Cabo Verde is a source, transit, and destination country for children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking within the country and in Guinea, and at times, a source for persons trafficked to Brazil, Portugal, and other countries in Europe for forced transport of drugs. Adult migrants from China, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Nigeria, and other ECOWAS countries may receive low wages, work without contracts, and not have regularized their visa status, creating vulnerabilities to forced labor. West African migrants may transit the archipelago en route to situations of exploitation in Europe. Cabo Verdean children work in domestic service, often working long hours and at times experiencing physical and sexual abuse—indicators of forced labor. In addition, Cabo Verdean children engaged in begging, street vending, car washing, garbage picking, and agriculture are vulnerable to trafficking. Reports indicate that boys and girls, some of whom may be foreign nationals, are exploited in prostitution in Santa Maria, Praia, and Mindelo. Sex tourism, at times involving prostituted children, is a problem in Cabo Verde. Cabo Verdean adults and children are at risk of being deceived or forced into transporting drugs to or within Brazil and Portugal.
The Government of Cabo Verde does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government has acknowledged that sex trafficking is a problem in Cabo Verde. It investigated two cases involving alleged child prostitution, the same number as in the previous reporting period. The government convicted three traffickers compared to no convictions in the previous year. The Cabo Verdean Institute for Children and Adolescents (ICCA), under the Ministry of Youth, Employment, and Human Resources Development, made concerted efforts to protect child victims of sexual abuse, including child victims of prostitution, and to assist vulnerable children. The government did not make efforts to raise awareness of human trafficking or to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.
Recommendations for Cabo Verde:
Draft comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation consistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, including a broad definition of trafficking in persons that does not rely on evidence of movement but rather on exploitation; continue to prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenders under existing law; take appropriate steps to clarify that Cabo Verdean law prohibits facilitating the prostitution of children ages 16 and 17; train law enforcement officials to use existing laws to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses; develop and implement procedures for the identification and referral of trafficking victims amongst vulnerable populations; compile anti-trafficking law enforcement data; and launch a targeted anti-trafficking public awareness campaign.
The Government of Cabo Verde continued minimal law enforcement efforts to combat human trafficking. Cabo Verdean law does not specifically prohibit all forms of trafficking, though several existing statutes cover certain forms. Article 14 of the labor code prohibits forced labor and Article 271 of the penal code outlaws slavery, both of which prescribe sufficiently stringent penalties of six to 12 years’ imprisonment. Article 148 of the penal code outlaws facilitating prostitution of children under the age of 16 and prescribes sufficiently stringent penalties of two to eight years’ imprisonment for victims under 14 years and one to five years for victims aged 14 or 15. The penalties for victims aged 14 or 15 are not sufficiently stringent or commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. The penal code does not prohibit or punish those who facilitate the prostitution of children between the ages of 15 and 18. Investigations into sex crimes, including child prostitution, involving children aged 14 and 15 require complaints from the child’s legal guardian; government officials indicate that no such case has ever been reported to police. Prostituted children aged 14 to 17 are rendered virtually invisible to law enforcement and social welfare officials under existing law, granting impunity to those who profit from their exploitation.
During the year, the judicial police reported investigating two cases of human trafficking for sexual exploitation of children in the city of Praia on the island of Santiago; however, the government did not collect comprehensive anti-trafficking law enforcement data and did not provide specific information about these cases. In the two cases, police identified 17 child victims of sex trafficking—including at least eight girls between 13 and 14 years old. Four individuals were arrested in these cases and remained in custody at the end of the reporting period. In addition, in April 2013 government prosecutions resulted in convictions of three men involved in the sexual abuse and sex trafficking of six boys in Praia. One foreign national offender was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment; two Cabo Verdean offenders, who were sentenced to four years and six months’ and four years and eight months’ imprisonment, have appealed their sentences. The Cabo Verdean court awarded damages to the victims in these cases totaling the equivalent of approximately $3,425; this award is under appeal. The government partnered with the Portuguese Border Patrol to provide training for 40 Cabo Verdean border and national police officers on the international framework to combat human trafficking—including investigation and identification of potential victims. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.
The government made modest efforts to protect child trafficking victims. Although it did not report information on protection services provided to the 17 child trafficking victims identified during investigations, several government facilities that provide care to vulnerable children and victims of gender-based violence may have assisted trafficking victims during the year. Two ICCA-run centers for children in Praia and Mindelo afforded temporary care to child victims of sexual abuse, violence, and abandonment; children could remain in these centers for up to three months. The government maintained five protection and social reinsertion centers on the islands of Sal, Sao Nicolau, Boa Vista, Fogo, and Santiago, which offered reintegration services to children experiencing long-term trauma. The ICCA continued its Nos Kaza project that aims to reduce the vulnerability of street children to sexual abuse, including prostitution and child labor through the operation of six day centers on the islands of Santo Antao, Sao Vicente, Sao Nicolau, Fogo, Boa Vista, and Santiago, which hosted children during the day and provided counseling. At the end of the reporting period, over 65 children and adolescents used the facilities of Nos Kaza in the city of Praia daily. The government also supported foster family and adoption programs for the care of children who could not return to their families.
The Cabo Verdean border police and law enforcement agencies did not have written procedures for identification or referral of trafficking victims. However, the ICCA’s network for the protection and prevention of sexual abuse of children and adolescents—comprised of the judicial police, the national police, the national prosecutor, the directorate general of tourism, and the Office of Health for Praia—coordinated the referral of child victims of sexual abuse and prostitution to care and offered support throughout court processes. Disque Denuncia, the government’s hotline for reporting cases of child abuse, exploitation, and prostitution, served as a referral system, coordinating efforts between the attorney general’s office, the judiciary police, the national police, hospitals, and Offices of Health and School. ICCA and UNICEF established a special unit in the judicial police to attend to child sex abuse victims, including child victims of prostitution; the unit was equipped with a video room that allows children to testify outside of court. Cabo Verdean law does not provide for legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. There were no reports that victims of human trafficking were penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked.
The government made modest efforts to prevent trafficking through efforts directed towards addressing the vulnerabilities of migrant workers and the elimination of child labor. In October 2013, the government published a guide for the nearly 20,000 immigrants in the country, which contains information related to rights, access to services, and contact information for local immigrant associations, embassies, and consulates. In 2012, ICCA established a unit for the prevention and elimination of child labor, the National Committee for Eradication of Child Labor in Cabo Verde (CDNPCTI), which continued work to establish a legal basis for the committee to carry out its mandate. Several ministries and agencies—including labor and youth, education, and police, as well as civil society partners—participated in four CDNPCTI meetings during the year to discuss implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the national committee’s objectives. The government did not identify any child labor violations during the reporting period and did not remove any children from situations of child labor.
To improve coordination of efforts to combat child labor and violence against children, in December 2013 the Cabo Verdean National Assembly approved a new law, the Status of Children and Adolescents. This law establishes a public–private network of government and NGO service providers that can be called upon to protect and assist abused children, including child sex trafficking victims. It also outlines the legal framework for child and adolescent protection and for access to health, education, security, and social assistance. The government did not undertake any trafficking awareness campaigns during the reporting period. During the year, no prosecutions involving cases of child sex tourism were reported, and the government did not make significant efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts or to address sex tourism.