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Lack of penalties, vague laws hindering anti-human trafficking efforts — study

By Laila Azzeh - Oct 14,2014 - Last updated at Oct 14,2014

AMMAN — The divergence of theory and practice remains a distinctive mark when it comes to the rights of migrant workers in Jordan, experts said Tuesday.

Despite having “good” protective laws for guest labourers — surpassing any other country in the region in some laws — violations of workers’ rights in general are still evident in the Kingdom, said Linda Kalash, executive director of Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Human Rights.

At a workshop to review legislative texts that govern the rights of guest workers and combat human trafficking, Kalash noted that the main reason behind such imbalances is the lack of punishment.

“Another reason is related to the gap and conflict between laws that make it hard to recognise victims of human trafficking or human rights violations,” she highlighted, adding that many cases involving forced labour or human trafficking have been handled as labour issues.

Lawyer Muath Momani, also from Tamkeen, agreed, saying that “abusers might go unpunished due to the ambiguity of the law.”

One of the most common conceptions about human trafficking among citizens, Momani noted, is that they tend to believe that it is a crime which is only committed against guest labourers or migrants.

“Human trafficking can take the form of exploitation in the workplace and forced labour practices for example,” he said.

Incidents involving human trafficking are difficult to track due to the “vague definition of the crime, the rights that should be given to its victims and ways to protect them”, according to a study conducted recently by Tamkeen.

Moreover, the study showed that the law quotes the same terms used in the Supplemental Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which Jordan has ratified.

“The problem of the protocol is that it was enacted to provide guidelines and not to be used as legislation,” Kalash noted.

On the other hand, the law does not guarantee compensation for victims, contrary to what is stipulated in the protocol, the study said.

With the NGO dealing with more than 1,500 cases of suspected human trafficking between 2009 and 2013, the study called for redefining human trafficking and working to ensure legislative coordination between the Anti-Trafficking Law and the Penal Code.

The recommendations also included amending the Residency and Foreigners Affairs Law to stipulate exemptions for foreigners who are victims of human trafficking.

Tuesday’s workshop also included a brainstorming session on journalists’ views on ways to improve the coverage of guest workers and human trafficking issues in the media.

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