As reported over the past five years, Niger is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Caste-based slavery practices continue primarily in the northern part of the country and affect some 44,000 people. Victims from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and Togo are exploited in sex and labor trafficking in Niger. Nigerien boys are subjected to forced labor, including forced begging, within the country and in Mali and Nigeria by corrupt marabouts. Corrupt marabouts or loosely organized clandestine networks may also place Nigerien girls into domestic servitude or commercial sex. Nigerien children are subjected to forced labor in gold, salt, trona, and gypsum mines; agriculture; stone quarries; and manufacturing within the country. Girls are subjected to sex trafficking along the border with Nigeria, sometimes with the complicity of their families. In the Tahoua region of Niger, girls born into slavery are forced to marry men who buy them as “fifth wives” and subject them to forced labor and sexual servitude, a practice known as wahaya; their children are born into slave castes. “Fifth wives” are typically sold between the age of 9 and 11 years old. Traditional chiefs play a primary role in this form of exploitation, either through enslaving children in their own families or arranging “marriages” for other powerful individuals. Some girls in forced marriages may be exploited in commercial sex after fleeing these nominal unions. Nigerien girls reportedly travel abroad to enter into “marriages” with Nigerian men or foreign citizens living in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and are subjected to domestic servitude in these countries. In Algeria, Nigerien children were forced to beg and Nigerien women and girls were vulnerable to sex trafficking.
Nigerien women and children are recruited from Niger and transported to Nigeria, North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe where they are subjected to domestic servitude, sex trafficking, or forced labor in agriculture or animal herding. Some migrants were suspected to be traffickers, particularly Nigerien migrants to Algeria. Traffickers operated primarily small, freelance operations in loosely organized networks of individuals, including some marabouts. Some women have been accused of managing trafficking rings, although they may have been trafficking victims themselves. Some women are complicit in the exploitation of children, accepting payment from traffickers who run forced street-begging operations. There have been reports of freelance businesspeople (both men and women) and informal travel agencies that recruit women to the Middle East or to northern Nigeria for sex trafficking or domestic servitude. Niger is a transit country for men, women, and children from West and Central Africa migrating to North Africa and Western Europe, where some are subjected to forced labor or sex trafficking. Additionally, some migrants are subjected to forced labor in Niger as domestic servants, mechanics, welders, laborers in mines and on farms, or as staff in bars and restaurants. The terrorist organization Boko Haram forcibly recruited Nigerien children during the reporting period. In some instances, law enforcement and border officials have accepted bribes from traffickers to facilitate the transportation of victims through the country.