COTE D’IVOIRE: Tier 2

The Government of Cote d’Ivoire does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Cote d’Ivoire remained on Tier 2. These efforts include increasing investigations, prosecutions, and convictions; coordinating with an NGO to open and operate a shelter for child victims of exploitation, including child trafficking victims; convening the first anti-trafficking committee meeting; and financing and distributing a film at 14 events on the vulnerability to trafficking faced by irregular migrants. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. During the reporting period, a government official exploited his niece in labor trafficking and coordinated an armed abduction, with assistance from other government officials, from the shelter where she was receiving care. The government continued to lack formal mechanisms to identify adult trafficking victims or refer trafficking victims to care. Despite the convening of the anti-trafficking committee, government coordination to implement the 2016-2020 national action plan continued to be weak. The government did not provide sufficient resources to law enforcement to investigate trafficking cases.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS

Continue increasing efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers following due process, including complicit officials, and apply significant prison terms as prescribed by law to those convicted. • Ensure law enforcement respects the security of NGOs providing services to victims and enforce trafficking victims’ right to receive care free from violence and intimidation. • Train law enforcement and judicial officials how to identify, investigate, and prosecute trafficking cases under the 2016 anti-trafficking law, including the difference between pimping and sex trafficking. • Increase funding and in-kind resources, as feasible, for the police anti-trafficking units to investigate trafficking cases nationwide, and delineate responsibilities between the units. • Clearly delineate responsibilities for activities in the 2016-2020 action plan and fund its implementation. • Revise the existing procedures used to identify potential trafficking victims to include adults and victims among vulnerable populations, and incorporate the changes into existing trainings. • Establish and train officials on a standardized victim referral mechanism for use across ministries to ensure all trafficking victims receive services. • Increase funding for NGOs to expand shelter and services for trafficking victims, including adults, and continue to establish victim shelters as indicated in the national action plan. • Direct labor inspectors to inspect the informal sector for forced labor. • Actively monitor agencies and intermediaries that recruit Ivoirians for work abroad and investigate allegations of fraudulent recruitment. • Improve data collection on anti-trafficking efforts.

PROSECUTION

The government increased law enforcement efforts, although official complicity remained a concern. Law No.2016-111 on the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 5 million to 10 million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($8,790-$17,590) for adult trafficking and 20 to 30 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 10 million to 50 million FCFA ($17,590-$87,930) for child trafficking. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, judges also used the 2010 child labor and child trafficking law and the criminal code to convict traffickers. The 2010 law remained the primary law used to prosecute child trafficking, and it criminalized child sex trafficking and labor trafficking with 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 5 million to 20 million FCFA ($8,790-$35,170). Articles 335 and 336 of the Ivoirian Criminal Code criminalized the pimping and exploitation of adults and children for the purpose of forced prostitution with penalties of one to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1 million to 10 million FCFA ($1,760-$17,590).

The government did not have a mechanism to collect and share data between ministries, so it did not gather or report comprehensive data on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. However, several government entities collected data, including the Ministry of the Interior and Security’s Sub Directorate of the Criminal Police for the Fight against Child Trafficking and Juvenile Delinquency (also known as the anti-trafficking unit or ATU) and transnational organized crime unit (UCT); Brigade Mondaine—the police unit charged with investigating prostitution and sex trafficking; the Ministry of Women, Families, and Children (MWFC); and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights (MOJ). With data from Abidjan and all departments, the government reported investigating 147 cases, prosecuting 56 suspects, and convicting 47 traffickers. This is compared to 59 investigations, 27 prosecutions, and 20 convictions with data from Abidjan and 33 departments in the previous reporting period. Of the 51 prosecutions, the government initiated 38 in the current reporting period and continued 13 from the previous period. Entities reported 27 sex trafficking investigations and 88 for child labor trafficking and did not report the types of trafficking for the remaining investigations; alleged traffickers included suspects from Cote d’Ivoire, China, Cameroon, and Nigeria. Judges convicted traffickers under the 2016 and 2010 laws and the criminal code for trafficking, pimping, solicitation, exploitation of minors, and the worst forms of child labor. Judges levied both fines and prison sentences to all convicted traffickers; prison sentences ranged from six months to 20 years and fines ranged from 500,000 to 10 million FCFA ($880-$17,590). Of the 47 convictions, 11 traffickers each received sentences of 10 months’ imprisonment which was below the sentences prescribed in the 2016 anti-trafficking law and articles 335 and 336 of the penal code. Judges acquitted four alleged traffickers. The government did not report any cases of adult forced labor. In April 2018, French law enforcement investigated a trafficking network in Herault, France and Daloa, Cote d’Ivoire that smuggled Ivoirians to France for sex and labor trafficking; Ivoirian authorities coordinated with French investigators in the investigation, which remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period.

