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Diplomacy in Action

Comoros


2013 Trafficking in Persons Report
Tier 2 Watch List
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The Comoros is a source country for children subjected to forced labor and reportedly sex trafficking. Comoran children are subjected to forced labor within the country, mostly on the island of Anjouan, in domestic service, roadside and market vending, baking, and agriculture. On the islands of Anjouan and Moheli, it is commonplace for poor rural families to place their children with wealthier relatives or acquaintances in urban areas for access to schooling and other benefits; however, some of these children become victims of domestic servitude. Most Comoran boys and girls aged three to seven (but on occasion up to age 14) study at Koranic schools headed by private instructors, and some are exploited for a few hours a week in forced labor as field hands or domestic servants in payment for instruction. These Koranic students are sometimes subjected to physical and sexual abuse. Additionally, children from Anjouan are reportedly coerced into criminal activities such as drug trafficking. According to one unconfirmed report, girls are exploited in prostitution in the Comoros, and tourists from Mayotte were among the clients of children in prostitution in Anjouan. Comoran tourists visiting Madagascar also reportedly engaged in child sex tourism there. There are no reports of any organized recruiting or trafficking networks in the Comoros. The Comoros may be particularly vulnerable to transnational trafficking due to a lack of adequate border controls, corruption within the administration, and the existence of international criminal networks involved in human smuggling.

The Government of the Comoros does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, the Comoros is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year. The Comoros was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. The government did not collect and thus failed to provide data on any trafficking prosecutions or convictions; however, the Morals and Minors Brigade investigated 92 cases of child abuse and exploitation, the majority of which were prosecuted and may have involved trafficking. Although the government provided some funding to UNICEF-supported NGO-run centers, victim protection provisions remained extremely modest. The government relied on donor funding and international organization partners for the majority of its anti-trafficking efforts during the year. Corruption in the justice system and inadequate support for victim protection efforts continued to hinder anti-trafficking progress in the Comoros. During the year, the government made efforts to improve its labor laws and increase its capacity to combat human trafficking. The National Assembly passed a new labor code, which prohibits child trafficking, and the Ministry of Justice revised the penal code to include prohibitions against and penalties for human trafficking, which awaits parliamentary adoption.

Recommendations for the Comoros: Enact anti-trafficking legislation; increase the capacity of the Morals and Minors Brigade to identify and respond to trafficking, including through investigation and prosecution of these crimes; develop procedures for the identification and referral of trafficking victims to care; establish services and provide support for the care of trafficking victims, including counseling and psychological care, possibly within facilities already in existence for victims of other crimes; work with international partners to conduct a study on the forms and extent of the trafficking problem in the Comoros; continue anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns on each of the islands; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

Prosecution

The government worked to improve its capacity to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes by incorporating anti-trafficking provisions into the labor code and the draft penal code during the reporting period. Comoran law does not prohibit all forms of human trafficking. Article 323 of the penal code prohibits child prostitution, prescribing sufficiently stringent punishments of two to five years’ imprisonment and fines of between the equivalent to approximately $460 and $6,150; however, these penalties are not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Although prostitution is illegal in the Comoros, existing laws do not criminalize the forced prostitution of adults. Article 2 of the labor code prohibits forced and bonded labor, prescribing insufficiently stringent penalties of from three months’ to three years’ imprisonment or fines from the equivalent of approximately $310 to $1,540. Article 333 of the penal code prohibits illegal restraint and prescribes penalties of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. In September 2012, the National Assembly passed a new comprehensive labor code which prohibits but does not prescribe penalties for child trafficking; this law is in effect but the enhanced penalties await the parliamentary passage of the draft penal code. The Ministry of Justice, in partnership with the ILO, reviewed amendments to the penal code and incorporated penalties for human trafficking into its draft.

The Morals and Minors Brigade of the national police investigated 92 cases of child abuse or exploitation, some of which may have included trafficking crimes. The government reported its prosecution of the majority of these cases, though it failed to provide detailed information on the status of the court proceedings. Social stigma sometimes inhibited referral to law enforcement of cases involving child abuse or exploitation, and alleged perpetrators were sometimes released without prosecution after out-of-court settlements with victims’ families. In such cases, staff from NGO-run centers visit the affected family to convince them to pursue prosecution—most often successfully. The gendarmerie, prosecutors, and local authorities were influenced by important or wealthy members of Comoran society, including one reported case leading to the release of an offender before completion of his sentence. Corruption remained endemic throughout the Comoros and hindered law enforcement efforts, including efforts to address trafficking. The government did not make proactive efforts to investigate official complicity in trafficking crimes. The government failed to train its law enforcement officials on trafficking during the year. In addition, the police generally lacked technical, logistical, and financial support, which stymied investigation of child abuse and exploitation cases. Although the Morals and Minors Brigade is supposed to investigate cases of child abuse and exploitation nationwide, it has no presence on the islands of Moheli or Anjouan, where the majority of trafficking crimes reportedly occurred. The regular police have the responsibility for investigating and prosecuting these cases on the two islands.

Protection

The government made limited efforts to protect victims of human trafficking, and its provision of care remained extremely modest during the year. In 2012 the government provided the equivalent of approximately $12,000 to three UNICEF-supported NGO-run centers for abused children; one government employee coordinated efforts among each of these three centers, which provided immediate medical care to an unknown number of child trafficking victims during the year. The centers received a total of 760 cases of child abuse and violence, which may have included child trafficking victims. The government failed to provide psycho-social services for victims and provided minimal support to NGOs doing so. In May 2012, in partnership with UNICEF, it built its first child-friendly courtroom in Moroni. Nonetheless, law enforcement’s failure to fully protect children remained a concern; the Morals and Minors Brigade lacked adequate facilities to shelter child victims, even temporarily, and its staff remained without training for interviewing child victims of crime. To assist in the identification of victims of child abuse and exploitation, in March 2013 the government began funding a new toll-free emergency line for reporting crimes to staff at the UNICEF-supported NGO-run centers. The government did not, however, develop or employ systematic procedures for identifying trafficking victims or for referring them to the limited care available. As government officials lacked the ability to identify trafficking victims, some victims may have been penalized for crimes committed as a result of being trafficked.

Prevention

The Comoran government maintained minimal efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. It did not establish a national coordinating body to guide its efforts to combat trafficking. The government continued its partnership with the ILO on the implementation of its 2010-2015 national action plan for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor, which includes activities to address child trafficking. As part of this plan, in August 2012 the cabinet adopted a list of the worst forms of child labor, including child trafficking, forced labor in Koranic schools, and domestic work. The ILO and UNICEF funded and ran all awareness-raising events in 2012, and government officials, including the minister of labor, played an active role in the events. The government did not make efforts to reduce the unconfirmed reported demand for commercial sex acts. Despite unconfirmed reports of child sex tourism on the island of Anjouan and the report of Comoran child sex tourists in Madagascar, the government did not make efforts to address this phenomenon. The Comoros is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.



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