UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Ms. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, concludes her visit to Morocco

RABAT (21 June 2013) - The UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Ms. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, concludes her visit to Morocco* and made the following statement sharing her preliminary observations and recommendations.

“I welcome the Government’s ratification of the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol, and urge it to translate its standards into specific actions to protect and assist victims, prevent trafficking and punish perpetrators.”

I conducted an official visit to Morocco at the invitation of the Government from 17 to 21 June 2013 to examine the phenomenon of trafficking, identify challenges and progress made, assess responses taken to combat human trafficking and engage constructively with relevant authorities and key actors on key issues and possible ways and means of addressing them.

I would like to thank the Government of Morocco for its full cooperation extended to me during my visit. During the visit to Morocco, I visited Rabat, Tangier and Casablanca, and met with various interlocutors including the representatives of relevant authorities, civil society, and visited the child and women protection centres.   

I would like to underline Morocco’s resolve to fight against trafficking in persons, as reflected by the country’s ratification of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol), and other relevant human rights instruments including the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation and the Prostitution of Others, the Forced Labour Convention (ILO 29), the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (ILO 105) and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (ILO 182), the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The newly-adopted Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco further strengthened the framework for the promotion of human rights and non-discrimination. In this context, the Government is working on introducing necessary legislative reforms and changes with a view to strengthening the national legal and normative framework for the promotion and protection of human rights. I welcome the Government’s steps being undertaken towards introducing specific amendments relating to trafficking in persons to the existing legal framework and adoption of a Draft Law on Domestic Workers as well as a Draft Law on Violence against Women. Moreover, I commend the Government’s efforts taken on prevention measures such as the establishment of child and women protection centers as well as the provision of education and training especially for children to reduce their vulnerability to different forms of exploitation and crimes including human trafficking. 

I also learnt of the steps taken by the Government in terms of fostering its bilateral, regional and international cooperation on combatting trafficking in persons.

However, despite certain positive steps I noted a number of challenges that must be addressed by the Government if it is to succeed effectively combating trafficking in persons and protecting the human rights of trafficked victims.

Morocco is considered mainly as a source and transit country for human trafficking and cross-border migration. Some Moroccan nationals and migrants who left their country in search of better opportunities have become victims of trafficking and various forms of exploitation in different countries, especially in Europe and the Middle East. A considerable number of migrants mainly from sub-Saharan Africa are still attempting to transit through Morocco to Europe. However, lately the country is increasingly becoming a destination country. In particular, the prevalence of irregular migrants in certain parts of the country increases their vulnerability to trafficking for the purposes of forced labour, services (including domestic servitude) and sexual exploitation. Against this background, I encountered a number of issues of concern during my visit to Morocco.

The immediate concern is a lack of adequate legal framework for addressing trafficking in persons. Despite the relevant provisions of the existing laws including the Penal Code, the Immigration Law, and the Labour Law, significant gaps remain which calls for a specific and comprehensive legislation on combatting human trafficking.

The potential scale of the problem of trafficking in persons appears to be somewhat underestimated and needs to be further investigated by the Government, judiciary and law enforcement agencies. This can be mainly attributed to the lack of adequate data collection mechanism for determining the prevalence rate, forms, trends and manifestation of human trafficking in Morocco. Victims of trafficking are often not being identified or being misidentified as smuggled and/or irregular migrants due the absence of appropriate tools and protocols for victim identification.

Moreover, the provision of protection services and proper access to justice for victims of trafficking and irregular migrants in Morocco remains insufficient. For example, domestic workers are outside the purview of the Moroccan Labour Law, leaving women and girls, both nationals and foreigners, vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Consequently, the absence of adequate protection dissuades trafficking victims from seeking help, and exposes them to criminals who can act with impunity because they know their victims have no legal recourse and effective remedies.

There is a lack of an enabling legal framework for the provision of assistance to irregular migrants and victims of trafficking which makes particularly civil society organizations hesitant to work with persons with irregular status. Shelter availability and access is limited for irregular migrants exposed to various forms of violence and exploitation as well as to the risk of trafficking. No shelter space is available for male irregular migrants and victims of trafficking. NGOs and victim support agencies are not enabled to operate legally in all parts of the country, and prevented from operating in certain regions where abuse of undocumented migrants and possible victims of trafficking is widespread. I remain also concerned about the possibility of trafficked persons being arrested, detained and being deported for having overstayed in the country or prosecuted for prostitution, which is a criminal offence in Morocco.

