Authorities closed down the offices of two employment agencies after it was found that the owners had been involved in human trafficking.

The young women were lured by work opportunities, but investigations have concluded that they were sold to gangs based abroad which forced them to work without pay, exploited them sexually, or even killed them sold their organs.

“We have discovered two agencies doing this so far as a result of enacting searches. They were located in the Karrada and Kadhimiya neighbourhoods and have been closed down. We [the Directorate of Community Police] are observing closely and working on bringing an end to other such agencies,” said General Superintendent of Community Police at the Ministry of the Interior, Brigadier General Khaled Mihna. “There is a special department in the Ministry of the Interior to combat human trafficking in Iraq. We try to educate society about issues surrounding human trafficking and the means used by traffickers to lure young men and women.”

Although the human trafficking law was passed in the middle of 2012, it wasn’t implemented until the beginning of 2014 when the first case of human trafficking were exposed. The victims of this case were illegitimate infants who, according to the judicial authorities, “were sold with the acceptance of their mothers for the purpose of paid for adoption or the trading of their organs”.

“The courts dealing with human trafficking investigated 152 cases of human trafficking in 2014 and 2015, which was a notable rise,” said judiciary spokesman Abdul Sattar al-Biraqdar in a statement to Yalla. “Judicial authorities work with investigative bodies to combat human trafficking inside Iraq, and those found guilty of such crimes face life sentences and even execution.”

Al-Biraqdar went on, “Over the last two years 152 suspects were charged with human trafficking, 47 victims were rescued, sentences were handed down in 46 cases and 26 cases are still being investigated.”

At the beginning of this year it was announced that members of a human trafficking gang had been arrested. 39 Bengalis were detained on charges of extortion and human trade. According to a statement issued by the press office of the judicial authorities seen by Yalla, “the gang consisted of Iraqis and Bengalis. They were bringing Bengali workers to the country, then after their arrival, they would hold them in a house in the Karrada district of central Baghdad. The gang charged the families of each person $2,000 in return for getting them employment in Iraq.”

The security forces that raided the house revealed that “the victims were in different rooms around the house, the effects of torture visible. They had one meal a day, and had been detained for between 10 to 40 days.”

“The Kurdistan Regional Parliament is in the process of drafting a new law as, after studying the human trafficking law issued by the Federal Government in Baghdad, it became obvious that the KRG contained many legislative gaps.” Parliamentarian Dr. Ashwaq al-Jaf, a member of the Human Rights Committee, described current laws as “inadequate”.

“So far it is not at a level that enables us to say it will restrict human trafficking in Iraq,” he said.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva estimates there are around 20 million victims of human trafficking in the world.