FRANCE: Tier 1
The Government of France fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, France remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by identifying more victims and allocating more funding to victim care services, as well as creating specialized care centers for child victims of trafficking. It also significantly increased its confiscation of assets from traffickers. Although the government meets the minimum standards, the government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. Law enforcement officers regularly screened individuals in prostitution for trafficking indicators, but were less consistent in screening potential labor trafficking victims.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FRANCE
Strengthen victim protection for child victims of forced begging and theft; train all incoming law enforcement officers to screen all individuals in prostitution for trafficking indicators; improve victims’ access to restitution; offer all victims appropriate housing to which they are entitled under the law; continue outreach to potential victims in the labor sectors and identify forced labor; standardize residence permit issuance policies; screen all women and children arrested for soliciting or theft for trafficking indicators; and provide anti-trafficking training or guidance to diplomats.
The government increased law enforcement efforts. Article 225-4 of the penal code prohibits all forms of trafficking and 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. The government arrested 253 suspected traffickers, prosecuted 231 suspected traffickers, compared with 278 in 2015; and convicted 75 traffickers, compared with 83 in 2015. The government did not report complete sentencing data but confirmed several cases in which traffickers received dissuasive sentences during the reporting period. For instance, in April 2016, the government sentenced 10 Romanian citizens to between eight months and seven years imprisonment for sex trafficking and ordered eight traffickers to pay €170,000 ($179,140) in fines. In October, the government obtained a conviction of one man for sex trafficking, for which he was sentenced to two years imprisonment and another man to six years. In November, a court sentenced eight Bulgarian nationals to between two and six years imprisonment for child sex trafficking. In January 2017, a court sentenced nine Romanian nationals to up to five years imprisonment for sex trafficking.
During the reporting period, the Ministry of Interior’s Central Office for Combating Human Trafficking (OCRTEH), a specialized body of law enforcement trained to combat human trafficking, trained 25 law enforcement officers as specialists in investigating trafficking networks. During the reporting period, OCRTEH regularly trained magistrates on human trafficking and participated in operational and strategic exchanges with EUROPOL and INTERPOL. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. NGOs reported law enforcement officers regularly screen individuals in prostitution for trafficking indicators, but were less consistent in screening potential victims of labor trafficking.
The government increased protection efforts. The government identified 1,118 sex trafficking and aggravated pimping victims in 2016, compared to 712 in 2015. The victims identified in 2016 included 323 French, 202 Chinese, 114 Nigerian, 104 Romanian, and 375 were other nationalities. The government had a formal procedure for identifying victims and an NGO-run referral mechanism. The Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Health, and the City of Paris provided funding for the Ac-Se system, an NGO-managed network of 50 NGO-run shelters assisting adult victims of sex and labor trafficking. Ac-Se assisted 82 trafficking victims in 2016, compared with 92 in 2015, by providing them with shelter, legal, medical, and psychological services. Seventy-nine were victims of sex trafficking, two of labor trafficking, and one was forced to commit a petty crime. Seventy-three percent of those victims were Nigerian. The government repatriated eight victims to multiple countries. The government increased Ac-Se’s budget from €170,000 to €220,000 ($179,140 to $231,820) for 2017. Local governments provided French language classes to victims, and some victims could qualify for subsidized housing and job training programs. The government provided victims €350 ($370) as an initial stipend, and €100 ($110) per month thereafter. The central and municipal governments also partially funded the operation of a shelter in Paris and a small number of emergency apartments external to the Ac-Se system. The Mission for the Protection of Women against Violence and the Fight Against Human Trafficking (MIPROF) signed a pilot convention in October 2016 with an NGO, the Paris regional court, the Paris police, the Paris City Hall, and the Paris city council that will provide several places of accommodation in Paris dedicated to sex trafficking victims. MIPROF signed another pilot convention in June 2016 with an NGO, the Paris regional court, the Paris police, the Paris City Hall, the Paris Bar Association, the MOJ, and the Inter-ministerial Committee for the Prevention of Delinquency and Radicalization (CIPDR) that will provide training on identifying, integrating, educating, and housing child victims of trafficking. The convention provided additional secure accommodation for child trafficking victims. The care centers are run by child welfare services and provided access to health care, schooling, and rehabilitation and were equipped with specialized staff trained by MIPROF to educate and rehabilitate child trafficking victims. During the reporting period, 45 child trafficking victims benefitted from the special care centers. The government continued to operate a hotline for children in abusive situations, including trafficking. In 2015, hotline operators received 16 calls related to modern slavery. Ac-Se operated a separate hotline during the reporting period. In 2016, Ac-Se operators referred 82 trafficking cases for additional Ac-Se assistance, which assisted 76 individuals, including six children. The MOJ partnered with Ac-Se to train front-line responders, including labor inspectors and social workers, on the identification and referral of trafficking victims.
