Algeria is a transit and, to a lesser extent, a destination and source country for women and, to a lesser extent, men, subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Most commonly, sub-Saharan African men and women enter Algeria voluntarily but illegally, often with the assistance of smugglers, for the purpose of traveling to Europe. Some of these women may be forced into prostitution. Criminal networks, which sometimes extend to sub-Saharan Africa and to Europe, are involved in smuggling and human trafficking. The “chairmen,” or leaders, of the “African villages”—small non-Algerian ethnic enclaves located in and around the southern city of Tamanrasset—may be among those responsible for forcing some women into prostitution. Some sub-Saharan African men, mostly from Mali, are forced domestic workers. Homeowners sometimes confiscate their identification documents, which is indicative of forced labor. Some Algerian women are also forced into prostitution. Civil society groups believe that Algeria is increasingly becoming a destination for both undocumented migration and trafficking.
The Government of Algeria does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. For another year the government did not hold any perpetrators of sex trafficking or forced labor accountable with jail time. The government continued to conflate human trafficking and smuggling, and trafficking victims were therefore commonly treated as illegal immigrants and subject to arrest, detention, and deportation. The government lacked adequate measures to protect victims. The government’s anti-trafficking committee met monthly since June 2012, but it did not publicly report its activities or accomplishments.
Recommendations for Algeria: Investigate, prosecute, and convict sex and labor trafficking offenders, including public officials complicit in human trafficking, and punish them with imprisonment; establish capacity to identify victims of trafficking among illegal migrants; ensure that trafficking victims are offered necessary assistance, such as shelter, medical, psychological, and legal aid; establish a policy to ensure identified victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking; establish partnerships with relevant international organizations and NGOs in source countries to ensure the safe and voluntary repatriation of trafficking victims; establish formal procedures to guide officials in how to identify trafficking, handle trafficking cases and protect victims; and expand existing efforts to increase public awareness of trafficking, including on the differences between human smuggling and trafficking.
The Algerian government made minimal efforts to address human trafficking through law enforcement means during the reporting period. Algeria prohibits all forms of trafficking under Section 5 of its criminal code, enacted in March 2009. Prescribed penalties under this statute range from three to 10 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed under Algerian law for other serious crimes, such as rape. By law, Algerian courts must hear testimony from the victim in order to convict the trafficking offender; therefore courts are unable to secure a conviction if a trafficking victim has already left the country. The government does not have an effective system to collect and report anti-trafficking law enforcement data, and government officials admitted difficulty distinguishing between human trafficking and smuggling data. This inability to differentiate between alien smuggling and human trafficking led to continued conflation, with the November 2012 arrests of seven smugglers for moving Nigerien migrants en route to Libya under the anti-trafficking statute. During the reporting period, the government prosecuted these seven individuals under its anti-trafficking law but did not differentiate whether the prosecutions were for sex trafficking or forced labor. For another year, the government did not report any convictions of trafficking offenders. The government did not report efforts to investigate or punish government employees complicit in trafficking-related offenses despite some allegations of complicity. Previous reporting has indicated that some police in Tamanrasset have released sex trafficking victims back to their pimps, who are often also village “chairmen.” The government funded and implemented a trafficking victim identification training program in November 2012 for 74 police brigades, including 24 newly established police brigades that focus on illegal immigration and human trafficking. The anti-trafficking committee also collaborated with an international organization in the development of a judicial anti-trafficking training program for government officials.
The government made no discernible progress in protecting victims of trafficking over the last year. It did not develop or employ systematic procedures for the identification of trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as foreign women arrested for prostitution or undocumented migrants, nor did the government have a victim referral procedure in place to provide victims with appropriate protection and assistance. NGOs reported that some trafficking victims were jailed for unlawful acts committed as a result of their being subjected to human trafficking—such as engaging in prostitution or lacking adequate immigration documentation. Similarly, NGOs indicated that if a prostitution operation became too public, police arrested women in prostitution and deported them through Algeria’s southern border, making no attempt to identify potential sex trafficking victims among the women. The government did not provide foreign victims with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they faced retribution or hardship. In previous years, NGOs reported that deported migrants, some of whom may have been trafficking victims, received a liter of milk and some bread and were transported to desert borders with Mali and Niger; NGOs also reported that in some cases, migrants died in the Saharan desert. The government reported that undocumented migrants detained in Tamanrasset spent a week in a detention center before being deported to neighboring countries to the south.
There were no government-operated shelters, and civil society groups were prohibited from operating any such shelters because they would be penalized for harboring undocumented migrants. However, NGOs operated care facilities for some vulnerable populations, such as abandoned women, and these were—in theory—accessible to some female trafficking victims. The government reported that it identified 100 potential victims of trafficking and referred them to short-term NGO-operated care facilities before deporting them; many of them may have been falsely identified as trafficking victims and instead were smuggled migrants. Government-operated health clinics continued to be available for trafficking victims, and some victims used these services; however, a number of victims were either unaware of these clinics or declined to use them due to fear of deportation. There is no formal program to encourage trafficking victims to participate in investigations or prosecutions of trafficking offenders. The government did not provide counseling or legal services to victims.
The Algerian government made no significant progress in its prevention efforts during the reporting period. The government did not conduct a public awareness campaign on trafficking in persons, despite its effort in the previous reporting period. The government did not have a formal anti-trafficking policy or a national plan of action to complement its anti-trafficking law. It did not attempt to forge effective anti-trafficking partnerships with civil society organizations. The government did not take measures to establish the identity of the populations most at risk of being trafficked. The government did not report taking any measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts in Algeria or child sex tourism among Algerians traveling abroad. The government reported that its inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee met every month since June 2012 but the group did not produce a public report on its activities or accomplishments.