Burkina Faso is a country of origin, transit, and destination for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Burkinabe children are subjected to forced labor as farm hands, gold panners and washers, street vendors, domestic servants, and beggars recruited as pupils by individuals posing as religious teachers. Girls are exploited in the commercial sex trade. Burkinabe children are transported to Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, and Niger for subsequent forced labor or sex trafficking. Burkina Faso is a transit country for traffickers transporting children from Mali to Cote d’Ivoire, and is a destination for children trafficked from other countries in the region, such as Ghana, Guinea, Mali, and Nigeria. To a lesser extent, traffickers recruit women for ostensibly legitimate employment in Lebanon and various countries in Europe, and subsequently subject them to forced prostitution in the destination countries. Women from other West African countries, including Nigeria, Togo, Benin, and Niger, are fraudulently recruited for employment in Burkina Faso and subsequently subjected to situations of forced prostitution, forced labor in restaurants, or domestic servitude in private homes.
The Government of Burkina Faso does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government recognizes that sex trafficking and forced labor are problems in the country, and makes continued efforts to identify child trafficking victims. As a result of a mission to Beirut in March 2012, in conjunction with INTERPOL, adult Burkinabe women were identified as trafficking victims and provided assistance by Burkinabe authorities; these were the first adult victims to be acknowledged by the government. Despite this achievement, the government did not take additional steps to identify adult victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations. The government sustained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, conducting 96 investigations and initiating 31 prosecutions. However, at the close of the reporting period, the government had not yet obtained any convictions, and 24 prosecutions remained pending. The government continues to struggle to compile comprehensive data on its law enforcement efforts.
Recommendations for Burkina Faso: Strengthen the system for collecting anti-trafficking law enforcement data, and ensure that authorities responsible for data collection are supplied with adequate means for accessing and compiling this information; increase efforts to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders, and apply appropriate penalties as prescribed by the May 2008 anti-trafficking law; train law enforcement officials to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution and children working in agriculture and mining, and refer them to protective services; strengthen efforts to identify traffickers posing as Koranic school teachers and pursue criminal prosecution of such individuals; improve coordination between the national and regional committees that combat trafficking in persons, including by increasing funding to regional bodies; and, while continuing to fund transit centers and vocational training programs, develop a formal referral mechanism for coordinating with NGOs to provide victims with long-term care.
The government sustained its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year, though the number of suspected trafficking cases it investigated and prosecuted continued to be few compared with the significant number of victims identified in 2012. The government also struggled to compile complete data on its law enforcement efforts. The country’s May 2008 anti-trafficking law prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes maximum penalties of 10 years’ imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with prescribed penalties for other serious offenses, such as rape. The government reported investigating 96 suspected trafficking cases, initiating 31 prosecutions, and convicting no trafficking offenders in 2012, a decrease in investigations and convictions compared with the previous year; however, 24 of the 31 cases remained pending at the close of the reporting period. Over the course of the reporting period, the Government of Burkina Faso provided anti-trafficking training to police officers, social workers, and judges, which included information on trafficking victim identification, victim assistance, investigation procedures, and prosecution of trafficking crimes. The trainings were provided to 409 participants and conducted by the government with the financial support of UNICEF and INTERPOL. The Ministry of Territorial Administration, Decentralization, and Security conducted periodic raids of sites vulnerable to trafficking, such as brothels and farms, which also served as a means to address the demand for commercial sex acts and forced labor. The Government of Burkina Faso did not report any investigations or prosecutions of government employees for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during the reporting period; however, law enforcement efforts remained hindered by limited human and financial resources, and general corruption in the judiciary.
The government sustained its efforts to identify and provide protective services to large numbers of child trafficking victims during the year, and identified adult victims for the first time. In 2012, the Ministry of Social Action (MSA) identified 1,910 child victims of trafficking, of which 1,427 were boys and 483 were girls; 1,554 were victims of internal trafficking, while the remaining 356 were victims of transnational trafficking. A large number of these children were intercepted and rescued prior to reaching their destinations where they would face exploitation, typically in gold mines or in city centers as domestic servants or street beggars; it is unclear whether these children were victims or potential victims of trafficking. The aforementioned INTERPOL mission to Lebanon, led by Burkinabe police, resulted in the identification of 25 adult female victims of trafficking. These women were recruited by traffickers who promised them jobs as nannies, housekeepers, or cashiers in shops; however, once in Lebanon, the women were forced into domestic servitude and prostitution. To date, four victims have been returned to Burkina Faso and have received assistance from the government, including psychological and social support. The Government of Burkina Faso noted that the women victims in the Lebanon trafficking cases provided valuable information which allowed the authorities to investigate the traffickers. During the year, the government, in collaboration with a variety of local NGOs and international organizations, continued to operate 23 multi-purpose transit centers, which provided limited food, medical care, and counseling before reuniting victims with their families. The government did not report housing any of the adult victims identified in the Lebanon cases in these shelters. The shelters are open, and victims are free to leave at any time. To complement funding from other donors, the government allocated the equivalent of approximately $14,000 to support protection activities, including funding for these transit centers. The law provides that foreign citizens may apply for asylum if they fear they will face hardship or retribution if returned to their country of origin, although no trafficking victims sought this protection during the year. There were no reports that trafficking victims were penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
The Burkinabe government sustained moderate efforts to prevent trafficking in persons over the last year. The MSA conducted a number of awareness-raising activities, including open-forum discussions, film screenings, theater forums, radio programming, conferences, and lectures for the general public. To increase regional participation, membership in the National Committee for Vigilance and Surveillance Against the Trafficking in Persons and Assimilated Practices, which meets annually to assess the current trafficking situation, provide guidance, and make recommendations, was opened to provincial governors in 2012. In addition to the annual National Committee meeting, 13 regional bodies brought together police, social workers, transit companies, NGOs, and other groups engaged in combating trafficking on a regional level to coordinate activities to identify and assist victims and potential victims of trafficking, as well as support law enforcement efforts. Despite these efforts, the regional bodies remained severely underfunded and lacked sufficient resources.
In 2012, the government directed the MSA to provide counseling on the dangers of trafficking to all women who apply for visas to Lebanon. Additionally, it continued to collaborate with neighboring countries on anti-trafficking efforts, including hosting regional meetings and a training session with participants from Ghana, Canada, and Cote d’Ivoire. The first ladies of Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire signed a joint declaration in October 2012 that commits each country to finalize a bilateral cooperative agreement against cross-border child trafficking in early 2013.
The Government of Burkina Faso failed to adequately address the issue of traffickers posing as Koranic school teachers who force children to beg in the streets, due to sensitivities involved in addressing the issue within the Muslim community. The government provided Burkinabe troops with anti-trafficking and human rights training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.