The government increased investigations of suspected trafficking cases, but the government’s judicial data was incomplete due to limitations in data collection and management. The 2011 anti-trafficking law criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of five to seven years’ imprisonment and fines if the offense involved an adult victim, and 10 to 12 years’ imprisonment and fines for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government did not have a law that prohibited or penalized confiscation of workers’ passports or travel documents by employers or labor agents. Government officials and NGOs continued to report that some judges lacked understanding of the anti-trafficking law and knowledge of best practices for handling trafficking cases.
In 2018, the Internal Security Forces (ISF) investigated 45 cases of suspected sex trafficking and child trafficking, involving 151 victims. DGS investigated 167 suspected trafficking cases involving migrant domestic workers and women holding artiste visas. The 212 investigations in total represented an increase from the 134 total investigations initiated by both the ISF and DGS in the previous reporting period. The DGS reported that 124 of the 167 cases resulted in the following outcomes: referral to judicial or law enforcement authorities for further investigation, payment of back wages to workers, and repatriation of migrant workers. The MOJ reported its judicial data was incomplete due to limitations and challenges in collecting country-wide data. Nevertheless, during the reporting period, the MOJ reported that public prosecutors referred at least 38 cases to investigative judges, who charged and prosecuted 69 alleged traffickers under the anti-trafficking law; these cases involved sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and forced child begging. Sixty-five of these prosecutions remained pending at the end of the reporting period; these cases, like many in Lebanon’s overworked judicial system, took significant time to resolve. During the previous reporting period, the MOJ reported more comprehensive judicial data reflecting that public prosecutors referred 109 trafficking cases to investigative judges. During this reporting period, the government convicted and sentenced four traffickers, three involving forced child begging and one involving sex trafficking; these traffickers received sentences that ranged from three to 15 years’ imprisonment. In the previous reporting period, in late March 2018, the government convicted and sentenced four traffickers, each of whom received five-year jail sentences. Officials generally sought to resolve trafficking cases involving foreign workers through mediation between the employer and worker, rather than referring them for criminal prosecution. Additionally, government officials continued to report security forces were reluctant to arrest parents for subjecting their children to trafficking, usually in forced begging, due to a lack of social services available should the child be removed from the family. The government did not report investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses during the reporting period; however, NGOs continued to report a common perception that DGS officers allegedly accepted bribes to protect adult nightclubs or issue artiste visas—a visa program that sustained a significant commercial sex industry in Lebanon and enabled sex trafficking.
The ISF anti-trafficking unit remained understaffed and underfunded, with only 23 officers covering Lebanon and no field offices outside of Beirut, which continued to limit the ISF’s work and ability to recruit and train new officers for the unit. The ISF, DGS, and MOJ occasionally included training and awareness of trafficking issues as a part of their curriculum for personnel. Additionally, during the reporting period, the ISF trained 24 officers at the ISF Academy on victim protection and investigative techniques for cases of trafficking and sexual exploitation. The government also continued to encourage and allow officials to participate in anti-trafficking trainings provided by NGOs.