EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Tier 3
The Government of Equatorial Guinea does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; therefore, Equatorial Guinea remained on Tier 3. Despite the lack of significant efforts, the government took some steps to address trafficking, including: investigating one potential trafficking case; adopting a national action plan to train government officials; increasing numbers of those targeted by awareness-raising; and conducting and funding two multi-day trainings to improve victim identification and case investigation techniques for all border and port officials. These steps demonstrate increased interest in addressing trafficking by the government; however, the government did not prosecute or convict any traffickers. It did not make efforts to develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) to identify or protect trafficking victims or prosecute traffickers. The government continued to deport undocumented migrants without screening them to determine whether they were victims of trafficking or referring them to assistance services.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EQUATORIAL GUINEA
Use the 2004 anti-trafficking law to prosecute and convict traffickers including complicit officials; develop formal procedures to identify trafficking victims, especially among child laborers, undocumented immigrants, women in prostitution, and children exploited for commercial sex; train social workers, law enforcement, and immigration officials in the use of trafficking victim identification and referral procedures; dedicate more funding to shelter and protect trafficking victims, including male victims, and develop a formal system to refer victims to care; develop and implement SOPs for screening foreigners before deportation to ensure trafficking victims are provided appropriate care and safe, voluntary repatriation; develop and implement procedures for law enforcement officials to systematically notify embassies when their nationals have been detained; revive the inter-ministerial anti-trafficking commission and dedicate resources to implement the national action plan to combat trafficking in persons; research the extent and nature of the crime within the country; launch a nationwide anti-trafficking public awareness campaign.
The government made limited anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. 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, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government investigated one suspect, who had allegedly purchased for sexual and labor exploitation three children from the Central African Republic (CAR). After initial arrest, officials released the suspect on bail and did not issue a formal charge by the end of the reporting period. The government did not maintain law enforcement statistics and, as in the previous year, did not report any prosecutions or convictions of suspected traffickers. General corruption and official complicity in trafficking-related offenses occurred. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. Nonetheless, the government conducted two multi-day trainings to raise awareness about trafficking, as well as increase officials’ ability to identify victims and investigate cases; 215 law enforcement officers, including all border and port officials, and other government officials participated in the trainings.
The government made limited efforts to protect trafficking victims. It did not identify or refer any victims to protective services. Although the 2004 anti-trafficking law mandates the government to provide legal assistance, psychological and medical care, lodging, food, access to education, training, and employment opportunities to trafficking victims, it did not provide these services directly. However, the government provided funding to an NGO shelter for female victims of violence including trafficking victims. After questioning, law enforcement officials sent the three potential trafficking victims to the embassy of CAR, where they received shelter and services, prior to their repatriation. Law enforcement authorities did not have procedures to identify trafficking victims nor did they make efforts to refer victims to organizations providing care. The government penalized victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. The government routinely detained foreign nationals, including possible trafficking victims, at police stations for periods of several days to several months, and seldom notified their embassies of their detention or deportation. In many of these cases, police and border officials solicited bribes from detainees and deported those who did not pay; 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 legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they might face retribution or hardship.
The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. In May 2016, the government partnered with an international organization to train 600 community leaders on prevention of trafficking in persons. The government broadcasted these anti-trafficking trainings on television and radio programs, as well as on its official website, in an effort to raise awareness among the general public. The government approved a national action plan in April 2016 focused on training officials and awareness-raising campaigns and allocated $762,000 to fund their anti-trafficking and anti-organized crime efforts. The government continued implementing regulations requiring all commercial sex establishments to register and provide contracts to their workers in an attempt to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts and exploitation in the sex industry. In October 2016, the Ministry of Labor implemented regulations for all companies to sign formal labor contracts with their employees in order to reduce vulnerability to labor trafficking. Using these new regulations, the general director of the national financial research agency and Ministry of Labor inspected an undisclosed number of Chinese-owned construction companies for labor violations. At the end of the reporting period, the investigations were ongoing. However, the Inter-Ministerial Commission to Combat Trafficking in Persons remained inactive. The government did not implement any programs to address forced child labor despite having 13 labor inspectors dedicated to documenting labor infractions. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.
As reported over the past five years, Equatorial Guinea is a source country for women and girls vulnerable to sex trafficking and a destination country for men, women, and children, who may be vulnerable to forced labor. The majority of trafficking victims are exploited in the cities of Malabo, Bata, and Mongomo, where construction and economic activity funded by oil wealth contribute to increases in the demand for labor and prostitution. However, lower oil prices and lower oil production in recent years have caused a deep contraction of the country’s economy leading to a decreased government budget and reprioritized activities. Equatoguinean women are exploited in the sex trade in these cities, often by foreigners. Children from nearby countries—primarily Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Togo, and Gabon—may be subjected to forced labor as domestic workers, market laborers, vendors, and launderers. Women from Cameroon, Benin, and other neighboring countries are recruited for work in Equatorial Guinea and subsequently subjected to forced labor or forced prostitution. Significant numbers of Chinese women migrate to Equatorial Guinea for work or to engage in prostitution, and some are subject to passport confiscation, increasing their vulnerability to forced labor. Sub-contractor staff in the oil services and construction sectors from other parts of Africa, Asia, and the Americas may be subject to passport confiscation and, in some instances, may be vulnerable to forced labor. General corruption and complicity by government officials in trafficking-related offenses occurred during the reporting period.