The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. The government coordinated its counter-child trafficking efforts and dissemination of information through MSA’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons Cell, previously the National Committee for the Reception and Social Reinsertion of Trafficked Children. The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Cell convened frequently during the year, and acted as a central hub of information and tracked statistics on trafficking of children in Togo, including the repatriation of child victims; however, data collection and reporting remained weak during the reporting period and the government had not updated its anti-trafficking national action plan since 2008. The government employed a network of vigilance committees in nearly every village in the country to provide education on trafficking and report cases to the government, although the effectiveness of these committees varied greatly. The government did not report efforts to raise public awareness of trafficking.
During the reporting period, the Ministry of Grassroots Development partnered with an international organization to launch a microfinance enterprise that provided 5,000 FCFA ($8.89) per month to families with children via a mobile phone payment. Togo is a low-income country, and the government designed this program to alleviate the economic conditions that motivate many internal cases of child trafficking, and reached nearly 30,000 families in 2017. The government plans to increase the reach of the program to 120,000 over the next three years.
The government employed 191 labor inspectors across all five regions during the reporting period, an increase from 167 inspectors from the previous year. Despite the increase, there were still too few inspectors compared to the scale of child labor in the country, much of which could constitute trafficking, according to Togo’s law. An NGO reported inspectors often did not address obvious cases of child labor in large, open-air markets in urban centers. During the reporting period, the government identified 66 children in child labor, including potential trafficking victims, compared with 246 in 2016. The government did not regulate foreign labor recruiters. The government worked to reduce the demand for forced labor through the continuation of a program partnering with 30 traditional religious leaders to eliminate exploitation through the practice of religious “apprenticeships”—a practice in which children are entrusted to religious leaders who exploit them in forced domestic work, or, in some cases, sexual slavery when parents are unable to pay school fees. The government distributed birth certificates with the assistance of NGOs; the lack of identification documents increased vulnerability to trafficking in persons.
During the reporting period, the government coordinated with the Economic Community of West African States and an international organization to synchronize regional and country-level anti-trafficking national action plans through the Free Movement of Persons & Migration program, which included a component focused on populations vulnerable to human trafficking. Officials continued to cooperate in regional anti-trafficking coordination and planning efforts with Benin, Ghana, and Nigeria on border control efforts and with the West African Multilateral Accord and the Multilateral Cooperation Agreement to Combat Trafficking in Persons in West and Central Africa. The government did not take any discernible measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government provided anti-trafficking training to Togolese troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.