowed them to leave the hotel each
day for approximately three to four hours. In at least one
case, the women were locked into their hotel from between
12-16 hours daily. Often, multiple women shared a single
hotel room. The women reportedly could get more "free time"
if they had managed to solicit a "john." Generally, neither
nudity nor direct sexual contact (touching, etc.) are
permitted in these clubs. Contacts reported women from
Eastern Europe and former Soviet States were allowed to
return to their native countries when their visas expired.
In some cases, those women chose to return to Damascus to
work in the same jobs once they became eligible for another
tourist visa to Syria. Iraqi women and children were victims
of sexual exploitation and forced prostitution. There were
no official estimates on their numbers. Some Iraqi female
refugees who turned to prostitution out of economic
desperation were later VOTs after Syrian police arrested and
deported them back to Iraq. In these cases, criminal gangs
along the border trafficked the women back into Syria soon
after police returned them to Iraq. Anecdotal evidence
suggested that in some case Iraqi families arranged for their
young daughters both to work in dance clubs and to
participate in temporary pleasure marriages. In one case, a
young girl, reportedly 10 years old, was managed by a madam
who rented her out as a prostitute for extended periods of

5. (SBU) 25.C-Continued: The domestic labor industry is the
most common reason for TIP in Syria. Many women are
recruited to work in Syria as domestic servants and then
forced to live like captive slaves with the families they
serve. When they arrive in the country, either the
recruitment agency or the hiring family keeps the women's
passports. This tactic prevents women who are subjected to
exploitive labor practices from leaving their employers. The
number of domestic servants is in the tens of thousands;
there were no reliable statistics on the percentage of
domestic workers who were VOTs, though diplomatic and civil
society contacts report the number is well into the thousands.

6. (SBU) 25.D: International and local NGOs, women's rights
groups, and church activists all reported that Iraqi refugee
women and girls were the most vulnerable to trafficking for
the purposes of sex. This vulnerability stemmed from the
economic hardships refugees faced in Syria (and Iraq).
Economically deprived women from Eastern Europe, former
Soviet States, and parts of Africa were also vulnerable.

7. (SBU) 25.E: Most non-Iraqi women trafficked for purposes
of sexual exploitation were lured to Syria. Employers from
both Syria and the women's home countries reportedly
recruited women as dancers and encouraged them to sign a
low-wage contract with the understanding they would be paid
more under the table upon arrival. Once they arrived, the
dancers were told they could earn additional money from

DAMASCUS 00000172 003 OF 011

prostitution during the few hours each day they were allowed
to leave their residential hotels. Post has an unreliable
estimate that several hundred women may be employed in this
fashion, mostly in Damascus. International organizations
have, by and large, not focused on the issue of women
trafficked to Syria as dancers, presumably because the
numbers are relatively low. Contacts have reported that some
Eastern European women enter Syria on tourist visas with
fraudulent travel documents procured or produced for them by
traffickers in Europe. Contacts reported that these women
usually remain in the country for six months and then return
home. Some of the women allegedly choose to return of their
own volition once they are eligible for a new tourist visa.

8. (SBU) 25.E-Continued: While there are reports that Iraqi
and Syrian gangs work alone and in tandem in trafficking
women for the sex industry, government and law enforcement
authorities have not presented any quantifiable evidence on
gang activity. Anecdotal evidence from international NGOs
suggests that in some cases, Iraqis (both men and women)
bring Iraqi women and girls to Syria who are falsely listed
as wives and daughters on the traffickers' passports. In
other cases, a trafficker may legally bring an Iraqi woman
who is his wife through a "pleasure marriage" (which can be
quickly and easily solemnized and then dissolved) to Syria
and then transfer her to the proprietor of a nightclub or
brothel. There have been even more extreme anecdotal reports
wherein desperate Iraqi families abandoned their children on
the Iraqi side of the Syrian-Iraqi border with the
expectation that traffickers will pick them up and arrange
forged documents. In still other cases, the traffickers may
seek new passports for the women and girls before selling
them to third-country nationals for employment in Lebanon,
the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. On January 20, 2010, an
Abu Dhabi criminal court convicted seven Syrian men on
charges of human trafficking, and six others for facilitating
prostitution. The 13 men were allegedly part of a large
human trafficking ring that lured Moroccan women to Abu Dhabi
and then forced them into prostitution.

