The government increased law enforcement efforts. Law No. 2016-111 on the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons criminalized labor and sex trafficking and prescribed penalties of five to 10 years imprisonment and a fine for adult trafficking and 20 to 30 years imprisonment and a fine for child trafficking. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, judges also used the 2010 child labor and child trafficking law and the criminal code to convict traffickers. The 2010 law remained the primary law used to prosecute child trafficking, and it criminalized child sex trafficking with penalties of five to 20 years imprisonment and a fine and child labor trafficking with 10 to 20 years imprisonment and a fine. Articles 335 and 336 of the Ivoirian Criminal Code criminalized the pimping and exploitation of adults and children for the purpose of forced prostitution with penalties of one to five years imprisonment and a fine.
The government did not have a mechanism to collect and share data between ministries, so it did not gather or report comprehensive data on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. However, several government entities collected data, including the police’s anti-trafficking unit (ATU); Brigade Mondaine—the police unit charged with investigating prostitution and sex trafficking; the police’s transnational organized crime unit (UCT); the Ministry of Women, Child Protection and Social Affairs (MWCPSA); and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights (MOJ). With data from Abidjan and 33 departments—a significant increase from the previous reporting period, when Abidjan and eight departments reported data—the government reported 59 case investigations, prosecuting 27 suspects, and convicting 20 traffickers. This is an increase from 35 case investigations, 19 prosecutions, and eight convictions in the previous reporting period. Entities reported 32 sex trafficking investigations and 12 for labor trafficking, and did not report the types of trafficking for the remaining investigations; alleged traffickers included suspects from Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso, China, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo. Judges convicted traffickers under the 2016 and 2010 laws and the criminal code for trafficking, pimping, solicitation, exploitation of minors, and the worst forms of child labor; in several cases, judges convicted traffickers for two of those crimes. Sentences ranged from two months to 11 years imprisonment, and more than half of the convicted traffickers received at least five years imprisonment. Judges acquitted seven alleged traffickers, and at least 14 investigations remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period. The government did not report any cases of adult forced labor.
The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, official corruption and complicity in trafficking remained concerns. During the reporting period, a government official reportedly asked police to release a central suspect in one alleged trafficking case; in another potential trafficking case, NGOs alleged a government official was involved. Law enforcement did not investigate either government official for trafficking-related corruption or complicity. Authorities outside Abidjan lacked training to identify and investigate trafficking. Some judges remained unaware of the 2016 law and continued to use the 2010 law and pimping statues to prosecute trafficking cases, which carried lesser penalties. Nonetheless, the government did not provide any training for officials.
Limited funding and resources for law enforcement created serious gaps in the government’s ability to address human trafficking. ATU bore primary responsibility for enforcing anti-trafficking laws and investigating cases throughout the country, although it only had staff in Abidjan. The gendarmes under the Ministry of Defense were responsible for investigations in rural areas where ATU was not present. ATU had a budget of approximately $4,592 in 2017, the same as in 2016. Funding levels remained severely inadequate. Resource limitations also constrained the Brigade Mondaine to Abidjan and a few regional precincts, rendering the two primary anti-trafficking units unable to cover the majority of the country. UCT became fully functional during the reporting period and had national jurisdiction over transnational organized crime, including a specialized human trafficking department. The government allocated 71.6 million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($127,330) to UCT in 2017, although it was unclear how much of that funding the human trafficking department received. ATU had the mandate for child trafficking, UCT was responsible for transnational trafficking, and Brigade Mondaine covered sex trafficking; however, the units lacked coordination, and no unit had a clear responsibility for internal adult labor trafficking.