SENEGAL: Tier 2 Watch List
The Government of Senegal does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated significant efforts during the reporting period by convicting at least five sex traffickers; identifying and providing short-term services to an increased number of trafficking victims; allocating funding to its trafficking-specific victim shelter; and disbursing some funding to the Ministry of Women, Family, and Childhood (MFFE) to remove vulnerable children, including forced begging victims, from the streets and refer them to services. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. Despite identifying more than 1,547 child potential forced begging victims, the government returned many victims to their exploitative marabouts (teachers at Quranic schools, known as daaras) after identification without appropriate monitoring or follow-up plans to prevent recidivism. Some government officials’ lack of understanding of human trafficking and others’ lack of political will to address forced begging by marabouts systematically prevented such cases from moving forward in the law enforcement and judiciary systems, and the government did not report investigating, prosecuting, or convicting any marabouts for forced begging offenses. MFFE’s funding was insufficient to assist victims in Dakar, let alone nationwide, and the government did not provide sufficient protections for workers employed in the informal economy, including children in mining, rendering such workers vulnerable to trafficking. Therefore, Senegal remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SENEGAl
Significantly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish traffickers, including those who exploit children in forced begging, with sufficiently stringent sentences; hold government officials accountable for trafficking-related complicity, including the failure to investigate alleged trafficking offenses; ensure law enforcement, including the gendarmerie criminal research brigade, investigate forced child begging cases brought to its attention; expand funding or in-kind support to government- and NGO-run shelters to increase care options for victims, especially for adults and long-term care; develop a mechanism for the MFFE to monitor all identified trafficking victims who are returned to formerly exploitative marabouts to ensure marabouts receiving government support do not force children to beg; train law enforcement, labor, and social welfare officials to adequately identify trafficking victims, investigate cases, and refer victims to services; train government officials and sensitize NGOs to the standardized procedures for referring trafficking victims to care, and apply the procedures consistently; increase collaboration with NGOs, community groups, and religious leaders on anti-trafficking programs and raising awareness; expand workplace regulations to include labor inspections and labor trafficking investigations in the informal sectors of the economy, including mining, agriculture, and fishing; fully implement the national action plan on forced child labor and the 2015-2017 anti-trafficking national action plan, including by allocating sufficient funding to the taskforce; improve efforts to collect law enforcement data on trafficking, including trafficking-related offenses prosecuted under provisions other than the 2005 law; expand the daara mapping project across the country to provide baseline information for the national database and the anti-trafficking taskforce to increase coordination of country-wide government efforts to combat and prevent forced begging; ensure daaras that force children to beg do not receive government funding or subsidies; and broaden efforts to raise public awareness of trafficking, including of adults and forced child begging.
The government made minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Senegal’s 2005 Law to Combat Trafficking in Persons and Related Practices and to Protect Victims prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of five to 10 years imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law has rarely been used to prosecute alleged traffickers; in the last five years, the government convicted only two marabouts for forced begging under the 2005 law, despite a government estimate that at least 30,000 talibes are forced to beg in Dakar alone. In addition, the lack of government action to regulate daaras and prosecute those who engaged in or abetted forced child begging allowed the problem to continue. After more than two years of negotiations, the government, in collaboration with religious leaders, finalized the draft text of a bill to modernize daaras; if passed, the bill would outline requirements that daaras must meet in order to be declared “modern” and thus eligible to receive government subsidies. It remained in draft form at the end of the reporting period. According to the law’s drafters, daaras that use forced begging will not be eligible to receive subsidies; however, the text of the law itself does not explicitly exclude such daaras from receiving government assistance. Furthermore, participation in the program to become a “modern daara” and receive subsidies will be voluntary, so it is unclear if the draft bill, once passed, would adequately address child forced begging.