9. (SBU) 25.E-Continued: Excepting incidents where Iraqis are
trafficked in private cars across the Syria-Iraq border,
there was no evidence that the vast majority of women and
girls working as domestics and nightclub dancers entered the
country through anything other than legitimate commercial

10. (SBU) 25.E-Continued: There have been reports that
throughout Syria dozens of unlicensed domestic labor
recruitment agencies lure women to the country with false
promises about the quality of life and work as a domestic.
Once the women are in Syria, these agencies and/or the
employers maintain custody of the women's passports, contrary
to Syrian law, and force the domestics to work long hours,
often without providing sufficiently private living quarters.
There were reports that employers sometimes beat domestic
workers who disobeyed their orders. Some women do manage to
escape their employers, however, and an informal network of
escapees has formed to provide assistance to one another,
contacts reported.

Background on Government's Anti-TIP Efforts

11. (SBU) 26.A: The government acknowledged human trafficking
was a problem in the country during the reporting period as
evinced by the passage of the country's first comprehensive
trafficking law, Legislative Decree No. 3, on January 11,
2010 (ref E).

DAMASCUS 00000172 004 OF 011

12. (SBU) 26.B: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the
Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MoSAL), the Ministry of
Justice (MoJ), and the Ministry of the Interior (MoI) are the
four main government bodies working directly on
anti-trafficking efforts. Syria's comprehensive
anti-trafficking law, Legislative Decree No. 3, designates
MoSAL as the lead agency on victims assistance; MoI will
spearhead interdiction efforts and collaboration with
international partners. MoJ's role will be in the area of
prosecution. The MFA will be involved to the extent that its
Office of International Programs has visibility over issues
involving international NGOs. While no government-issued
statistics on interdiction and prosecution exist, the MoI
has, in the past, claimed to have worked with police to
disrupt illegal domestic labor recruitment agencies and

13. (SBU) 26.C: Adequate training remained the biggest
limitation on combating trafficking in persons crimes in
Syria. Even though IOM has offered many workshops on
anti-trafficking measures to government and police
representatives, operational protocols were still in the
earliest stages of development at the end of the reporting
period. Representatives from IOM and UNHCR were looking into
how they might support the SARG's efforts to implement
Legislative Decree 3 by the prescribed April 11 deadline.
Even with extensive outside support, we assess the SARG will
still struggle to provide adequate training to police troops,
lawyers, judges, and other government officials. Contacts
have intimated that despite the new law, corrupt elements
within the SARG could obstruct enforcement and prosecution,
though there was no credible hard evidence to support these
suggestions. Finally, TIP-related issues raise the risk of
embarrassment to a conservative society that is hesitant to
address labor and sexual exploitation publicly. This
cultural conservatism could hamper law enforcement efforts in
identifying and assisting VOTs.

14. (SBU) 26.D: The 2010 comprehensive trafficking in persons
law tasked the MoI with establishing a dedicated
anti-trafficking crime unit. While the full mandate for this
organization has yet to be determined, the law makes clear
the unit will have oversight on enforcement issues. Specific
to child labor issues, the government currently monitors
public- and private-sector industries through surprise
inspections to ensure no children under the age of 15 are
employed. There were no government-issued statistics on, or
assessments of, its anti-trafficking efforts during the
reporting period.

15. (SBU) 26.E: The government worked with international NGOs
and foreign embassies in Damascus to establish the identity
and citizenship of VOTs. Regarding the Iraqi refugee
population, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and relevant
government officials coordinated with IOM and UNHCR on issues
of identifying victims and providing assistance.

16. (SBU) 26.F: Contacts at international NGOs remained
cautious in their assessments of the government's capacity to
gather sufficient information for assessing its law
enforcement efforts. The primary problem was the lack of
training for police, lawyers, judges, and relevant government
officials. If a workaround exists in the short term, it will
be through allowing international NGOs to play a more direct
role in assisting the government in its operations and
providing them with training on how best to identify and
capture the relevant data.

