Equatorial Guinea is a source and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The majority of trafficking victims are believed to be exploited in Malabo and Bata, where burgeoning construction and economic activity funded by oil wealth has contributed to increases in the demand for cheap labor and prostitution. Children are transported from nearby countries—primarily Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Togo, and Gabon—and may be forced to work as domestic servants, market laborers, ambulant vendors, and launderers. Equatoguinean girls are engaged in the sex trade in Malabo and Bata, and reports indicate some parents may encourage their daughters to engage in prostitution, especially with foreigners, to receive groceries, gifts, housing, and money. Women from Cameroon, Benin, and other neighboring countries are recruited for work in Equatorial Guinea, but may be subsequently subjected to forced labor or forced prostitution. Some Chinese women migrate to Equatorial Guinea for work or to engage in prostitution and may be subject to passport confiscation. Sub-contractor staff in the oil services and construction sectors, including migrants from other parts of Africa, Asia, and the Americas, may be vulnerable to forced labor, as they reportedly endure sub-standard working conditions and, in some instances, may be subject to passport confiscation.
The Government of Equatorial Guinea does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government demonstrated no efforts to identify victims of human trafficking or to provide victims with necessary services, despite a mandate to do so in its 2004 anti-trafficking law. It continued to deport undocumented migrants without screening them to determine whether they were victims of trafficking or referring them to assistance services, and the government rarely notified foreign embassies that their nationals had been detained in Equatorial Guinea. Although the government demonstrated a slight increase in prevention efforts in 2012 by conducting trainings for government officials and civil society members, it did not undertake any public awareness campaigns and its inter-ministerial commission on human trafficking remained inactive. Given its substantial financial resources, the government’s response to human trafficking has been negligible.
Recommendations for Equatorial Guinea: Use the 2004 anti-trafficking law to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders and complicit officials; develop formal procedures to identify trafficking victims among child laborers, illegal immigrants, and women and girls in prostitution; dedicate funding for the sheltering and protection of trafficking victims and develop a formal system to refer victims to such care; train law enforcement officials, immigration officials, and social workers in the use of identification and referral procedures; cease summary deportation of foreign men, women, and children from Equatoguinean territory without first screening for trafficking and, if appropriate, providing them with care and safe, voluntary repatriation; notify embassies when their nationals have been detained; research the extent and nature of the problem of human trafficking within the country; launch a nationwide anti-trafficking public awareness campaign; and revive the Inter-Ministerial Commission to Combat Trafficking in Persons and dedicate sufficient resources to the commission so that it can effectively implement a national action plan to combat trafficking in persons.
The Government of Equatorial Guinea demonstrated minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. The 2004 Law on the Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment, punishments which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Despite having enacted a law and receiving reports of child trafficking, the government initiated no investigations or prosecutions of suspected trafficking offenses during the year. In addition, it did not report any investigations or prosecutions of government employees for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during the reporting period. In May and August 2012, the government, in partnership with UNDP, held trainings for 30 working-level government officials from various ministries, including the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of National Security, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Women’s and Social Affairs, and the Ministry of Labor; approximately 50 members of civil society were also in attendance. Both trainings focused on the implementation of the country’s anti-trafficking in persons law. Additionally, in October 2012, the government, in partnership with the UN High Commission for Refugees, hosted a three-day workshop for 30 new police officers from the Ministry of National Security that focused on human rights issues, including the rights of trafficking victims.
The Government of Equatorial Guinea failed to demonstrate effective measures to protect trafficking victims during the reporting period. It did not identify or refer any victims to protective services in 2012. Although the 2004 anti-trafficking law mandates the government’s provision of legal assistance, psychological and medical care, counseling, lodging, food, access to education, training, and employment opportunities to trafficking victims, no such services were provided. Care for possible Equatoguinean child trafficking victims continued to be provided by church-run orphanages with scholarships provided by the Equatoguinean government; foreign children continued to be deported summarily. The government provided no shelter or other protective services in Equatorial Guinea for adult trafficking victims. Law enforcement authorities did not employ procedures to proactively identify victims of trafficking and did not make efforts—in either a systematic or an ad hoc way—to refer victims to organizations that provide short- or long-term care. Although the Ministry of National Security claimed it had procedures in place to screen illegal immigrants detained at the border, these procedures proved ineffective in identifying trafficking victims. The absence of a proactive victim identification process, including procedures for screening deportees, impaired the government’s ability to provide care or assistance to foreign trafficking victims. Although the government did not report that any victims of human trafficking were detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked, it detained foreign nationals, including potential trafficking victims, at police stations for periods of several days to several months, and seldom notified their embassies of their detention or deportation. The overwhelming majority of those detained were young men, though children and women were also sometimes detained and deported. The government did not provide foreign trafficking victims with temporary or permanent resident status, or any other legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they might face retribution or hardship.
The Government of Equatorial Guinea demonstrated a slight increase in its efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. Although it did not launch any anti-trafficking informational or educational campaigns for the general public, a new working-level committee to combat trafficking in persons was created in May 2012, made up of representatives from the Ministries of Interior, Women’s and Social Affairs, Justice, Foreign Affairs, and the Office of the President. This committee began to develop a new national action plan in cooperation with UNDP, though it has yet to be finalized. The government continued to issue new residency cards to foreigners that contain biometric and holographic security features; these cards were first introduced in 2011 and although old identity cards are still in circulation, the government has made significant progress in replacing them during the reporting period. The government did not participate in or implement any programs to address forced child labor and did not identify a single child labor victim despite having approximately 100 labor inspectors dedicated to documenting labor infractions. It did not undertake any discernible measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the year.