As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Cameroon, and traffickers exploit victims from Cameroon abroad. Child traffickers often use the promise of education or a better life in urban areas to convince rural parents to give their children over to an intermediary, who then exploits the children in sex trafficking or forced labor. Criminals subject homeless children and orphans to sex trafficking and forced labor in urban areas. Some labor recruiters lure teenagers and adolescents from economically disadvantaged families to cities with the prospect of employment and then subject victims to labor or sex trafficking. Traffickers exploit Cameroonian children in domestic service, restaurants, begging or vending on streets and highways, artisanal gold mining, gravel quarries, fishing, animal breeding, and agriculture (on onion, cotton, tea, and cocoa plantations), as well as in urban transportation assisting bus drivers and in construction as errand boys, laborers, or night watchmen. Children from neighboring countries are exploited in spare parts shops or by herders in northern Cameroon. Traffickers exploit some children transiting the country en route to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Anecdotal evidence suggests some Chinese business owners fraudulently recruit young girls to work as beauticians and subsequently exploit them in sex trafficking.
An international organization reported in December 2018 Cameroon accommodated over 437,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) resulting from the Anglophone crisis. In addition to the IDPs, Cameroon has more than 1.1 million individuals of concern—including refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) and Nigeria—as of December 2018. Both the IDPs and the individuals of concern are vulnerable to trafficking due to their economic instability and lack of access to formal justice. Boko Haram’s activities on the border with Nigeria and instability in neighboring CAR have contributed to the displacement of many of these refugees. There continued to be reports of hereditary slavery in northern chiefdoms. Traffickers force CAR refugee children to engage in artisanal gold mining and sex trafficking in some areas of the East and Adamawa regions. An NGO alleged that in 2016 some officially sanctioned community watch groups (vigilance committees) may have used and recruited children as young as 12 years old. Boko Haram is a consistent terrorist threat, and continues to forcibly recruit Cameroonian children as porters, cooks, and scouts. The terrorist organization also uses women and girls as forced suicide bombers and sex slaves and boys as child soldiers. International organizations reported Anglophone separatists abducted children, potentially for use as child soldiers.
Cameroonians from disadvantaged social strata, in particular from rural areas, are exploited in forced labor and sex trafficking in the Middle East (especially Kuwait and Lebanon), as well as in Europe (including Switzerland and Cyprus), the United States, and multiple African countries (including Nigeria). Most exploited Cameroonians abroad are between the ages of 20 and 38, and come from the Northwest, Southwest, Littoral, Center, South, and West Regions. Fraudulent labor brokers recruited some Cameroonian women for domestic work in the Middle East where traffickers then subjected the women to sex trafficking or domestic servitude upon arrival at their destination. Some economic migrants in search of opportunity became victims of trafficking in Libya, or while in transit through Niger.
Trafficking networks generally consist of local community members, including religious leaders and former trafficking victims who have transitioned to perpetrators. These networks advertise jobs through the internet as well as other media, and recruit and sell other Cameroonians directly to families in need of domestic servants. Advocates working on trafficking issues report the government’s awareness-raising activities targeting fraudulent recruitment have raised awareness amongst vulnerable populations, but have caused intermediaries to operate with greater discretion, often directing victims to travel to the Middle East through neighboring countries, including Nigeria. International organizations, NGOs, and migrants report that Cameroonian trafficking networks in Morocco force women into prostitution.