In May 2013, the Government approved a Draft Law on Domestic Workers. However, this Law may not change much in practice unless concurrent measures are taken to address the root causes of problem including social exclusion, poverty, inequalities and discrimination.

In view of the above observations and concerns, I would like to make a number of interim recommendations to Morocco.

In terms of the national legal framework, Morocco needs to ensure full domestic application of the Palermo Protocol, which obliges the country to prevent and combat trafficking in persons. In this connection, I encourage the Government accelerate the process of adopting necessary amendments to the Penal Code, and subsequently to enact and implement a specific anti-trafficking legislation within a specific timeline. Further, the scope of the existing legislation on labour should be extended so that it provides adequate protection to domestic workers. 

Concerning policy responses to trafficking in persons, the Government of Morocco should develop, after consulting with all stakeholders, including civil society organisations, a national plan of action that clearly identifies objectives, delineates responsibilities, and sets out clear indicators to measure progress and impact of policy responses.  

To ensure effective implementation of anti-trafficking efforts, a national agency to coordinate anti-trafficking activities of governmental institutions should be established, and the Government should also consider appointing a national rapporteur tasked with monitoring the progress, implementation as well a human rights impacts of anti-trafficking legislation and policy responses. 

To combat trafficking, a proper identification system must be put in place and be well resourced. This should be done through creating specific tools and protocols for identifying victims of trafficking and training relevant law enforcement agencies, especially police, immigration and labour inspectors. Such trainings should seek to enhance their capacity to identify trafficked persons quickly and accurately, and to make referrals to appropriate services.

Given the absence of reliable data on trafficking in Morocco, there is a strong need to create a mechanism for the collection of data on cases of trafficking as well as forms, trends and manifestations of trafficking. This is highly instrumental in designing informed policy responses to address trafficking in persons.

Alleged cases of misconduct of law enforcement officials including dismissing trafficking cases and victims’ complaints out of hand calls for urgent action to sensitize and build capacity to adopt victim-centred response. The Government needs to step up its efforts to raise awareness also among the general public about all forms of trafficking in persons to promote understanding of what constitutes trafficking.  

With regard to support services for victims of trafficking, the Government should make much greater efforts on protecting and assisting all victims of trafficking, including male victims, with full respect for their human rights and incorporate a human rights based approach in the investigation of cases of trafficking that requires the needs of all victims to be placed at the core of any response. Furthermore, it should increase its efforts to prosecute traffickers whilst guaranteeing fair trial rights consistent with human rights based approach to criminal justice response and establish necessary legal framework and procedures in order to ensure that victims/witnesses are protected. 

The contribution of and collaboration with civil society organizations is crucial in combatting human trafficking. In this regard, immediate steps need to be taken to establish the necessary legal framework and support to potential service providers and civil society organizations working on providing assistance on rehabilitation and recovery for victims as well as counselling services to trafficked persons including those who do not immediately wish their matter to come before the authorities or to be repatriated.

In terms of international cooperation, the Government should continue its cooperation and maintain closer cooperation with the relevant UN agencies and international organizations including  UNHCR and IOM for the safe return of trafficked victims in their country having due regard to the need, if any, of international protection of the victims. Further measures should be adopted to ensure that victims of trafficking with international protection needs are properly identified and referred to the asylum system, when appropriate.

Further on international legal framework and cooperation, Morocco should continue strengthening its partnership with source countries in all regions, including sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia, and extend cooperation for exchange of information and mutual legal assistance, and consider ratifying the 2011 ILO No. 189 Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

During my visit to the city of Dakhla, Western Sahara, I also met with different interlocutors and visited child and women protection centres. I recognize the open and frank discussion with the authorities and civil society organizations. I appreciate the willingness of the authorities to institutionalize best practices as seen in hospital and court-based responses to gender-based violence. Nevertheless, concerns remain about the situation of irregular migrants, domestic workers, child labour and sexual exploitation. I urge the authorities to enhance capacity-building to identify cases of trafficking in persons, take further measures to reduce vulnerability of potential victims of trafficking and ensure adequate protection of migrants and their families.     
I would like to thank again all my interlocutors. I will present my full report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2014.
(*)The Special Rapporteur also visited Dakhla, Western Sahara, on 20 June 2013.

For the use of the media; not an official record.


Joy Ngozi Ezeilo (Nigeria) started her mandate as Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children in August 2008. She is independent from any government and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Ezeilo is a human rights lawyer and professor at the University of Nigeria. She has served in various governmental capacities and consulted for various international organizations. She has published extensively on a variety of topics, including human rights, women’s rights, and Sharia law.

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