Investigation and Prosecution of Traffickers

DAMASCUS 00000172 005 OF 011

17. (SBU) 27.A: Syria enacted a comprehensive trafficking
law, Legislative Decree No. 3, on January 11, 2010 (ref E).
The law's date of implementation will be April 11, 2010. The
three-month lag is consistent with the Syrian legislative
process and is intended to provide the relevant ministries
with sufficient time to develop protocols and standard
operating procedures for carrying out the law's mandates.
Two translated copies of the law (one by Post and another by
IOM) have been sent under separate cover to G/TIP (please
contact Rachel Yousey for copies). IOM is still working with
the MoJ to polish an official English version, which Post
will provide the Department upon receipt. The law addresses
trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and
forced labor. Moreover, the law penalizes trafficking
whether it be international or domestic (internal) in nature.

18. (SBU) 27.A-Continued: In addition to Legislative Decree
No. 3, Syria has a range of laws that allow the government to
prosecute alleged trafficking crimes. Under Article 3 of Law
10 (1961), individuals who facilitate travel of Syrian women
abroad to work as prostitutes are to be punished by one to
five years in prison and a fine of 1,000 to 5,000 Syrian
pounds (about $20 to $100). If more than one victim is
involved, or if the victim is less than 16 years old, or is a
paid servant, the maximum sentence increases to seven years.
The direct text is as follows: "Whoever entices a male under
the age of 21 or a female of whatever age to leave the United
Arab Republic (Note: Egypt and Syria were one country at the
time End note.), facilitates his/her departure, uses or
accompanies him/her abroad to work in prostitution, and all
those knowing the purpose of the departure and who assist in
the process, shall be given a one to five-year imprisonment
and a fine of 1,000 to 5,000 Syrian pounds (approximately $20
to $200), and the maximum penalty would be imprisonment of
seven years if the crime was committed against two or more

19. (SBU) 27.A-Continued: There are other legal texts in
Syria that could further augment the anti-trafficking law
currently in draft form, according to IOM. For instance,
Section 555 of the General Penal Code states "whoever
incarcerates another person will be subjected to a prison
sentence of six months to two years." Section 556 states
that "if the incarceration (of the victim by the perpetrator)
lasts for more than one month or includes torture, the
sentence will include hard labor." Decree 29 of 1970, which
regulates the immigration of foreigners, stipulates that "any
foreigner who tries to enter the country with false
documentation and anyone who may have aided that foreigner is
subject to imprisonment of three months to one year and a
fine of 500 Syrian Pounds ($10) to 2,000 ($40)." In
practice, however, these laws are not targeted toward, or
enforced against, traffickers.

20. (SBU) 27.A-Continued: The General Penal Code also
provides punishments for the exploitation of prostitution by
force, fraud, and/or coercion. Article 510 states: "Whoever
attempts to seduce or take away a girl or woman . . . . with
or without her consent, by means of deception, violence,
threats, use of force or other compulsory means shall receive
a three-year imprisonment and a fine of 300 Syrian Pounds

21. (SBU) 27.A-Continued: The Syrian Constitution provides
for regulation of working hours. In addition, Decree 27,
published in March 2009, and augmented by Decree 108 in
December 2009, superseded Decree 81 of 2006 (ref B) by more
strictly regulating domestic worker recruitment agencies and
providing guidelines for employee contracts. In particular,
the new laws mandated that the Prime Minister's office may

DAMASCUS 00000172 006 OF 011

revoke any domestic worker employment agency's license if
said agency (1) "fails to repatriate domestic workers at its
own expense"; (2) "imports domestics under the age of 18";
(3) "imports domestic workers under the pretense of working
for people whose identities were faked"; (4) physically
abuses, tortures, or exploits the employee; or (5) "practices
any type of abuse or discrimination based on race, sex,
religion, social class, nationality or any other form of
discrimination prohibited by the international conventions in

22. (SBU) 27.A-Continued: Decree 108 further stipulated that
work contracts between a domestic and an employer must be
issued by the Ministry of Interior. The contract must then
be registered at with the "work injury fund" of the Public
Establishment of Social Security. By law, contracts must
include language requiring domestics receive a monthly
paycheck and employers to assist the domestic in transferring
the money abroad if requested to do so. The standard work
contract must include provisions for providing domestics with
clothing, food, medicine, living quarters, sufficient rest,
and a minimum of two weeks' annual leave. In accordance with
the decree, the contract must be issued in Arabic and English.

