Human trafficking

Despite raids, Syrian women are still being lured and forced into prostitution in Lebanon

A picture shows a room used by trafficked women at the three-story Chez Maurice Hotel, which was used by sex traffickers as a brothel, in the Maameltein district of the coastal town of Jounieh, north of Beirut on April, 14, 2016. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian women who had been enticed into traveling to Lebanon by promises of marriage or jobs but were then forced into prostitution have told the Human Rights Watch that they suffered beatings, were held against their will, had their personal identification papers stolen, and were never paid for their work — treatment that a new report from the HRW says it all too common in Lebanon today. Some of the women were held at a notorious brothel, Chez Maurice, in the country’s red light district, where police raids have rescued dozens of women being held against their will. The owner of the brothel, Maurice Geagea, has been arrested and released at least three times, and while the brothel has been shuttered in the past, it reopened and continues operation today, according to the report.

“Trafficking into forced prostitution is a grave crime, and Lebanon should continue to step up its response,” said Skye Wheeler, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Survivors of trafficking need justice, services, and support.”

HRW says Lebanon’s anti-trafficking laws have been applied unevenly and traffickers are not being punished adequately when they are arrested and charged, and it urged Lebanese authorities to crack down on trafficking by improving their police operations and enforcing their existing laws.

As for the women who are rescued, they are often forced to wait days for help from Lebanese agencies in finding shelters and health services.

“Prosecutions are not enough. The authorities need a plan to fix broader problems of coordination among government and security agencies, inadequate services, and lack of justice for survivors of trafficking,” Wheeler said.

Read the full story and find the report at Human Rights Watch.

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