2.17.4. Child labour and child trafficking

Last updated: January 2021

COI summary

[Targeting, 3.8.2, 3.8.5; Actors of protection, 9.1; Key socio-economic indicators 2019, 4.1.2, 4.2, 4.3]

The Iraqi government has established laws and regulations related to child labour. However, gaps exist in Iraq’s legal framework to adequately protect children from child labour, including the prohibition of child trafficking.

In a report from June 2016, UNICEF noted that 5 % of the children aged 5 to 14 years were engaged in child labour and that half a million Iraqi children were estimated to be at work rather than at school.

In a September 2018 report that examines the findings from 2017, the US Department of Labour reported that ‘children in Iraq engage in the worst forms of child labour, including in armed conflict and commercial sexual exploitation, each sometimes as a result of human trafficking’. The same report notes that ‘child labourers were also exposed to sexual violence and abuse’.

In big cities, such as Baghdad, Basrah and Erbil, working children are most often involved in street vending, begging, scavenging, making them particularly vulnerable to abuse. In Basrah, for example, it is reported that child street vendors were subjected to daily beatings by people in the street and by the police and were frequently arrested or extorted. There are also reported cases of children forced by gangs to sell drugs.

It is reported that child labour especially affects minor IDPs. In 2016, the number of underage workers has increased in KRI’s larger cities, partly due to the influx of displaced families and refugees. The KRG has announced legal action to curb the trend.

Child prostitution occurs in Iraq. Authorities often treat sexually exploited children as criminals instead of victims. Among IDP families, there are reported cases of girls sold in ‘temporary marriages’, practiced as an instrument to facilitate prostitution.

In relation to trafficking, it is reported that Iraq has failed to prosecute or convict officials involved in sex trafficking and that victims remained vulnerable to arrest, imprisonment or prosecution.

Risk analysis

Child trafficking would amount to persecution. Not all forms of child labour would amount to persecution. An assessment should be made in light of the nature of the work and the age of the child. However, worst forms of child labour, such as work that is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children would be considered to reach the severity of persecution.[24]

The impact of child labour on access to education should also be taken into account (see the subsection Education of children and girls in particular). Other risks, such as involvement in criminal activities and trafficking should also be considered.

Not all children would face the level of risk required to establish a well-founded fear of persecution in relation to child labour and/or child trafficking. The individual assessment of whether or not there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: age, gender, poor socio-economic status of the child and his or her family, being in an IDP situation, etc.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that in the case of child labour and child trafficking, the individual circumstances of the child need to be taken into account to determine whether or not a nexus to a reason for persecution can be substantiated.                        

See other topics concerning children:       
2.17.4. Child labour and child trafficking


[24] International Labour Organization (ILO), Minimum Age Convention, C138, 26 June 1973, available at http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C138; Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, C182, 17 June 1999, available at http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C182. [back to text]
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