23. (SBU) 27.A-Continued: Decree 108 delineated employer
obligations to domestic workers, including the hiring of the
domestic for no more than three years as specified by Article
2 of Legislative Decree No. 62 from 2007. Any employer
violating his/her contractual obligations will be fined
100,000 Syrian pounds ($2,170). The fine is to be doubled if
the employer repeats any violation.

24. (SBU) 27.B: Decree 3, Article 7 states that anyone
convicted of trafficking in persons, whether for forced labor
or sexual exploitation, will receive a sentence of no less
than seven years and a fine between one to three million
Syrian pounds ($21,800 to $65,220). The minimum seven-year
sentence may be increased in severe cases, which are defined
in Article 8 as trafficking crimes committed (1) against
women or children, or against anyone with special needs; (2)
through the use or threat of force; (3) by the victim's
spouse, a family member, or member of a law enforcement
agency; (4) by criminal gangs (i.e. more than one person); or
(5) across international boundaries. In addition, Decree 3,
Article 5 considers any form of child pornography to be a
trafficking crime.

25. (SBU) 27.C: Decree 3, Article 7 applies to labor
trafficking as well. See para 24.B. See also paras 21-23
for regulations on labor.

26. (SBU) 27.D: The General Penal Code of 1949, revised in
1985, outlines penalties for rape and forcible sexual
assault. According to Article 489, the minimum sentence for
rape or sexual assault of a female is 15 years, or 21 years
if the victim is a minor between the ages of 12 and 15.
According to Article 491, if the victim is less than 12 years
old, the minimum sentence is 15 years' imprisonment. The law
states, however, the perpetrator can be absolved of criminal
guilt if he agrees to marry the victim. Article 492
stipulates that if the perpetrator is a guardian, relative,
or cleric, and the victim is under the age of 18, the
punishment is nine years' imprisonment. For kidnapping
women, the penalty is three to seven years in prison. The
penalty for deflowering a virgin is five years. Article 505
states molestation of a female less than 15 years of age is
punishable by 18 months in prison. According to Article 493,
the punishment for raping or sexually assaulting a male is a
minimum of 12 years in prison, or 18 years if the male is
under the age of 15. In the case of a rape or assault
leading to the death of a victim, the penalty cannot be less

DAMASCUS 00000172 007 OF 011

that 15 years, according to Article 498.

27. (SBU) 27.E: Post is unaware of any legal action taken
against human traffickers per se. There have been various
reports of the government shutting down illegal domestic
labor recruitment agencies and brothels, however.

28. (SBU) 27.F: Decree 3, Article 18 tasks the Ministry of
Interior with developing and executing "special training
programs for the personnel involved in combating the crimes
of trafficking in persons." These programs have yet to be
established. However, IOM is working with the government on
a developing a host of training initiatives for lawyers,
government officials, and law enforcement personnel. IOM has
received funding from both PRM and G/TIP for past and current
efforts to assist the SARG on TIP issues.

29. (SBU) 27.G: Post was not aware of the government
cooperating with other governments in the investigation and
prosecution of trafficking cases during the reporting period.
Due to political sensitivities, the SARG would not normally
inform other embassies if such cooperation did exist, nor
would it publicly announce such actions. We note, however,
that in September, Demetris Christofias, President of Cyprus,
raised the issue of an illegal ferry between Latakia and
Famagusta with President Bashar al-Asad. This ferry is known
to transport Syrians seeking employment to Cyprus, where they
either remain and work or travel on to European destinations.
There was no evidence during the reporting period that this
ferry was used for the purposes of trafficking, however.

30. (SBU) 27.H: There was no evidence during the reporting
period that the government had extradited anyone charged with
trafficking in other countries.

31. (SBU) 27.I: Anecdotal evidence pointed to low-level
cooperation between traffickers and local police elements
during the reporting period. In particular, there were
stories that police periodically monitored a certain hotel in
which Eastern European women were kept locked up during the
day to ensure nobody left without permission. The women,
some of whom were allegedly in the country on false travel
documents, work at a nearby men's club. Contacts alleged the
club did not permit on-site nudity or sexual activity, but
that the club's proprietor encouraged the female workers to
schedule paid-for sexual activities off premises, usually in
the "john's" place of residence (hotel or home).

29. (SBU) 27.J: The SARG did not identify any government
officials involved in human trafficking or any investigations
into government officials for said crimes during the
reporting period.