For the fifth consecutive year, the government did not maintain or publish comprehensive anti-trafficking law enforcement statistics. From data collected from three of Senegal’s 14 regions, the government reported 16 trafficking investigations eight prosecutions and five convictions, compared with one investigation, prosecution, and conviction for forced begging in the previous reporting period. Judges convicted four sex traffickers under the pimping statute, acquitted one alleged sex trafficker, and convicted a fifth trafficker for an unknown type of exploitation. Sentences upon conviction ranged from two to three years imprisonment and fines; all sentences imposed were below the minimum of five years imprisonment provided in the law. A presidential decree issued in June 2016 (2016 decree) ordered the removal of all children from the streets, including students, known as talibes, forced to beg by marabouts. Although the government removed more than 1,500 children, authorities did not launch any investigations into marabouts or other suspected traffickers identified through the decree for forced begging offenses, and authorities restricted enforcement of the decree to Dakar. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, allegations of government inaction to prosecute marabouts remained a serious concern. Authorities from MFFE and the government-run Ginddi Center for trafficking victims reported to law enforcement marabouts suspected of repeatedly violating the 2005 law, but law enforcement did not adequately investigate those individuals or refer the cases for prosecution.
The government, in collaboration with international organizations and donors, developed and partially funded five training programs on organized crime and trafficking, identifying and investigating human trafficking cases, and using data collection systems for human trafficking cases. A total of 124 policemen, labor inspectors, and judicial staff attended the trainings. Many law enforcement and judicial personnel remained unaware of the 2005 law, which, coupled with limited institutional capacity, inhibited efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers under the law and collect data on such efforts. Although the taskforce had created a national trafficking database during the previous reporting period and trained law enforcement on its usage, the government did not fully implement it during the reporting period.
The government maintained modest efforts to identify and provide initial services to trafficking victims, but it returned some identified victims to their traffickers. Law enforcement, immigration, and social services personnel had formal written procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims among high-risk populations; however, they made limited efforts to implement those procedures, especially among gold-mining communities and children in begging. The 2016 decree that led to the removal of children from the streets of Dakar resulted in a significant increase in victims identified. The government and NGOs identified and removed 1,547 potential child trafficking victims from the streets of Dakar, including 394 children from Guinea-Bissau—a significant increase from 142 child trafficking victims identified and assisted by the government in the previous reporting period. The majority of these victims were talibes exploited in forced begging. At least 440 of the children were found begging with their families, so it was unclear how many were trafficking victims.
Authorities referred all victims to either NGOs or the government-run Ginddi Center for care, although they subsequently returned many of the children to their exploitative marabouts, significantly increasing their risk of re-trafficking. The Ginddi Center provided temporary shelter and basic care to both foreign and domestic victims; the government provided 85.7 million FCFA ($137,089) to the center for shelter and basic meals, the same amount allocated in the previous year. The shelter also provided clothing to 1,545 children and medical assistance to 777 children. The center lacked sufficient staff, resources, and specialized training for social workers and volunteers who counseled and referred potential trafficking victims to the shelter; the center only had one volunteer doctor to provide basic medical treatment. Two NGOs reported identifying and providing services to an additional 198 victims and potential victims, including at least 156 talibes primarily from Guinea-Bissau. The Ministry of Justice operated three shelters for child victims of crime, witnesses, and children in emergency situations, which trafficking victims could access, and at least three NGOs operated trafficking victim shelters throughout the country. At the end of the reporting period, 91 of the 1,547 children remained at the Ginddi Center and NGO shelters, while MFFE and NGOs had returned the other 1,456 to a parent or other adult, including marabouts. Shelters lacked space to care for all trafficking victims, which limited the number of victims MFFE could remove from exploitation; MFFE could not remove children unless a shelter had space. Some shelters accommodated adult potential forced begging victims during the reporting period.
