The US government listed Syria on Tuesday among countries with the worst ratings for compliance with international standards to combat human trafficking, in an annual report issued by the State Department.
“The government of Syria does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” the report found.
Despite an executive order by Damascus in June 2011 to implement prohibitions on human trafficking, and a brief “public awareness campaign” last year, the Syrian regime failed to “demonstrate evidence of increasing efforts to investigate and punish trafficking offenses,” the State Department said.
The report said that the “increasing lack of security and continued inaccessibility” of much of Syria made it impossible to thoroughly study the impact of the 16–month uprising and government use of force on human trafficking in the country.
The US cited reports that some trafficking victims have fled Syria during the current chaos, while international organizations say others remain trapped in the country amid the violence, in which more than 9,000 people are estimated to have died.
Syria has previously been mainly a destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor or sex trafficking, with victims from Indonesia, the Philippines, Somalia and Ethiopia most frequently targeted. Ethiopia has banned its citizens from taking jobs in Syria.
Girls and women from the large Iraqi refugee population may also have been victims in Syria.
Syria has also been a transit country for Iraqi, Southeast Asian and East African women and girls being forced into prostitution in Europe, the Gulf and Lebanon.
Syrians who have fled the country during the uprising may be vulnerable to human trafficking in the countries where they are now refugees.
The United Nations recently reported “uncorroborated allegations that the Syrian opposition was using Syrian children as soldiers,” the US document noted.