Somaliland and Puntland authorities sustained limited efforts to combat trafficking during the reporting period. Due to civil unrest and the protracted campaign to degrade al-Shabaab and establish law and order in Somalia, law enforcement and judicial officials remained understaffed, undertrained, and lacked capacity to effectively enforce the law. The pre-1991 penal code (applicable at the federal and regional levels) outlaws forced labor and other forms of trafficking in persons. Article 455 prohibits and penalizes slavery, prescribing penalties of five to 20 years imprisonment. Article 464 prohibits forced labor, prescribing penalties of six months to five years imprisonment. Article 457 prohibits the transferring, disposing, taking possession or holding of a person, and prescribes penalties of three to 12 years imprisonment. All of these penalties are sufficiently stringent. Article 408(1) prohibits compelled prostitution of a person through violence or threats, prescribing penalties of two to six years imprisonment, which is sufficiently stringent but not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The provisional constitution prohibits slavery, servitude, trafficking, and forced labor under article 14. Article 29(6) prohibits the use of children in armed conflict. Laws in Somaliland prohibit forced labor, involuntary servitude, and slavery. In 2016, the Somali police investigated one potential trafficking case, but it did not progress to the court system for unknown reasons. Authorities in Puntland prosecuted 23 child sex trafficking cases, three of which resulted in convictions; these cases involved seven traffickers and 61 victims. The convicted traffickers received five-year prison sentences plus a fine of 1.6 million Somali shillings ($3,000)—the maximum under Puntland law, which only punishes drivers who transport trafficking victims. However, no reliable statistics existed at either the federal or regional level on investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of or related to trafficking. While information regarding officials alleged to be complicit in the facilitation of sex and labor trafficking remained largely unknown, the government did not report efforts to investigate claims of federal officials selling falsified travel documents to travel brokers and traffickers or take action against military officials for the recruitment and use of children during the year.
The inter-ministerial Trafficking and Smuggling Taskforce served as the federal government’s anti-trafficking coordinating body, which included representation from the Ministry of Internal Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Somali Police Force (SPF), and Ministry of Interior and Federal Affairs, and led by the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Interior and Federal Affairs; members of the taskforce liaised with Puntland state-level authorities during an information sharing workshop sponsored by an international organization. During the reporting year, the taskforce commenced development of a national action plan on trafficking efforts, and in May 2016 the prime minister issued a decree to specify the taskforce’s membership and mandate. The criminal investigations division of the SPF has a 40-officer Counter-Trafficking and Organized Crime Unit, but according to an international organization this unit has never received counter-trafficking training. The state-level Counter-Trafficking Board, established in March 2013, was the lead in Puntland state. The Puntland state police, in collaboration with an international organization, conducted two follow-up trainings on trafficking investigations for 42 officers during the reporting period. The Somaliland government in June 2016 established the Counter Human Trafficking Agency of Somaliland, which included representatives from immigration, police, coast guard, the attorney general’s office, and the ministries of commerce, finance, and civil aviation. The agency is mandated to coordinate counter-trafficking efforts including developing legislation and collecting data, but its work remained limited in reach.
No governmental entity had systematic procedures to identify or refer trafficking victims. Information on FGS efforts to protect trafficking victims was unavailable. The FGS and Somaliland authorities did not provide protective services to trafficking victims and relied fully on international organizations and NGOs to provide victim assistance, including food, clothing, shelter, legal support, medical aid, counseling, and reintegration services. During the reporting year, Puntland authorities partnered with civil society to provide protective care for 23 trafficking victims; it also helped facilitate the return home of 29 minor victims. However, some of these children and recipients of protective care were likely smuggling victims. The FGS did not provide financial or in-kind support to organizations assisting victims. In Puntland in 2016, state authorities paid the lease and electric and water bills for a house rented by an organization to use as a shelter for trafficking victims; however, the amount of funding spent on this assistance was unavailable. State authorities also provided transportation costs to the victims to enable their return home. The Puntland Ministry of Women Affairs managed a safe house for victims of trafficking and domestic violence in Garowe, Puntland. There were no legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims from Somalia to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.
Authorities across Somalia demonstrated minimal efforts to prevent trafficking during the year. In Puntland state, members of the anti-trafficking board participated in a three-month radio, television, and community social mobilization awareness campaign conducted by an international organization to sensitize the public on human trafficking, including how to detect and report actual and suspected cases of trafficking; the Puntland state government did not fund the program. The FGS did not conduct any awareness campaigns during the reporting period. No government entity provided funding to agencies for labor inspections, and no inspectors were employed to enforce labor laws. Authorities across Somalia did not make any discernible efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. Somalia is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
During the year, there were continued reports of the Somali National Army (SNA), Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a, clan militia, and al-Shabaab using child soldiers.
The efforts of the FGS to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers were focused solely on the SNA. The government’s implementation of the 2012 action plan to end the recruitment and use of children by the SNA remained incomplete. The work of the six military officer focal points named in 2015 was limited during the current reporting year. Nevertheless, in 2016, the SNA’s Child Protection Unit reported that it conducted awareness campaigns in Mogadishu, Guul Wadaysha, and at the Siyad Army Base on the importance of preventing child recruitment into the security forces. Authorities handed over children separated from armed groups to an international organization for care. The UN continued to report concerns about the arrest and detention of some children allegedly associated with al-Shabaab by Puntland forces. Most Somalis lacked birth certificates, and without an established birth registration system or standardized method for recruitment, verifying claims of child soldiering remained difficult.
Throughout areas beyond state control, al-Shabaab frequently recruited children for use by its militias, typically through abduction, deception, or compelling elders to hand over minors, and increasingly through fear from public executions of children alleged to be deserters or spies. The terrorist group forced recruitment at mosques, Quranic schools, and facilities for neglected children. Al-Shabaab used children for combat and other support functions in southern and central Somalia, including for planting roadside bombs and other explosive devices, serving as human shields during incursions, carrying out assassinations and suicide attacks, providing intelligence, serving as guards, and working in domestic service. Al-Shabaab also forcibly recruited young girls and exploited them in sexual servitude.