30. (SBU) 27.K: Syria did not contribute military forces to
any international peacekeeping efforts during the reporting

31. (SBU) 27.L: Anecdotal evidence suggested Syria did
receive a small amount of child-sex tourists from Gulf
countries, primarily Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. There were no
reported prosecutions of foreign nationals on charges related
to the crime. There was no evidence that the country's child
sexual abuse laws had extraterritorial coverage for the
purpose of facilitating prosecution of suspected sex tourists.

Protection and Assistance to Victims

32. (SBU) 28.A: Decree 3, Article 14 mandates that the
Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor create shelters to care

DAMASCUS 00000172 008 OF 011

for trafficking victims. The article further states that
MoSAL will create a budget for said shelters, monitor their
administration, and hire qualified individuals to staff them.
Article 15 stipulates that the "competent authorities shall
take the appropriate precautions to provide protection for
the victims of trafficking" and provide them with legal,
medical, and psychological counseling in cooperation with
public and private organizations. Additionally, the article
states that VOTs should not be held in detention facilities
inconsistent with their status as victims. Because Decree 3
has yet to be fully implemented, the aforementioned
protections have not been fully provided in practice.

33. (SBU) 28.B: Though Decree 3 has not been fully
implemented, the MoSAL has already worked with IOM and the
Association for Women's Role Development (AWRD), a local NGO,
on shelters specifically designated for VOTs. In December
2008, IOM in cooperation with MoSAL and AWRD opened a TIP
shelter in Damascus. On January 7, 2010, IOM, the
Aleppo-based Juvenile Welfare Association for Girls, and
MoSAL opened a TIP shelter in Aleppo. These two shelters are
both operated by the associated local NGO. These shelters
are open to victims regardless of nationality or age. In
addition to these shelters, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
Convent operate a shelter for women and girls who are TIP
victims, as well as victims of domestic violence and
homelessness. There were no facilities for male victims of
trafficking, and the current TIP shelters are not geared
toward serving men. During the reporting period, there were
no reports of men being trafficked either for forced labor or
sexual exploitation.

34. (SBU) 28.C: See para 32 for specific language on legal,
medical, and psychological services. Government funding has
so far been in the form of donated building space for the two
shelters, political cover, and some law enforcement
assistance. Authorization for these resources have come from
federal and city levels.

35. (SBU) 28.D: The government did not provide VOTs with
permanent residency status, nor did it offer a formal
mechanism for relief from deportation. VOTs may safely
remain as temporary residents until such time as return to
their country of origin can be arranged. In the past,
however, there was anecdotal reports that police arrested
potential Iraqi refugee VOTs for prostitution and simply
dropped them off at the border.

36. (SBU) 28.E: The government did not offer longer-term
shelter, housing benefits, or additional resources to VOTs
outside those described in paras 28.B and 28C.

37. (SBU) 28.F: Decree 3, Article 18 requires the Ministry of
Interior to develop the proper procedures for alerting the
"competent authorities," both a national and international,
to the identity and status of VOTs. The exact policy for how
law enforcement and judicial authorities will refer women to
shelters had not yet been fully developed at the end of the
reporting period. However, the SARG continued to permit the
Sisters of the Good Shepherd access to women's detention
facilities. If the nuns, our contacts reported, identified
women and girls as VOTs, they were usually able to lobby the
SARG -- often with assistance from UNHCR and IOM -- to allow
these women to be transferred from detention facilities to

38. (SBU) 28.G: Post did not receive any numbers, anecdotal
or official, on the number of VOTs during the reporting
period. Post does know, however, that in 2009, approximately
21 Asian women who were victims of labor trafficking received
SARG assistance in being referred to AWRD's TIP shelter.

DAMASCUS 00000172 009 OF 011

39. (SBU) 28.H: The government's law enforcement,
immigration, and social services personnel did not have a
formal system of proactively identifying VOTs at the end of
the reporting period.

40. (SBU) 28.I: Victims of trafficking were not legally
identified as such throughout the reporting period, though
with the passage of Decree 3 in January 2010, they soon will
be. If arrested for prostitution, the women were detained
and, in most cases, deported. If they were not deported,
they would be subject to the legal punishments for
prostitution. In some cases, embassies and consulates of the
victim's country assisted with their return to their home

41. (SBU) 28.J: Decree 3, Article 16 states that any
individual providing information on TIP crimes be shall
afforded government protection. Witnesses and experts (and
their families) assisting authorities in legal action against
perpetrators of TIP crimes should also receive government
protection. This article would cover victims cooperating
with local law enforcement. There were no accounts during
the reporting period of any victims seeking legal redress.

