France is a destination and transit country for men, women, and children from Eastern Europe, West Africa, and Asia, as well as the Caribbean and Brazil, subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. France is also a limited source country for French citizens subjected to forced prostitution and forced labor. Sex trafficking networks controlled by Bulgarians, Nigerians, Romanians, and French citizens force women into prostitution through debt bondage, physical force, and psychological coercion, including the invocation of voodoo. Women and children, many from Africa, continued to be subjected to forced domestic service. Many of these cases were reportedly inter-familial, in which families exploited family members brought from Africa to work in their households in France; other cases involved a small number of diplomats. The Government of France estimates that the majority of the 18,000 to 20,000 people in France’s commercial sex trade—which is dominated by women from Bulgaria, Romania, and Nigeria—are likely trafficking victims. Women from northern China are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking due to social ostracizing by southern Chinese immigrants. There are also reports that a significant number of children, primarily from Romania and West and North Africa, are victims of sex trafficking in France. Ethnic Roma and other unaccompanied children in France remained vulnerable to forced begging and forced theft. Transsexual persons from Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru were vulnerable to sex trafficking. Some French citizens were documented to have participated in child sex tourism in foreign countries. Women and children from Brazil were subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking in the French overseas territory of French Guiana.
The Government of France fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government sustained funding for a network of shelters offering comprehensive care to trafficking victims, and identified more victims of pimping and sex trafficking. However, authorities continued to focus primarily on sex trafficking, with limited attention provided to forced labor offenses. The government lacked formal referral procedures for victims who were citizens or legal residents. The government provided limited resources to identifying victims of labor exploitation. Authorities generally did not offer victims reflection periods, and various prefects’ policies for residence permit issuance were inconsistent. The government undertook a number of joint investigations and prevention projects with European partners. The government’s number of criminal cases classified as trafficking rather than as pimping, however, remained far below the estimated occurrence of trafficking in France. Authorities took action against public officials complicit in trafficking offenses, as well as French citizens involved in child sex tourism.
Recommendations for France: Greatly increase investigations, prosecutions, and convictions under the trafficking statute, ensuring that convicted offenders are sentenced to jail terms; amplify training and enforcement of labor trafficking; increase anti-trafficking training for prosecutors and judges, ensuring that emphasis is placed on increasing the use of the trafficking statute; implement a national action plan that formalizes a referral mechanism that adequately addresses the needs of both sex and labor trafficking victims; improve victims’ access to restitution; standardize residence permit issuance policies and consider decreasing the fees for trafficking victims; ensure women and children arrested for soliciting or theft are screened for trafficking indicators; offer trafficking victims the 30-day reflection period; ensure victims of trafficking receive care regardless of cooperation with law enforcement; and enhance the collection of law enforcement and victim assistance data.
The Government of France made only modest anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period; law enforcement efforts continued to focus primarily on sex trafficking, with limited attention to forced labor offenses. France prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through Article 225-4 of its penal code, which prescribes maximum penalties of between seven years’ and life imprisonment for trafficking offenses. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. During the reporting period, the government implemented the EU anti-trafficking directive, establishing extraterritorial jurisdiction over trafficking offenses. In 2012, the European Court of Human Rights found France had committed a violation of Article 4 of the European Convention of Human Rights because the French government had not established an effective criminal and administrative framework to protect the rights of trafficking victims.
The government continued to have difficulty collecting and reporting current data on its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, inhibiting its ability to assess the country’s trafficking situation and its own anti-trafficking efforts. In 2012, French authorities formally questioned 572 individuals suspected of trafficking or pimping offenses, but did not specifically report the number of trafficking investigations within that figure. In 2011, the most recent year for which data is available for convictions, French authorities obtained convictions for 17 offenders under Article 225-4-2, an aggravated trafficking section, compared with convicting 20 offenders in 2010. The government also had convictions for 16 offenders for the prostitution of children in 2011, compared with 20 in 2010. In addition, in 2011, the government obtained convictions against 15 offenders for the exploitation of begging, compared with 30 in 2010. Some trafficking cases may be reflected in the 502 convictions under the aggravated anti-pimping statute in 2011; an estimated 15 percent of the original arrests in those cases were for trafficking-specific offenses. For example, six trafficking suspects were charged in June with aggravated pimping in a case in which the defendants lured Romanian women to France under false pretexts, confiscated their passports, and forced them into prostitution. In 2012, trafficking offenders were sentenced to up to nine and a half years’ imprisonment, though some offenders received suspended sentences and fines. Although the government did not provide comprehensive prosecution and sentencing data for trafficking offenders in 2012, some cases demonstrated that the French government vigorously prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced trafficking offenders during the reporting period. In February 2013, a French court sentenced a convicted sex trafficking offender to five years in prison for the trafficking of six women in Paris. In October 2012, a court in Evry convicted five traffickers of aggravated pimping and sentenced them to non-suspended terms of imprisonment of nine and a half years; five years; four and a half years; and three years, for the forced prostitution of Romanian women.
