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The Government of the Central African Republic (CAR) does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated significant efforts during the reporting period by partnering with an international organization to demobilize 913 child soldiers and provide reintegration services for 1,669 children recruited by armed groups; investigating one trafficking case; increasing its awareness raising programming; and partnering with an international organization to operate shelters for potential child trafficking victims and demobilized child soldiers. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. The government did not prosecute any traffickers, has not convicted a trafficker since 2008, and did not develop a national action plan to address all forms of trafficking in persons. Therefore CAR remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.

Coordinate with international organizations to demobilize and provide reintegration services to child soldiers, and increase efforts to minimize their re-recruitment by armed groups. • Hold armed groups that recruit and use children criminally accountable. • Designate a ministry or official entity to lead the government’s overall anti-trafficking efforts, and empower officials to coordinate with other government offices, NGOs, and international organizations. • Increase efforts to identify trafficking victims within Bangui and train officials on victim identification standard operating procedures. • Develop and operationalize a multi-year anti-trafficking national action plan in partnership with international organizations and NGOs, and dedicate in-kind support to include government facilities and staff hours to support the plan’s implementation. • Increase anti-trafficking training for the Mixed Unit for Rapid Intervention and Repression of Sexual Violence to Women and Children (UMIRR) so it can effectively identify trafficking cases and refer victims to care. • Hold court hearings—separate from informal mediation—for suspected trafficking cases and increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers through independent and fair trials. • Ministry of Labor officials coordinate with international organizations to provide training for labor inspectors to increase their ability to proactively identify victims of trafficking in Bangui. • Take concrete steps in partnership with NGOs and international organizations to provide comprehensive protection services to victims of all forms of trafficking, and ensure trafficking victims are not punished for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. •Launch an awareness raising campaign in Bangui in partnership with international organizations to increase the public’s and government officials’ ability to identify and refer trafficking in persons crimes to law enforcement officers.

The government maintained minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Article 151 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as kidnapping. If the offense involved a child victim of sex trafficking or forced labor similar to slavery, the prescribed penalties increased to five to 10 years’ imprisonment with hard labor. Articles 7 and 8 of the 2009 Labor Code criminalized forced and bonded labor and prescribed sufficiently stringent penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment.

The government did not collect comprehensive anti-trafficking data, resulting in unreliable and incomplete statistics on law enforcement and victim identification efforts. The government investigated one trafficking case under Article 151 during the reporting period; however, authorities ultimately bypassed formal courts and resolved the case through mediation. As in the previous reporting period, officials did not report prosecuting any suspected traffickers in 2018, and authorities have not convicted any traffickers since 2008. NGOs reported the UMIRR may have investigated allegations of trafficking and referred an unknown number of potential trafficking cases to the Special Criminal Court.

Years of destabilizing conflict have severely limited formal judicial capacity outside the capital, leading to the frequent use of customary dispute resolution methods through which traditional chiefs or community leaders administer punishment for criminal acts. Additionally, observers stated limited judicial sector resources continued to impede prosecution of cases. The government did not report investigating, prosecuting, or convicting government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes by border agents and police remained concerns and may have inhibited law enforcement action during the year. The government did not report training law enforcement officials on human trafficking in 2018, compared with coordinating with an international organization to train 99 government and civil society actors during the previous reporting period.

The government maintained limited efforts to identify and protect victims. The government did not report identifying trafficking victims in 2018, compared with identifying 39 child trafficking victims in 2017.

Officials did not report training officials on the government’s victim identification standard operating procedures, developed in 2016. The Ministry of Social Affairs partnered with an international organization and provided financial support to shelters for unaccompanied children, including potential trafficking victims and former child soldiers; these shelters offered medical care, food, and psycho-social support. However, officials did not disclose the number of children the government assisted at these shelters. The government could refer trafficking victims to NGOs that accept—but do not specialize in assisting—trafficking victims; however, officials did not report referring any victims of forced labor or sex trafficking to NGOs or other service providers for assistance. In previous years, reports indicated the government arrested and jailed individuals engaged in commercial sex—some of whom may have been trafficking victims—without verifying their ages or attempting to identify indicators of trafficking; it is unknown whether the government punished any individuals for engaging in commercial sex during this reporting period, but it is likely given officials’ lack of training on victim identification. Authorities did not report providing legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. The law allows victims to file civil suits against the government or their alleged traffickers for restitution; however, there were no indications this occurred during the reporting period.

