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BURKINA FASO: Tier 2 Watch List

The Government of Burkina Faso 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 initiating an increased number of trafficking investigations, identifying significantly more potential trafficking victims, and providing some assistance to 20,000 freed child miners to reduce their vulnerability to trafficking. The government began drafting a new trafficking case management guide to facilitate the referral of victims to care and trained law enforcement, immigration, and social services personnel on proactive identification of trafficking victims. However, the government did not demonstrate increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; The government did not address child forced begging by unscrupulous marabouts (religious instructors) in Quranic schools, did not report prosecuting or convicting any traffickers, and did not report allocating funding for victim protection activities, including for victim centers that cared for potential trafficking victims. Therefore, Burkina Faso was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.

Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers—including corrupt marabouts or traffickers posing as marabouts who exploit children in forced begging—and apply penalties prescribed by the 2008 anti-trafficking law; increase funding for police and security force units charged with investigating trafficking crimes; increase funding and in-kind support for victim services, including long-term services and social reintegration, to prevent re-trafficking among identified victims; increase the availability of shelter and services for all victims, including adults; train law enforcement to identify victims among vulnerable populations, including women in prostitution and children in agriculture and mining, and refer them to protective services; train law enforcement, prosecutors, and judicial officials on investigating, prosecuting, and trying trafficking cases, including cases that do not involve movement; strengthen the system for collecting anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim identification data, and ensure authorities responsible receive sufficient resources; work with NGOs to raise awareness of trafficking among citizens, especially forced begging in Quranic schools and trafficking that does not involve movement; develop a national action plan to combat trafficking; and improve coordination among the national, regional, and provincial anti-trafficking committees by funding and convening them regularly.

The government reported decreased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2008 anti-trafficking law criminalizes 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. Law No. 11-2014/AN criminalizes “child prostitution” and the sale of children—including the sale of children for crimes not considered trafficking in the 2000 UN TIP Protocol—and prescribes penalties of five to 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine of 1.5 million to three million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($2,399-$4,799), or both; these penalties are sufficiently stringent. However, when allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, the prescribed punishment is not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. The 2015 law on violence against women and girls prescribes punishments of two to five years imprisonment and a fine of one to two million FCFA ($1,600-$3,199) for sexual slavery, punishments that are sufficiently stringent but not commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes such as rape.

The government investigated 78 suspected traffickers in 2016 but did not report any prosecutions or convictions, an increase from 38 investigations but a decrease from 16 prosecutions and nine convictions in 2015. In one investigation, officials discovered an alleged trafficker held five Nigerian girls in sex trafficking through debt bondage. Several investigations remained pending from previous reporting periods, including the investigation of seven unregistered marabouts transporting 43 children to Mali and Cote d’Ivoire, allegedly for forced labor in cotton fields; a Burkinabe woman who allegedly subjected to trafficking more than 30 women in Lebanon, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia; and three suspects transporting 17 Ivoirian women and girls to Saudi Arabia, allegedly for domestic servitude. In all of these cases, the government did not report if it continued to investigate or prosecute the suspects or if the cases had been dismissed. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions for forced begging in Quranic schools, despite the prevalence of this form of trafficking in the country. It did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, general corruption in the judiciary and among law enforcement impeded anti-trafficking efforts. The government did not provide funding to police specifically for anti-trafficking activities, which impeded law enforcement and security forces’ investigation of trafficking offenses.

The government increased efforts to identify potential trafficking victims but did not report information on government funding for victims services. With data from 40 of the country’s 45 provinces, the government reported identifying 1,407 potential trafficking victims in 2016, a three-fold increase from 400 potential victims identified and assisted the previous reporting period. Due to data collection constraints and lack of disaggregated trafficking and smuggling statistics, it is unclear how many of these were trafficking victims. The majority of these victims were children intercepted while being transported, sometimes in large numbers on trucks or buses, to destinations where they could have faced exploitation, typically in gold mines or in city centers as domestic servants or street beggars. The government did not report how many victims it referred to its 23 multipurpose transit centers in 2016 for psychological, social, and food assistance. These centers provided short-term care to both foreign and domestic victims of crime. The government did not report allocating any funding to its multipurpose centers in 2016, compared with 21.2 million FCFA ($33,912) allocated in the previous reporting period for health care, education, vocational training, family reunification, and social workers; the centers relied heavily on local NGOs and international organizations for support. Of the 1,407 victims, 102 received educational support and 99 received assistance to launch small businesses; it was unclear if this support came from the government or NGOs. An international organization identified and provided assistance to 17 additional trafficking victims from Sri Lanka, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, and Niger. There were no shelters or services for adults, and long-term care for all victims remained inadequate. The government acknowledged victim services were insufficient and service providers lacked the funding and resources to support victim protection, rehabilitation and reintegration, which resulted in many victims being subjected to re-trafficking. The 2015 law on the prevention and repression of violence against women and girls mandates measures for victim support, including the establishment of free emergency integrated support centers to offer comprehensive support services for women and girl victims of violence, including sexual slavery, and the creation of a government support fund for victims. The government did not provide information on the provision of such services during the reporting period.