The government had an NGO-run referral program to transfer victims detained, arrested, or placed in protective custody by law enforcement authorities to institutions that provided short-term care. A June 2016 law on organized crime and terrorism extended and strengthened the witness protection program for witnesses and their relatives in cases involving organized crime, including human trafficking. The April 2016 Law to Strengthen the Fight Against Prostitution allows the criminal trials for trafficking or aggravated pimping to be heard in private at the victim’s request. NGOs reported children arrested or detained for soliciting or theft were not always screened for trafficking indicators by law enforcement officials. The law provides for a 30-day reflection period for identified victims, regardless of whether they choose to cooperate with law enforcement or not; however, some authorities were not familiar with the reflection period and did not offer it. Victims were eligible for temporary residence permits, regardless of whether they cooperated with police investigations. Trafficking victims were also eligible for international protection under refugee status or subsidiary protection status in cases where victims had a credible fear of retaliation, including from public authorities in their country of origin, if returned. Victims were eligible to receive restitution through the Crime Victims Compensation Program. In October, a labor court found in favor of five undocumented Moroccan workers in a civil case against their employer, awarding the plaintiffs between €20,000 ($21,070) and €50,000 ($52,690) in back-pay, paid leave, and damages for forced labor in a sawmill. The compensation request process often took several years to complete, and many victims had requests in progress.
The government increased prevention efforts. In April 2016, the government passed the Law to Strengthen the Fight Against Prostitution, which penalizes purchasers of commercial sex, thereby reducing the demand for commercial sex. The government did not report investigating or prosecuting any cases of child sex tourism. In July, the government, in coordination with NGOs, launched a public awareness campaign on sex tourism during the Euro 2016 soccer championship that took place in France. The government funded programs through airlines and tourism operators describing the penalties for child sex tourism and funded poster and pamphlet campaigns by NGO partners to reduce the demand for child sex tourism. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs researched and reported on indicators of child sex tourism abroad and monitored increases in the crime. Tourism and hospitality students in France were obligated to take coursework on preventing child sex tourism. The government continued to fund a regional technical advisor on trafficking to the UNODC and OSCE. The French government provided anti-trafficking training to all peacekeeping troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.
As reported over the past five years, France is a destination, transit, and a limited source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Foreign victims from Eastern Europe, West and North Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Sex trafficking networks controlled by Bulgarians, Nigerians, Romanians, Chinese, and French citizens force women into prostitution through debt bondage, physical force, and psychological coercion, including the invocation of voodoo and drug addiction. The number of children exploited in commercial sex has increased in recent years. Children are forced to commit crimes, mainly petty theft, often as part of larger criminal networks. Traffickers force children living in migrant camps in northern France to commit crimes, including facilitating smuggling to the United Kingdom. Migrants from Africa and the Middle East, particularly women and children, were vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking in Calais. Some migrants who could not pay their smugglers are held in debt bondage. Reports indicate children, primarily from Romania, West and North Africa, and the Middle East, are victims of sex trafficking in France. The Government of France estimates the majority of the 30,000 people in France’s commercial sex trade, about 90 percent of whom are foreign, are likely trafficking victims. Online-advertised prostitution organized by Russians and Bulgarians has increased, along with classified ads posted by organized networks controlled by Romanians, Bulgarians, Nigerians, and Brazilians; trafficking victims are likely involved in activities described in these ads. Roma and unaccompanied minors in France are vulnerable to forced begging and forced theft. Women and children are subjected to domestic servitude, mostly in cases in which families exploit relatives brought from Africa to work in their households. Trafficking networks have expanded to operate in large towns outside of Paris, including Lille, Marseille, Chartres, Toulouse, and Nice. Trafficking of male victims for sex and labor trafficking has increased, with males comprising approximately 28 percent of trafficking victims in France. Nigerian trafficking networks use migrant and drug trafficking routes through Libya and Italy to transport girls to France. Chinese victims often enter France on short-term student or tourist visas. Unaccompanied children that illegally migrated with their parents to the overseas French Department of Mayotte were vulnerable to trafficking when their parents were deported.