In light of the recent controversies regarding child and human trafficking in the Al Haouz region, devastated by an earthquake this month, MoroccoLatestNews reached out to a legal expert to clear out some confusion and to alert people of the dangers of human trafficking.
MoroccoLatestNews interviewed Mohamed Amine El Ofir, a senior legal counsel specializing in legal and tax consulting with 6 years of experience after working in one of the largest international consulting firms known worldwide.
“Human trafficking is a heinous crime that is heavily punished by prison sentences up to 20 years and even 30 when carried out on minors,” said El Ofir.
Currently an in-house legal counsel in a major energy company in Morocco, he provided us with his expertise and answered questions regarding legal adoption routes, post-quake exploitation of weak individuals, and the legal consequences of child and human trafficking.
After volunteering in the quake-stricken region, Amine said that the first thing that you notice in those areas is the tremendous amount of children.
“We all know that children are among the most vulnerable in this kind of tragedy, and we have all been shocked by comments on social media of evil-minded people towards children and young girls of these regions, such as taking children home and marrying minor girls,” said El Ofir.
There also have been reports of abduction attempts and sexual assaults among other awful things in those regions after the earthquake. In this regard, it is crucial to address these matters from a legal standpoint, he asserted.
While many attempted to get children from Al Haouz through illicit means, the legal expert stated that doing so would constitute an illegal adoption, which may result in severe consequences.
The distinction between Adoption and Kafala:
“Actually, there is no adoption in Morocco. It is impossible to become legally the adoptive parent of a child. Instead, there is an institution known as “Kafala”, which is considered a religiously-inspired institution, whose primary source is the holy Quran,” said El Ofir.
As a parent would for a child, the “Kafil” is responsible for the child’s safety, upbringing, and education; but, because the two are unrelated, the child will not inherit anything.
In Morocco, the Kafala is regulated by Law n°15-01 of June 13, 2002, relating to the care of abandoned children. There is a very specific procedure to follow before the Moroccan court to be the legal Kafil of a child.
Anyone who abducts a child without first going through the proper channels could face harsh punishment; in the worst instance, they could receive up to 30 years in prison for charges like fraud, deceit, forging documents, abduction, or human trafficking.
“This is no joke, and people should be very serious about that and abide by laws. The person could also be sought for his civil responsibility, as he may be subject to civil lawsuits brought by affected parties, including birth parents, relatives, and even the adopted child,” he further explained.
The great risk of human trafficking in such tragedies caused by natural disasters should be taken seriously, which is why all citizens, including volunteers and civil society, in these areas should be particularly vigilant.
Laws against human trafficking:
Morocco has ratified lots of international protocols aiming to punish the trafficking of humans, especially women and children, such as The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2000), ratified on 19 September 2002; and The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (2000), ratified on 22 May 2010.
Internally, Morocco has adopted a legal arsenal specifically focused on human trafficking, namely the Law N° 27-14 of August 25, 2016. Said law has modified the penal code and introduced a new section dedicated to human trafficking.
Article 448.7 defines human trafficking as recruiting, involving, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person, or acting as an intermediary to this end, by means of the threat of force, the use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception or abuse of authority, position or power, or exploitation of a situation of vulnerability, need or precariousness, or by giving or receiving sums of money or benefits to obtain the consent of a person having authority over another person for the purpose of exploitation, explained El Ofir.
Exploitation has the effect of alienating the person’s will, depriving them of the freedom to change their situation, and undermining their dignity by any means whatsoever, even if they have received compensation or remuneration for doing so, said the expert.
Law N°27-14 and its implementing decree have instituted a National Commission specially dedicated to Human Trafficking (CNCLT). The authorities have dedicated a special free number for the denunciation of human trafficking activities.
It is crucial to highlight that according to article 448.10, any person who benefits from a service or work while knowing that it involves the offense of trafficking in human beings, could face a prison sentence of up to 5 years.
Therefore, anyone who is aware of such trafficking, crime, or even has the slightest suspicions, must denounce it and call the said number, advises the legal expert.
What can people do?
People can denounce such traffic and crime to local authorities such as the police or the National Royal Guard.
“People should bear in mind that, according to article 448.1 of the penal code, anyone who has become aware that a person has committed or begun to commit a human trafficking offense without denouncing it to the competent authorities could face a prison sentence of up to 5 years,” concluded the expert.