The government maintained modest protection efforts. Officials identified at least 15 child labor trafficking victims and referred all 15 to social services, compared with identifying 20 victims and referring 14 to social services in 2015. The government continued to fund and run two shelters, and provided an unknown amount of funding and in-kind support—including funding for social workers, medical support, psycho-social services, legal assistance, tuition, and food and furniture vouchers—to two NGO-run shelters offering services to orphans and street children vulnerable to trafficking. Nonetheless, NGOs that assisted trafficking victims relied primarily on donations from churches and private companies to finance their services, and some government workers used personal funds to assist victims. There continued to be a lack of shelter space to accommodate all trafficking victims, and for the third consecutive year the government decreased funding to NGOs that provided shelter and services to victims. Male and female victims received the same services, as did foreign and domestic trafficking victims. There were no government or NGO-run shelters specifically designated for adult victims, but some allowed child trafficking victims to remain after they reached 18 years of age. Some shelters could have also provided shelter and services to adults, although it is unclear if law enforcement referred any adults to such facilities during the reporting period. In practice, authorities permitted adult male victims to leave shelters unchaperoned but not adult female victims, reportedly for their safety. Shelter and services were available to repatriated Gabonese victims, but it is unknown if any victims received these services during the reporting period.
The Ministry of Family and Social Development, in coordination with foreign embassies, assisted in the repatriation of four foreign trafficking victims. Authorities reported that a lack of cooperation with source-country governments, including agreement on who should fund the repatriation of foreign trafficking victims from Gabon, greatly lengthened the repatriation process; foreign trafficking victims remained in Gabonese centers on average between six months and three years before repatriation. If victim repatriation was not an option, the Ministry of Social Affairs could provide a victim with immigration relief and resettle them in Gabon, but it is unknown if any victims availed themselves of this legal alternative or had knowledge of this option during the reporting period. The government encouraged victims to cooperate when authorities needed their testimony for the prosecution of alleged traffickers. Prosecutors, police, and magistrates routinely took victims’ testimonies at the time of the arrest of the suspected traffickers or identification of the victim, which is not considered the most effective nor a victim-centered approach. While the government has sought restitution for trafficking victims in the past, there were no reports this occurred during the reporting period. Victims can file civil suits against their traffickers, but there were no known cases of such action, in part due to victims’ poverty and lack of knowledge of the option. There were no reports the government detained, fined, or jailed victims for unlawful acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; however, due to the lack of focus on identifying adult trafficking victims, some victims may have remained unidentified in the law enforcement system.