During the reporting period, the government partnered with an international organization to demobilize 913 children (671 boys and 242 girls) associated with armed groups, and provided reintegration services for 1,669 children (1,238 boys and 431 girls) in 2018; some children the government provided reintegration services to were demobilized in previous years. Government officials directly implemented family reunification and tracing programming, and supported international organization-led demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration efforts. In 2017, the government partnered with an international organization and identified more than 3,000 child soldiers and referred them to reintegration services. No other specialized care was available for child or adult trafficking victims in the country.

The government maintained limited prevention efforts during the reporting period, and overall anti-trafficking coordination was hindered by the lack of a designated lead governmental entity and limited trafficking knowledge among officials, as well as ongoing conflict throughout the country. Officials coordinated with an international organization to hold awareness raising programming and provide training for 1,337 individuals to increase their understanding of trafficking in persons. UMIRR continued to operate its 24-hour hotline staffed by French and local language speakers; however, the government did not provide statistics on the number of calls it received. Officials did not make progress on drafting or implementing a national action plan to combat trafficking.

Ministry of Labor officials conducted inspections in Bangui during the reporting period; however, instability and armed conflict throughout the country limited the government’s ability to observe areas outside the capital, and inspectors did not monitor the informal sector where experts reported child trafficking and hazardous work conditions commonly occurred. The government did not report implementing its 2017-2021 National Recovery and Peacebuilding Plan, which aimed to re-establish peace and security through the disarmament and reintegration of child soldiers. Budgetary shortfalls, lack of security, and coordination gaps between the government and donors adversely impacted the plan’s effectiveness. The government did not report any measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor, and it did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in CAR, and traffickers exploit victims from CAR abroad. Observers report traffickers primarily exploit CAR nationals within the country, and transport a smaller number of victims between CAR and Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, or South Sudan. Traffickers—including transient merchants, herders, and armed groups—subject children to domestic servitude, commercial sexual exploitation, as well as forced labor in agriculture, artisanal gold and diamond mines, shops, and street vending within CAR. Also within the country, some relatives subject children to forced labor in domestic work, and traffickers subject Ba’aka (pygmy) minorities to forced labor in agricultural work, especially in the region around the Lobaye rainforest. Criminal elements exploit girls in sex trafficking in Bangui and other urban areas. Some relatives or community members coerce girls into forced marriages and subsequently subject the girls to forced labor in domestic servitude, or sex trafficking.

Surges in violent conflict in recent years have resulted in chronic instability and the displacement of more than one million people, increasing the vulnerability of men, women, and children to forced labor and sex trafficking. In 2018, approximately 641,000 people remained internally displaced and vulnerable to trafficking inside the country, and 591,000 individuals sought refuge in neighboring countries. This represents an increase from 402,000 internally displaced people and 464,000 refugees the previous year.

Armed militias associated with Anti-Balaka, Ex-Seleka, Lords Resistance Army, and other armed groups forcibly recruit and use child soldiers in CAR; however, there were no verified cases of the government supporting units recruiting or using child soldiers during the reporting period. International organizations reported armed groups recruited 299 children (196 boys and 103 girls) to serve as combatants, informants, messengers, porters, cooks, and sex slaves in 2018; armed groups also subjected children to forced labor in the mining sector. Since the conflict began in 2012, armed groups have recruited more than 14,000 children; in 2018, militias primarily recruited and used child soldiers from the prefectures of Haute-Kotto, Nana-Grebizi, and Ouaka. Although some children voluntarily join locally-organized community defense groups to protect their families from opposing militias, many commanders maintain influence over these children even after they are demobilized, increasing their risk of re-recruitment. Inadequately funded reintegration programming, continuing instability, and a lack of economic opportunity throughout the country exacerbate the risks of re-recruitment among former child soldiers.

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) has more than 13,000 peacekeeping forces and police in CAR to protect civilians, provide security, support humanitarian operations, and promote and protect human rights, among other objectives. However, observers alleged MINUSCA peacekeepers sexually abused a CAR national during the reporting period. Observers report peacekeepers have sexually exploited over 100 victims since MINUSCA’s 2014 inception.

U.S. Department of State

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