In Iraq, IOM Engages Government, Community Actors to Tackle Human Trafficking


Baghdad – Across Iraq, the instability and insecurity caused by years of conflict have left an environment where trafficking in persons (TIP) is a constant and real threat. It occurs in peacetime and is exacerbated during conflict and post-crises. Approximately 1.6 million people in Iraq are internally displaced. The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan estimates that 6.7 million people are still in need of humanitarian assistance. 

Many individuals and communities are vulnerable to human traffickers and migrant smugglers; these risks impact those communities affected by the conflict with the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as well as migrants who have been trafficked into Iraq or are in irregular situations. 

Between January 2018 and July 2019, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) assisted 108 Victims of Trafficking (98 women, 10 men). Most of them were foreign nationals, reflecting the nature of cases that are referred to IOM, and most were victims of either labour or sexual exploitation.  

On Tuesday, World Day against Trafficking in Persons (WDATIP), the focus here was on creating an environment where government and civil-society actors could discuss pathways to combat the crime and provide meaningful protection to victims.  

IOM, within the framework of the Strengthening Community Policing in Iraq project, organized the technical workshop “Building Networks to Better Identify and Assist Victims of Trafficking and Other Sexual Gender-Based Violence” for criminal justice actors, service delivery providers, and community members from across Iraq. The aim of this one-day workshop (30/7) was to develop a potential procedure for security and protection actors to identify, refer and assist victims of trafficking and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) using the community policing approach. 

The foundation for Tuesday’s workshop was laid in Baghdad early last month, when IOM and Iraq’s Ministry of Interior organized a joint session for criminal justice actors on mainstreaming the Community Policing approach and protection principles into investigations of trafficking cases. Community Policing focuses on supporting the Ministry of Interior and rebuilding trust between law enforcement officers and communities to re-establish the rule of law and create safe and secure environments where law enforcement can better serve and protect the community. 

“From a judiciary perspective, there are ambiguities at the practical level in the fight against trafficking in persons. We need to have more discussions and offer concrete results in providing protection to victims, in cooperation with international organizations,” Judge Ala’a Hussein, from the Baghdad Rusafa Investigation Court, said at the time. 

As a direct outcome of the joint session, letters of recommendation were issued to the Higher Judicial Council suggesting waivers of fines for victims of trafficking who find themselves in irregular situations because of their trafficking experience and overstayed visas. 

Also, on WDATIP, IOM Iraq’s Trafficking in Persons Awareness-Raising Roadshow stopped in Erbil. Between 21 July and 21 August, IOM staff are traveling the country with representatives of the Government to conduct information sessions on trafficking in persons in selected governorates.  

The Iraqi Parliament passed an anti-trafficking law in 2012 that put forth punishments for both sex and labour trafficking; however, it was only adopted in the Kurdistan Region in 2018. Through activities like the roadshow and targeted trainings for law enforcement officers and community members, IOM Iraq’s Migration Management Unit (MMU) is working to ensure the law’s proper application throughout the region. 

“IOM lauds the Government of Iraq for paying more attention to address trafficking in persons as a form of transnational organized crime. IOM, with its strong network across Iraq, continues to support the Government of Iraq and society to combat trafficking in persons,” said IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Gerard Waite. “These methods include developing and promoting a well-planned migration strategy, providing technical assistance, and capacity development that will lead to prevention, protection of victims, and prosecution of offenders.”  

IOM Iraq conducts complementary counter trafficking initiatives supported by the US Government’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. These activities focus on raising awareness of TIP within at-risk communities, and training front liners to identify and safely refer victims of trafficking. IOM Iraq also provides comprehensive assistance to victims of trafficking, including items such as clothes and dignity kits, emergency cash assistance and services (legal, psychosocial and medical assistance, or assisted voluntary return and reintegration – either directly or through partners).  

As part of the holistic response to counter trafficking, IOM assists government counterparts in strengthening Integrated Border Management and Community Policing, including supporting initiatives towards the UN Security Council 1325 Resolution on Women Peace and Security. 

The project Strengthening Community Policing in Iraq is funded by the Germany Federal Foreign Office (FFO). 

For more information please contact Vanessa Okoth-Obbo at IOM Iraq, Tel: +964 751 234 2550, Email: 

  • On World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, IOM hosted a workshop in Erbil focused on community policing as a counter-trafficking strategy. Photo: IOM 2019

  • IOM Iraq’s Counter-Trafficking roadshow stopped in Dohuk on 21-22 July. Photo: IOM 2019