Authorities inconsistently applied the victim referral system, and it was not available in all regions of the country. Authorities sent victims identified along Senegal’s borders to an international organization and government center for questioning before referring them to NGOs for protective services. The government allocated 100 million FCFA ($159,964) to MFFE to implement the 2016 decree, which was inadequate to fund all of MFFE’s planned activities in Dakar, let alone nationwide. MFFE used the funding to remove children from the street; provide 50,000 FCFA ($80) monthly to 60 families potentially exploited in forced begging; and provide monthly funding for food and incoming-generating activities to 16 daaras where it had identified child forced begging to discourage future forced begging. Because authorities failed to arrest any marabouts while implementing the 2016 decree and returned identified trafficking victims to their exploitative marabouts without adequately monitoring the marabouts and children for recidivism, the government may have provided support to daaras that continued to force children to beg. The Ginddi Center did not report if its child protection hotline received any reports of trafficking during the reporting period. The taskforce trained police and social workers on identifying and protecting trafficking victims. The government continued to establish child protection committees to refer vulnerable children to social services, increasing the number of active committees from 31 to 40 during the reporting period; an international organization funded the committees. The committees did not always coordinate with local law enforcement, however, which hampered their efficacy.
The anti-trafficking law provides alternatives to the removal of foreign victims who may face hardship or retribution upon return, including the option to apply for temporary or permanent residency and seek restitution; the government did not report offering this relief to any victims during the reporting period. Victims can legally obtain restitution and file civil suits against their traffickers, although the government did not report that any did so during the reporting period. The 2005 law absolves victims from responsibility for unlawful acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking, and there were no reports officials penalized victims for such acts.
The government made uneven efforts to prevent human trafficking. The anti-trafficking taskforce made modest efforts to implement the 2015-2017 anti-trafficking national action plan. Although the government allocated significantly more funding to the taskforce in 2016—50 million FCFA ($79,982), compared with 30 million FCFA ($47,989) in 2015—the amount was inadequate to cover most of the taskforce’s activities. The lack of interagency coordination remained a problem. In addition, NGOs noted the government’s lack of collaboration with NGOs, community groups, and religious leaders on anti-trafficking awareness programs impeded such efforts. The taskforce and MFFE jointly implemented the 2016 decree, including raising awareness of the decree in seven languages via radio, television, print media, and the internet. In collaboration with an international organization, the taskforce also conducted a forum on sexual exploitation and sensitized 50 students on identifying human trafficking. The taskforce conducted studies on implementation of the 2005 law and the scope of women and children’s involvement in domestic servitude to better understand trafficking in Senegal. Through ECOWAS, the taskforce and five other West African governments created a working group to coordinate regional anti-trafficking efforts; the taskforce chaired two meetings during the reporting period. In addition, it provided capacity-building training to Cote d’Ivoire’s anti-trafficking committee. The taskforce, with support from international partners, continued implementation of the national action plan on child forced begging.
Approximately 70 percent of Senegal’s economy operated in the informal sector, where most forced child labor occurred, yet the government did not improve regulation of this sector or provide adequate protections for workers. The government did not make discernible efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts. The taskforce’s tourism police forces continued to monitor Saly and Cap Skirring for indicators of child sex tourism and other abuses, although it did not report identifying any cases of sex trafficking. The government, in cooperation with international partners, provided anti-trafficking training to Senegalese troops before their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. The government warned diplomatic personnel of the criminal penalties for domestic servitude.
As reported over the past five years, Senegal is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Certain corrupt marabouts force talibes to beg throughout Senegal; a 2014 government study reported in Dakar alone, approximately 30,000 talibes are forced to beg in the streets, and more than 9,000 are forced to beg in the St. Louis region. Senegalese boys and girls are also subjected to domestic servitude, forced labor in gold mines, and sex trafficking. Internal trafficking is more prevalent than transnational trafficking, although boys from The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Mali are subjected to forced begging and forced labor in artisanal gold mines in Senegal. Senegalese women and girls are subjected to domestic servitude in neighboring countries, Europe, and the Middle East. Reports indicate most Senegalese sex trafficking victims are exploited within Senegal, particularly in the southeastern gold-mining region of Kedougou. West African women and girls are subjected to domestic servitude and sex trafficking in Senegal, including for child sex tourism for sex tourists from France, Belgium, and Germany, among other countries.