The government increased efforts to identify and assist child victims, while efforts to protect adult victims remained negligible. Officials identified and referred 65 child labor trafficking victims to shelters that provided medical, legal, and psychological care, compared with 15 in 2016. The government did not report identifying any adult trafficking victims, and provided no specific trafficking-related services. The government decreased funding to NGOs that provided shelter and services to victims for the fourth consecutive year, and there continued to be a lack of shelter space to accommodate all trafficking victims. The government continued to fund two NGO-run shelters offering services to orphans and street children vulnerable to trafficking, providing an unknown amount of funding and in-kind support, including funding for social workers, medical support, psychological services, legal assistance, tuition, and food and furniture vouchers. However, the government did not report referring any child trafficking victims to these facilities. Other NGOs assisting 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. The same services were available for male, female, foreign, and Gabonese victims, including those repatriated from abroad. There were no government or NGO-run shelters specifically designated for adult victims, although adult victims could potentially access government services for victims of domestic abuse or other forms of violence; however, the government did not report such victims doing so during the year. Some shelters could have provided services to adults and some allowed child trafficking victims to remain after they reached 18 years of age; however, the government did not report referring any adults to such facilities during the reporting period. Officials have the authority to permit adult male victims to leave shelters unchaperoned but not adult female victims, allegedly for their safety.
The Ministry of Family, Social Protection, and National Solidarity, in coordination with foreign embassies, assisted in the repatriation of 42 foreign child trafficking victims. Gabonese authorities reported that a lack of cooperation with source-country governments on funding the repatriation of foreign victims identified in Gabon greatly lengthened the repatriation process; foreign trafficking victims remained in Gabonese shelters 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 the government did not report any victims utilizing this legal alternative. The government encouraged victims to cooperate with authorities to provide testimony for the prosecution of alleged traffickers. Prosecutors, police, and magistrates routinely took victims’ testimony at the time of the arrest of the suspected traffickers or identification of the victim, an approach that is neither victim-centered, nor considered the most effective. While the government has sought restitution for trafficking victims in the past, it did not report doing so during the reporting period. Victims could file civil suits against their traffickers, but there were no known cases of such action, in part due to 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 negligible effort to identify adult trafficking victims, some victims may have remained unidentified in the law enforcement system.