The government increased law enforcement efforts. Public Law 12/2011 criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of three to 15 years imprisonment and the confiscation of any proceeds from the crime. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
The government investigated 22 cases of child trafficking but did not prosecute or convict any suspects for trafficking offenses, an increase from no investigations, prosecutions, or convictions the previous reporting period. Of the 22 cases, 20 cases involved child domestic servitude and two involved transporting children to Senegal for forced begging. Notably, in one case the National Guard arrested two marabouts for transporting children to Senegal, allegedly for exploitation in forced begging. Law enforcement sent all investigations to the judiciary for prosecution at the end of the reporting period; however, victims often dropped their cases because they did not want to pursue charges against their traffickers, who were often family members. The government has never prosecuted or convicted a trafficker. The government did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the reporting period. Observers reported some police and border guards might have accepted bribes from traffickers, and officials have reportedly closed investigations into child sex tourism.
The government did not provide specialized training to law enforcement on investigating and prosecuting trafficking crimes, and some law enforcement and judicial officials remained unaware of the 2011 anti-trafficking law. The Judicial Police provided general child protection training to new members of its Women and Children Brigade, a 10-person unit charged with investigating crimes against women and children, including trafficking. The unit possessed only one vehicle and did not receive an operating budget, largely limiting its efforts to Bissau. The Judicial Police continued efforts to open a second office in the Bijagos and awaited a decision from the Ministry of Justice at the close of the reporting period. The National Guard and local police in rural areas had neither the training nor the capacity to investigate trafficking crimes and did not always refer such cases to the Judicial Police, which impeded investigations into child forced begging in eastern regions and child sex trafficking in the Bijagos. In addition, police and judges preferred to resolve intra-familial labor and abuse cases—which could include forced child labor and child sex trafficking by family members—through non-judicial means. When parents broke such agreements and police transferred the cases to court, officials noted community leaders often pressured courts to drop the cases.