Targeting Vulnerabilities: The Impact of the Syrian War and Refugee Situation on Trafficking in Persons, a Study of Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq

Claire Healy, with research support from Zaid Khaldoon Adelby, Erica Aiazzi, Vanessa Iaria, Fulya Memişoğlu, and Şenay Özden.


“This Study assesses the effects of the Syrian war and refugee crisis on trafficking in persons (TIP) in Syria and the surrounding region. The five countries under study – Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq (with a focus on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq – KR-I) – were selected on the basis of the magnitude of refugee and internal displacement. While around 6.6 million people are internally displaced in Syria as of the time of writing (October 2015), to the north of Syria, Turkey hosts around 1.9 million registered Syrian refugees, mostly in the southeastern and southern Turkish provinces. At Syria’s western border, the second most important hosting country in absolute numbers, Lebanon, is currently hosting over 1.1 million registered Syrians. Syria borders Jordan to the south, which is currently hosting around 630,000 people who have ed from Syria. Finally, Syria shares its eastern border with Iraq, where the majority of Syrians in the country reside in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I),2 an autonomous region in the federal state, host to a total of around 250,000 Syrian refugees. Nevertheless, these numbers do not include people who have ed from Syria to the neighbouring countries, but are not registered as active with the UNHCR – nor, in the case of Turkey, with the national authorities. In addition, the situation is highly dynamic, with Syrian refugees newly arriving in host countries, moving outside the region, entering a situation of internal displacement within Syria and, in some cases, returning to Syria for various reasons. Throughout the text, the five countries under study are referred to by order of the size of the displaced Syrian population: Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq. Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region comprising the four governorates of Duhok, Erbil (Hewler), Sulaymaniyah and the newly established (early 2014) governorate of Halabja. The human trafficking phenomenon itself is the thematic focus of this research, which aims to understand the forms of trafficking in persons that are taking place and whom they affect, as well as who the perpetrators are, rather than examining anti-trafficking policies or initiatives. The forms of trafficking in the countries under study are the subject of investigation, as well as situations of vulnerability to trafficking, although reference is also made, where relevant, to trafficking from or through these countries. Relevant anti-trafficking legislation, institutions, policies and activities in the countries under study are brie y examined below, and throughout the rest of the Study are referred to only as and when relevant to understanding the trafficking phenomenon. This is driven by the conviction that the most important step in responding to the trafficking and exploitation of girls, boys, women and men is to first understand it. The chronological scope of the Study facilitates a comparison of the situation at the beginning of 2011, referred to throughout as the baseline date, with the situation throughout 2011-2015 inclusive, in order to assess the effects of the conflict. To better understand the situation prior to the outbreak of the war, the Study covers the decade 2001-2010, which is referred to as the baseline period. As set out below in the section on Methodology, the analysis of the baseline period principally draws on secondary research and data, while primary sources were also consulted for the period since the outbreak of the war. Research commenced in late 2014, with all of the eld research taking place in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq during 2015.”