The government increased efforts to protect child trafficking victims and made limited efforts to identify and assist adult victims. During the reporting period, officials patrolled borders, bus stations, and large markets to proactively identify child trafficking victims, referring 1,214 potential child trafficking victims (724 girls and 490 boys) to temporary shelter and services in 2018, compared with identifying and referring 370 potential child victims to care in 2017. Additionally, the Ministry of Labor identified and referred approximately 565 victims of forced labor to legal, medical, and psychological services. The government-supported Social Promotion Center (CPS) in the southwest city of Klouekamey reported identifying and referring to care 25 child victims of internal and cross-border trafficking in 2018. During the reporting period, the government referred additional victims to NGO-run shelters throughout the country. Authorities did not report proactively identifying or referring adult trafficking victims to care.
In February 2019, the government partnered with an international organization to finalize and launch standard operating procedures (SOPs) to identify and refer child trafficking victims to care; however, the government did not disclose how many officials it trained on the SOPs. Prior to the development of the SOPs, officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Microfinance, OCPM, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and NGOs used an informal system to identify and refer child victims to services; once authorities identified child trafficking victims, OCPM assumed initial custody and provided temporary shelter in its Cotonou facility that could house up to 160 children (80 boys and 80 girls). The OCPM shelter offered child victims legal, medical, and psychological assistance and served as a transit facility for potential child trafficking victims while officials worked to place the children in long-term NGO shelters. After conducting an interview and assessment, OCPM referred victims to a network of NGO shelters throughout the country. Authorities did not have SOPs to identify adult victims and subsequently refer them to care. The government did not provide trafficking-specific services for adult victims; however, the government did offer programs intended to assist adult victims of other forms of abuse.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Microfinance assisted foreign trafficking victims, predominantly minors, before repatriating them to their home countries. The government repatriated an unknown number of foreign victims in partnership with an international organization and with the assistance of embassies or consulates of victims’ countries of origin. In 2018, the government reported repatriating 258 Beninese victims of trafficking (primarily children) from Gabon, Ghana, Kuwait, and Nigeria and provided them health and social services during their reintegration.
During the reporting period, the government increased funding to support OCPM’s operations from 19.2 million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($33,760) to 52 million FCFA ($91,440), which supported services for all children received in its shelter, including trafficking victims. Beninese law did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of trafficking victims to countries in which victims would face retribution or hardship, although cases involving foreign child trafficking victims were considered on an ad hoc basis. While there were no reports the government penalized any trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking, some adult victims may have remained unidentified in the law enforcement system due to a legislative framework that did not criminalize adult trafficking.