The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, official corruption and complicity in trafficking remained concerns. During the reporting period, an NGO alleged five gendarmes and two military firefighters, including the victim’s trafficker, abducted at gunpoint a 14-year-old rape and trafficking victim from the NGO shelter where she was receiving care. The Research Brigade of the Gendarmes completed its investigation into the aforementioned case in March 2019 and passed the report to the military tribunal. The NGO filed an official complaint with the military tribunal, which was pending at the end of the reporting period. During the previous reporting period, a government official reportedly asked police to release a central suspect in one alleged trafficking case; in another potential trafficking case, NGOs alleged a government official was involved. Law enforcement did not report investigating either government official for trafficking-related corruption or complicity during the reporting period.

Limited funding and resources for law enforcement created serious gaps in the government’s ability to address human trafficking. ATU bore primary responsibility for enforcing anti-trafficking laws and investigating cases throughout the country, although it only had staff in Abidjan.

The gendarmes under the Ministry of Defense were responsible for investigations in rural areas where ATU was not present. Funding levels remained severely inadequate. Resource limitations also constrained the Brigade Mondaine to Abidjan and a few regional precincts, rendering the two primary anti-trafficking units unable to cover the majority of the country. UCT had national jurisdiction over transnational organized crime, including a specialized human trafficking department. ATU had the mandate for child trafficking, UCT was responsible for transnational trafficking, and Brigade Mondaine covered sex trafficking; however, the units lacked coordination, and no unit had a clear responsibility for internal adult labor trafficking. Authorities outside Abidjan lacked training to identify and investigate trafficking. Some judges remained unaware of the 2016 law and continued to use the 2010 law and pimping statues to prosecute trafficking cases, which carried lesser penalties. The ATU trained three new police officers on identifying child trafficking victims. International organizations hosted two trainings for border police, prosecutors, judges, and other law enforcement officials on human trafficking; the government did not provide financial or in-kind support to these trainings.