The government and NGOs trained government employees, police, gendarmerie, and judicial officials on how to interact with and remove child trafficking victims from situations of exploitation. It also trained members of its anti-trafficking committees—including law enforcement, immigration, and social services personnel—on proactive identification of trafficking victims. The government had standard victim identification and referral procedures, but authorities and front-line responders did not employ them uniformly. The government began drafting a new trafficking case management guide for law enforcement and social services personnel to facilitate the uniform referral of victims to care. The government did not have a formal policy to encourage victims to participate in trials against their traffickers. It was unclear if victims could legally file civil suits against their traffickers or otherwise obtain restitution. Foreign victims may apply for asylum if they fear they will face hardship or retribution in their country of origin; there were no reports trafficking victims applied for asylum during the reporting period. The government did not report assisting with the repatriation of Burkinabe victims identified abroad, but in practice the Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, and Family would help such victims upon return develop personalized plans for reintegration into local communities. There were no reports of trafficking victims penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; however, without uniform implementation of victim identification measures, including among vulnerable populations, victims are likely to have been left unidentified in the law enforcement system.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, and Family led the national anti-trafficking committee, which coordinated government anti-trafficking efforts, including implementing previous anti-trafficking national action plans and providing guidance and recommendations on improving anti-trafficking efforts. Unlike in previous years, the national committee met during the reporting period. The national committee, comprised of government ministries and NGOs, also had sub-committees at the regional, provincial, and departmental levels to coordinate anti-trafficking action locally. The subcommittees were composed of police, social workers, transit companies, NGOs, and other regional stakeholders; they coordinated administrative efforts to support anti-trafficking law enforcement activities and victim protection and collected anti-trafficking data for the national committee’s annual report. The groups lacked resources to continue day-to-day operations, and the government did not report how many met during the reporting period. The government did not have or begin drafting an anti-trafficking action plan. Some regional and provincial directorates of the Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, and Family organized awareness-raising campaigns on the signs and dangers of trafficking and child labor. The government also had child protection networks composed of law enforcement, judicial officials, health workers, and NGO representatives in 24 of the country’s 45 provinces to coordinate child victim referral to care, including for trafficking victims. The government allocated 300,000 FCFA ($480) to each of the 24 networks to facilitate meetings and communication among members. Despite the existence of the anti-trafficking committees and child protection networks, inter-governmental communication on anti-trafficking issues remained a challenge. The Council of Ministers adopted a 2016-2020 national project to combat child labor in artisanal mines, including forced child labor, but the government had not devoted any funding or resources to implement the plan by the end of the reporting period. The Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, and Family continued to provide monitoring services and assistance to 20,000 freed child miners to reduce their vulnerability to additional child or forced child labor. The government operated a toll-free number to report cases of violence against children and violations of child rights, including trafficking. The government provided a new building and purchased and installed new equipment for the hotline’s command center; it did not report how many trafficking-related calls it received during the reporting period. Unlike in previous years, the government did not allocate any funding for vocational training for the social reintegration of young street children vulnerable to trafficking.

It was unclear if the government’s intermediary body to monitor new Quranic schools and marabouts and to identify unregistered schools and instructors who subject children to forced begging, established in 2015, was operational during the reporting period. The government did not make any discernible efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts. The government, in partnership with foreign donors, provided Burkinabe troops with anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. The government investigated allegations from the previous reporting period of Burkinabe peacekeepers accused of committing sexual exploitation while deployed to the UN mission in Mali and did not find evidence of trafficking. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.

As reported over the past five years, Burkina Faso is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Burkinabe children are subjected to forced labor as farm hands, gold panners and washers in artisanal mines, street vendors, domestic servants, and in forced begging by unscrupulous marabouts; girls are exploited in sex trafficking. Burkinabe children are transported to Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, and Niger for forced labor or sex trafficking. To a lesser extent, traffickers recruit women for ostensibly legitimate employment in Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and various European countries and subsequently subject them to forced prostitution. Media reports indicate Burkinabe women are subjected to domestic servitude in the Middle East. Burkina Faso is a transit country for traffickers transporting children from Mali to Cote d’Ivoire and women and girls from Cote d’Ivoire to Saudi Arabia. It is a destination for children subjected to trafficking from neighboring countries, including Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria. Women from other West African countries are fraudulently recruited for employment in Burkina Faso and subsequently subjected to forced prostitution, forced labor in restaurants, or domestic servitude in private homes. Nigerian girls are exploited in sex trafficking in Burkina Faso. During the reporting period, authorities identified Sri Lankan citizens transiting Burkina Faso allegedly en route to forced labor in a third country. Nepalese traffickers have subjected Tibetan women to sex trafficking in Burkina Faso.

U.S. Department of State

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