42. (SBU) 28.K & L: In January 2008, IOM, with the assistance
of the MoSAL and MoI, provided training to judges, lawyers
and police on how to recognize and deal with VOTs. There
were no reports of Syrian embassies abroad providing
assistance to Syrian VOTs, nor did Post receive information
on Syrians trafficked abroad and then repatriated.

43. (SBU) 28.M: The two main international organizations that
confront trafficking issues in Syria are IOM and UNHCR. IOM
has received TIP-specific grant funding from a range of
donors, including the U.S. and E.U. In terms of U.S.
involvement, the largest funder in terms of dollars has been
PRM. The two TIP shelters received PRM funds specifically
allocated to assist Iraqi VOTs. At the end of the reporting
period, no Iraqi VOTs had yet entered the shelters. IOM has
administered the PRM funding, which came from a two-phased
regional assistance program that began in October 2007.
Funding for Phase I amounted to $656,623. Phase II, which
began in July 2009, amounted to $215,000.

44. (SBU) 28.M-Continued: As stated earlier, the Sisters of
the Good Shepherd also assisted VOTs. The Sisters, along
with IOM and UNHCR, have observed a slow change in the SARG's
attitude toward victims assistance. Due to political
sensitivities, the SARG had been reticent to admit any
problem existed or to cooperate in any way with NGOs. That
has changed over the years, as reflected in the passage of
Decree 3. Cooperation has now generally improved and the
SARG has proven a reliable, though not leading, partner in
providing protection to VOTs.


45. (SBU) 29.A: There were no government-initiated
anti-trafficking information or educational campaigns during
the reporting period.

46. (SBU) 29.B: The government had not begun monitoring
immigration and emigration patterns for evidence of
trafficking at the end of the reporting period.

47. (SBU) 29.C: Decree 3 required the Ministry of Interior to
develop a mechanism for coordination and communication
between relevant agencies, both local and international, on

DAMASCUS 00000172 010 OF 011

TIP matters. Article 17 of the law directed the MoI to
establish a Department of Combating Trafficking in Persons to
be comprised of individuals from diverse backgrounds, both
military and civilian. The article did not specifically
state the department should have an "inter-agency" character.

48. (SBU) 29.D: The government was in the process of
developing a national plan of action, per requirements of
Decree 3, at the end of the reporting period. The government
is consulting with IOM and UNHCR on how best to develop and
implement said plan.

49. (SBU) 29.E: The SARG took no specific actions to reduce
the demand for sex acts beyond prosecuting prostitutes,
johns, and brothel proprietors.

50. (SBU) 29.F: There was no evidence the government took
specific measures during the reporting period to reduce the
participation in international child sex tourism by Syrian
nationals, or that Syrian nationals were involved in child
sex tourism.


51. (SBU) 30.A: The government partnered -- formally or
informally -- with IOM, UNHCR, AWRD, the Juvenile Welfare
Association for Girls, and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
to focus attention and resources to addressing human
trafficking. Please see previous relevant paras for details.

52. (SBU) 30.B: There was no evidence the government provided
any kind of international assistance to other countries to
address TIP during the reporting period.

TIP Heroes

53. (SBU) Laila Tomeh: No single person has done more in the
last few years to effect positive change in Syrian political
thinking about how to combat TIP that Laila Tomeh. Tomeh, a
National Program Officer for IOM in Damascus was one of the
country's leading advocates and organizational strategists on
how Syrian legislative reform should address TIP and the
illegal recruitment of domestic labor. Tomeh has led dozens
of conferences and workshops for Syrian lawyers, members of
parliament, NGOs, and civil society activists aimed at
raising consciousness on TIP issues that were, in the past,
almost never publicly discussed. In 2005, Tomeh helped
develop a training seminar on how to draft TIP legislation
that ultimately led to Syria's passage in January 2010 of the
country's first comprehensive anti-TIP law.