PROTECTION

The government maintained efforts to identify and protect victims. The government identified 45 trafficking victims and 53 victims of child labor or child trafficking during the reporting period, compared with 57 trafficking victims and 167 potential trafficking victims in the previous reporting period. Victims included 10 adult victims, nine Burkinabe child victims exploited in forced labor in gold mining, 16 Nigerien child sex trafficking victims, and 16 Nigerian female sex trafficking victims. While the government did not have formal mechanisms to proactively identify adult trafficking victims or refer trafficking victims to care, the UCT had operational procedures to refer victims to care. Government ministries lacked coordination, which in some cases hindered the provision of services. The government referred 18 child victims to NGOs for care; it was unclear whether the other 35 identified victims received care. In July 2018, the government split the then-Ministry of Women, Child Protection, and Social Affairs, which led to the division of the government’s victim protection efforts between the Ministry of Women, Families, and Children and the Ministry of Solidarity, Social Cohesion, and the Fight against Poverty. As a result, it was unclear which ministry was responsible for the different aspects of trafficking victim protection. Despite the lack of a formal referral mechanism, in practice officials referred trafficking victims to one of 90 government-run social centers for victims of abuse to receive psychological care and then to NGOs for shelter and further services. When necessary, the government used orphanages or its 36 special education centers to shelter women and child trafficking victims. During the reporting period, the government, with funding from an NGO, opened a government-run shelter for child victims of exploitation (including child labor and child trafficking) in Soubre; the shelter assisted the nine Burkinabe child labor trafficking victims identified during the reporting period. The government remained in partnership with this NGO to build two additional shelters for child victims of exploitation in Ferkessedougou and Bouake. The government provided in-kind support including clothing, food, and hygiene kits to NGOs where it referred the victims. Foreign and domestic victims reportedly had the same access to care. In some cases, the government depended on foreign victims’ home embassies to provide shelter and care to sex trafficking victims prior to repatriation. NGOs reported that despite the provision of in-kind support, government support for victim protection and services remained inadequate and in many cases NGOs funded and provided the majority of victim care. The lack of services, especially for adults, and lack of reintegration assistance prevented some victims from accessing adequate services and rendered many victims vulnerable to re-victimization. With donor funding and in partnership with an international organization, the government provided 165,000 FCFA ($290) and hygiene and food kits to each of the approximately 2,856 migrants returned from Libya and North Africa, some of whom were trafficking victims, during the reporting period. The Ivoirian embassy in Libya, since moved to Tunisia, coordinated with an international organization to provide travel documents to returning migrants.

Ivoirian law required the government to provide protection and assistance to victims who participated in investigations or trials against their traffickers; the government did not report whether any victims received this assistance during the reporting period. Trafficking victims could file civil suits against their traffickers. While victims could obtain damages from traffickers, many victims were not aware of the provision. During the reporting period, a victim filed a civil suit and the trafficker was ordered to pay 600,000 FCFA ($1,060). The government did not report how many victims received damages following a civil suit during the reporting period. There were no reports the government detained, fined, or jailed victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit; however, due to the lack of formal identification procedures for adult trafficking victims and victims among vulnerable populations, some may have remained unidentified within the law enforcement system.