The Central Office for the Suppression of Trafficking in Human Beings coordinated sex trafficking investigations throughout the country. The Ministry of Justice continued to offer an annual training session for prosecutors and magistrates on France’s anti-trafficking laws, which have historically been under-used due to prosecutors’ familiarity with anti-pimping statutes. In forced labor cases, prosecutors reportedly preferred to use non-trafficking statutes that prescribe less stringent punishments than the human trafficking statute. The French government sponsored training for police and distributed pocket-sized cards to border police and NGOs on how to identify trafficking victims. French law enforcement authorities collaborated with several governments in 2012, including authorities in Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Romania, to investigate human trafficking cases. This year, the government convicted the wife of Muammar Qadhafi’s former chief of staff for holding four Tanzanian women against their will in the family’s house in France. In 2012, the government arrested one soldier for forced prostitution and convicted and sentenced one police officer for aggravated pimping.
The government demonstrated protection efforts, providing funding to sex trafficking victims, while providing insufficient care and identification for labor trafficking victims. The government did not have a formal procedure for identifying victims who were French citizens or legal residents. Victims who did not have a legal status in France needed to cooperate with law enforcement to receive care. Labor inspectors did not receiving training on human trafficking and reportedly did not specifically search for indicators of human trafficking, resulting in authorities classifying trafficking victims as illegal migrant workers. The government sponsored trainings for social workers and other government employees on trafficking victim identification, as well as training for managers and employees of major hotel groups on suspicious activity that they should report to police.
The police identified 751 victims of pimping and sex trafficking in 2012, compared to 654 victims in 2011. Nine of these victims were males. The central government and city of Paris provided funding for the Ac-Se system, which is an NGO-managed network of 49 NGO-run shelters that assists vulnerable adult victims of sex and labor trafficking. Ac-Se assisted 68 victims of trafficking in 2012, providing them with shelter, legal, medical, and psychological services. Shelters located throughout France allowed NGOs to place victims far away from where they were exploited. Local governments provided French language classes to victims. Some victims could qualify for subsidized housing and job training programs. Victims receive the equivalent of approximately $450 as an initial stipend from the government, and approximately $130 per month subsequently. NGOs objected that the financial stipend was insufficient to permit victims to rehabilitate successfully. Victims had to wait an average of 14 days for access to a shelter, a decline from the average 40-day wait in 2011. The central and municipal governments also partially funded the operation of a shelter in Paris and a small number of emergency apartments. Child protective services placed child victims of trafficking into children’s shelters. The government continued to operate a hotline for children in abusive situations, including human trafficking. While French authorities did not report overall funding allocations to NGOs for victims of trafficking, the central government, municipal governments, and the city of Paris provided at least the equivalent of approximately $3 million to NGOs for victim assistance in 2012.
French law provided for a 30-day reflection period for suspected trafficking victims; however, authorities were reportedly not familiar with the reflection period and did not offer it. Victims of trafficking were eligible for temporary residency permits, provided they cooperate with police investigations. The permits were typically valid for one year and were renewable every six months. Waiting periods for permits ranged from 15 days to three months and cost the equivalent of approximately $390. Victims of trafficking who obtain residency may work or leave the country during trial proceedings. These permits were available during the duration of the criminal process and automatically become permanent upon an offender’s conviction. In cases in which offenders were not convicted, local prefects had the discretion to grant permanent residency cards to victims. NGOs noted highly inconsistent practices among prefects in the issuance of residence permits, particularly if the victims had past convictions for prostitution. Some trafficking victims found it easier to apply for and obtain asylum, as the process involved no cost and no requirement to participate in a prosecution. Trafficking victims were eligible to receive restitution through the Crime Victims Compensation Program; however, only two victims of trafficking have received compensation through the program since its inception in 1985. Several compensation requests have been pending for many years. There were no specific reports of identified trafficking victims being penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. However, NGOs reported that police often punished victims, including child victims, for soliciting and theft, and when repeatedly caught, imprisoned them.
The government sustained its prevention efforts during the reporting period. In January 2013, the government created the Inter-ministerial Mission for the Protection of Women Victims of Violence, with a mandate to evaluate and coordinate local-level policies in the fight against violence, help train experts in women’s violence from the public and private sectors, and act as the national coordinator in the fight against human trafficking. The government appointed a national coordinator in April 2013. The government continued to operate without an approved action plan. The government did not run a national anti-trafficking awareness campaign, although NGOs receiving government funds ran campaigns. The French government worked with some source countries to prevent trafficking, such as its joint project with the Government of Bulgaria to raise awareness among minors and ethnic Roma in Varna. The French government funded programs through airlines and tourism operators describing the penalties for child sex tourism. All tourism students in France were obligated to take course work on preventing child sex tourism. In 2012, French authorities arrested three French nationals on suspicion of sexually abusing children abroad. French authorities also sentenced two French nationals to prison for eight and 10 years for raping children in Tahiti and Indonesia. The French government provided anti-trafficking training to all peacekeeping troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. During the reporting period, the government did not initiate any campaigns to reduce demand for commercial sex acts within France.