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EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Tier 3

The Government of Equatorial Guinea does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; therefore Equatorial Guinea remained on Tier 3. Despite the lack of significant efforts, the government took some positive steps to address trafficking, including investigating two potential trafficking cases; screening some vulnerable populations, including irregular migrants, for signs of trafficking and providing shelter and services to potential victims; continuing public awareness activities and trainings for civil society actors; and revoking companies’ business licenses for labor violations. However, the government did not prosecute any suspects and has never convicted a trafficker under its 2004 anti-trafficking law. The government did not report identifying any trafficking victims and did not develop standard operating procedures to identify or refer trafficking victims to care. The government did not provide any trafficking training to law enforcement officials during the reporting period.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EQUATORIAL GUINEA

Research the extent and nature of human trafficking within the country; dedicate resources to implement the national action plan to combat trafficking in persons; develop and implement formal procedures to identify and refer trafficking victims to care, especially victims of child sex trafficking, and among child laborers, undocumented immigrants, and women in prostitution; ensure consistent application of existing procedures for screening foreigners and notifying embassies before deportation to ensure trafficking victims are provided appropriate care and safe, voluntary repatriation; expand the scope of the anti-trafficking public awareness campaign to include outreach campaigns across the country; use the 2004 anti-trafficking law to prosecute and convict traffickers, including complicit officials; train social workers, law enforcement, and immigration officials in the use of trafficking victim identification and referral procedures; increase funding or in-kind support to shelters for trafficking victims, including male victims; regularly convene the inter-ministerial anti-trafficking commission and create technical working groups focused on increasing coordination between government ministries, law enforcement, presidents of the community, and NGOs.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2004 Law on the Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons criminalized labor and sex trafficking and prescribed penalties of 10 to 15 years imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government investigated two cases of suspected child trafficking, compared with one investigation during the previous reporting period; however, both cases were discovered to be illegal adoptions through the course of the investigations.

As in the previous year, authorities did not report any prosecutions and the government has never convicted a trafficker; the district attorney reported prosecuting a total of only 120 criminal cases for any crime during the reporting period. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. Unlike previous years, the government did not conduct anti-trafficking trainings for law enforcement officials.

PROTECTION

The government maintained limited efforts to protect victims, but increased efforts to screen vulnerable populations for signs of trafficking. The government did not identify or refer any victims to protective services, and did not have formal procedures to identify or refer trafficking victims. Although the 2004 anti-trafficking law mandated the government to provide legal assistance, psychological and medical care, lodging, food, access to education, training, and employment opportunities to trafficking victims, it did not report providing these services to any trafficking victims, as none were formally identified. However, the government provided funding to an NGO shelter for female victims of violence including likely trafficking victims. Unlike previous years in which officials immediately deported migrants, authorities screened more than 200 irregular migrants intercepted at sea for signs of trafficking and provided temporary shelter, food, and medical services before coordinating with foreign embassies to repatriate the migrants to their countries of origin. Officials increased coordination with foreign embassies, and collaborated on four cases of suspected trafficking victims prior to repatriating the individuals after discovering that they were cases of illegal adoptions. The government had no formal policies to provide foreign trafficking victims legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they might face retribution or hardship.

Police and border officials solicited bribes from detainees—the majority of whom were young foreign men, although children and women were also detained—and deported those who did not pay. In 2017, there were no verified reports of trafficking victims being detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being subjected to trafficking; however, due to a lack of formal victim identification procedures and the reports of officials requiring bribes from detainees, some unidentified trafficking victims were likely penalized.

PREVENTION

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. For the first time in six years, the government convened its anti-trafficking inter-ministerial committee, although the government did not report any follow-on actions. Authorities used multiple media platforms including radio and television to raise public awareness of trafficking. In March 2018, the government began airing anti-trafficking programming on the country’s two primary television channels multiple times per day. In November and December 2017, with technical support from an international organization and private sector actors, the government implemented the second phase of its anti-trafficking program, and funded training for more than 170 community leaders across the country, intended to create a civil society network knowledgeable about trafficking and able to identify and prevent human trafficking. This program built on victim identification training for 600 community leaders and law enforcement officials in December 2016. Prostitution is legal in the country and, in an attempt to decrease exploitation of vulnerable individuals, the government continued implementing regulations requiring all commercial sex establishments to register and provide contracts to their workers. However, the government did not make efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts. The Ministry of Labor continued to implement regulations for all companies to sign formal labor contracts with their employees; however, it did not publicize information on companies that were out of compliance. Using these regulations, the general director of the National Financial Research Agency and Ministry of Labor inspected and revoked business licenses for an undisclosed number of Chinese-owned construction companies for labor violations. The government did not implement any programs to address forced child labor despite having 13 labor inspectors dedicated to documenting labor infractions. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, Equatorial Guinea is a source country for women and girls vulnerable to sex trafficking and a destination country for men, women, and children, who may be vulnerable to forced labor. The majority of trafficking victims are exploited in the cities of Malabo, Bata, and Mongomo, where relative wealth and security make the country an attractive destination for central and West African migrant workers. Equatoguinean and foreign women are exploited in commercial sex in these cities, often by foreigners. Lower oil prices and oil production in recent years have caused a deep contraction of the country’s economy leading to a decreased government budget for social welfare programming and shrinking formal economic activity. LGBTI youth are often left homeless and stigmatized by their families and society, which increases their vulnerability to trafficking. Children from nearby countries—primarily Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Togo, and Gabon—may be subjected to forced labor as domestic workers, market laborers, vendors, and launderers. Women from Cameroon, Benin, other neighboring countries, and the Caribbean are recruited for work in Equatorial Guinea and subjected to forced labor or forced prostitution. Civil society actors report that Ethiopian women are exploited for domestic servitude by family members in Malabo. Chinese women migrate to Equatorial Guinea for work or to engage in prostitution, and some are subjected to passport confiscation, increasing their vulnerability to forced labor. General corruption and complicity by government officials in trafficking-related offenses occurred during the reporting period.

U.S. Department of State

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