PREVENTION

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. In February 2019, the prime minister convened the first meeting of the anti-trafficking committee after it was created in April 2017, as mandated in the 2016 anti-trafficking law. The committee had the lead for anti-trafficking prevention efforts, including implementation of the 2016-2020 anti-trafficking national action plan; however, due to the late convening of the anti-trafficking committee, poor communication and coordination among ministries continued to hinder progress during the reporting period, and implementing agencies did not have a clear understanding of their role in combating trafficking. For the third consecutive year, the government did not take concrete steps to implement its action plan. The government allocated 2.2 billion FCFA ($3.87 million) to implement the national action plan in 2018 but did not report how much of the allocated budget was disbursed; the government allocated 1.5 billion FCFA ($2.64 million) during the previous reporting period. In part due to delayed implementation of the 2016-2020 anti-trafficking national action plan, the government is conducting a review of the plan. The National Monitoring Committee and the Inter-Ministerial Committee continued to coordinate child labor and child trafficking efforts. Several government ministries organized awareness-raising campaigns on child labor regulations and the 2016 anti-trafficking law. In addition, the Ministry for African Integration and Ivoirians Abroad organized 14 awareness-raising events throughout the country, including in Daloa—a source for irregular migration—to highlight irregular migrants’ vulnerability to trafficking. As part of the campaign, the ministry financed and distributed a film about the vulnerability of irregular migrants to trafficking. The labor code regulated labor recruitment and labor migration in the formal sector but did not extend to the informal sector, including domestic work, and traffickers exploited Ivoirian and other West African women in domestic servitude internally and abroad. In 2018, labor inspectors conducted limited inspections of the informal sector—where most children worked—but did not identify child forced labor cases through these inspections. The government continued to operate several hotlines for child protection and human rights; one of the hotlines received 674 calls reporting human rights violations that were referred to the relevant government ministries; it is unknown if any calls were regarding trafficking. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts but made some efforts to reduce the demand for child labor and forced labor in the cocoa sector.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Cote d’Ivoire, and traffickers exploit victims from Cote d’Ivoire abroad. The majority of identified victims are children; due to a stronger emphasis on combating internal child trafficking, the prevalence of adult trafficking may be underreported. Some Ivoirian women and girls are subjected to forced labor in domestic service and restaurants and exploited in sex trafficking. Ivoirian boys are victims of forced labor in the agricultural and service industries, especially cocoa production. West African boys, including Burkinabes, may be forced into labor in agriculture (on cocoa, coffee, pineapple, cashew, and rubber plantations, and in animal breeding) and in mining, carpentry, construction, and begging in Cote d’Ivoire. Traffickers often operate in well-established networks consisting of both Ivoirians and foreigners and, in cases of transnational trafficking, use social media, making networks difficult for law enforcement to detect. Authorities estimate there are more than 2,000 Ivoirian, Burkinabe, Malian, Nigerien, and Senegalese talibés (students in Quranic schools) in northern and central Cote d’Ivoire and that corrupt teachers force many of them to beg. NGOs and officials report drug traffickers use children—some of whom may be forced—to sell and traffic drugs in restaurants and nightclubs. Some Beninese and Togolese workers migrate to Cote d’Ivoire for construction and carpentry work and bring children, whom they exploit in domestic servitude. Traffickers—commonly distant relatives—bring girls from eastern Cote d’Ivoire and other West African countries to Abidjan ostensibly to go to school or receive professional training but subject them to domestic servitude. Ghanaian and Nigerian traffickers recruit women and girls from Ghana and Nigeria for waitressing jobs but subject them to sex trafficking in restaurants or massage parlors; some victims believe they are transiting Cote d’Ivoire en route to Europe. Nigerian traffickers increasingly exploit Nigerian women and girls in sex trafficking in Cote d’Ivoire’s northern and western mining regions, including near gold mines in Tengrela. Nigerian traffickers bring Nigerian children to northern Cote d’Ivoire for domestic servitude. Nigerians transit Cote d’Ivoire en route to sex trafficking in Asia, the United Arab Emirates, and North Africa. Chinese traffickers force Chinese women into prostitution in Cote d’Ivoire.

Ivoirian community and religious leaders, possibly working in concert with others abroad, recruit Ivoirian women and girls for work in the Middle East and Europe but subject them to forced labor in Europe, North Africa, and Gulf countries, primarily Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, and Tunisia. Traffickers exploit men and boys in forced labor on farms in Tunisia, often promising the men well-paying jobs and the boys the opportunity to play soccer. Officials identified an uptick in Ivoirian migrants in Libya and Tunisia who were vulnerable to trafficking. Authorities also noted an increase in male trafficking victims among migrants to Europe. Migrants commonly depart from Daloa and proceed via airplane to Tunisia; overland via Mali and Algeria to Libya; or, to a lesser extent, via Niger to Libya. In Tunisia—specifically Sfax and Grand Tunis—intermediaries confiscate migrants’ identity documents until they can pay for the next leg of their journey, creating vulnerabilities to trafficking. During the reporting period, NGOs and international organizations identified 621 potential Ivoirian trafficking victims in Tunisia. Due to their irregular status, illegal Ivoirian migrants in Algeria are vulnerable to trafficking. During the reporting period, French authorities broke up an Ivoirian trafficking network based in Daloa that provided Ivoirian minors with fake documents and facilitated their travel to France through Libya and Italy. Kuwaiti employers increasingly recruit domestic workers from Cote d’Ivoire who may be vulnerable to domestic servitude in Kuwait. Authorities previously identified Ivoirian female trafficking victims in Iraq, Israel, Cyprus, France, and Morocco.

U.S. Department of State

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