54. (SBU) Tomeh Continued: In a constrained social and
political environment, Tomeh proved herself able to navigate
governmental and public sector boundaries and get
on-the-ground results. Indeed, in helping open the country's
first-ever shelter for VOTs, Tomeh helped mentor the
fledgling Association for Women's Role Development, a local
NGO that had no prior experience with shelter administration.
She, along with her IOM colleagues, won support from the
Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor for the project,
convincing the ministry to donate a building for the shelter.
The results were dramatic. Not only did the TIP shelter
open in December 2008, but the government donated another
site in Aleppo for a second shelter, which opened under the
guidance of IOM in 2010.

55. (SBU) Tomeh Continued: Tomeh has been an excellent

DAMASCUS 00000172 011 OF 011

contact for the U.S. Embassy on TIP-related issues. She
subtly lobbied her working-level contacts in the MFA and
MoSAL on the value of meeting U.S. government officials. As
a result, both the MFA and MoSAL granted meetings on TIP with
Emboffs in 2009 to discuss the Department's 2009 TIP report
and Syria's progress on passing anti-TIP legislation.
Tomeh's ingenuity, passion, and integrity helped Embassy
Damascus crack open a door with the government that might
have otherwise remained shut due to Syrian sensitivities on
the topic.

56. (SBU) Daad Musa: Lawyer and women's rights and civil
society activist Daad Musa has been one of Damascus's leading
figures in the fight to provide assistance to VOTs. Even
though her civil society activism has brought unwanted
governmental scrutiny and undermined her ability to find
regular work as a lawyer and also resulted in a travel ban,
Musa perseveres in her service for VOTs with little regard
for her own privations.

57. (SBU) Musa Continued: Musa provides legal counsel and
organizational expertise to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd,
who administer Syria's first-ever women's shelter. She does
the same for a CARITAS shelter close to the Syrian-Lebanese
border. These shelters are open to all women, but in recent
years have increasingly addressed themselves toward
alleviating the suffering of Iraqi victims of trafficking,
forced prostitution, and domestic violence. For the past six
months, Musa has worked with UNRWA to set up domestic
violence hotlines at both the Dar'a and Yarmuk Palestinian
refugee camps.

58. (SBU) Musa Continued: An organizational force of nature,
Musa has worked closely with the U.S. Embassy to recruit
women to participate in International Visitor Programs
focused on best practices in combating TIP and in shelter
administration. In September 2009, the Embassy sent a group
of women to the U.S. on an IVP that Musa had recruited,
shepherded through the application process, and provided
pre-departure training on what to expect in the U.S. Musa is
herself an IVP alumna and has used her training, in
conjunction with the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, to launch
and manage Syria's first 24-hour help-line for women in need.

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


IPPPR: The Independent Panel Calls For Urgent Reform Of Pandemic Prevention And Response Systems

Expert independent panel calls for urgent reform of pandemic prevention and response systems The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response is today calling on the global community to end the COVID-19 pandemic and adopt a series of bold and ... More>>

NGO Coalition On Human Rights: Call For A Stop To Police Brutality In Fiji

A viral video has circulated online showing two police officers utilising disproportionate and excessive force in detaining the suspect, an individual half their size. In the video it shows the man’s head being pressed down on the ground, his arms being ... More>>

UN: India’s New COVID-19 Wave Is Spreading Like ‘Wildfire’, Warns UN Children’s Fund

7 May 2021 A new wave of COVID-19 infections is spreading like “wildfire” across India, leaving many youngsters destitute, the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF said on Friday. In the last 24 hours, India registered 3,915 coronavirus deaths and 414,188 ... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

ILO Voices: A Future With Hope, Free From Bonded Labour

By Padma Kumari Tamata Formerly in bonded labour, Padma Kumari Tamata is now a farmer, and grows and sells her own vegetables in the Kanchanpur district of Nepal. My name is Padma and I come from Vashi, a small hamlet in Nepal’s far-west Kanchanpur district. ... More>>

UN: Economic Recovery Under Threat Amid Surging COVID Cases And Lagging Vaccination In Poorer Countries

New York, 11 May — While the global growth outlook has improved, led by robust rebound in China and the United States, surging COVID-19 infections and inadequate vaccination progress in many countries threaten a broad-based recovery of the world ... More>>

Study: Cut Methane Emissions To Avert Global Temperature Rise

6 May 2021 Methane emissions caused by human activity can be reduced by up to 45 per cent this decade, thus helping to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to a UN-backed ... More>>