The government increased efforts to protect trafficking victims. Although it had formal identification and referral procedures to guide officials in the proactive identification of victims, relevant officials did not consistently use these procedures. During the reporting period, without assistance from international organizations, authorities identified 28 potential trafficking victims and referred them all to care, an increase from seven it independently identified and assisted the previous year. For each of the 28 individuals, the government worked in tandem with an international organization to provide appropriate services. In addition, the government repatriated approximately 3,000 Ethiopians, which included an unknown number of migrants vulnerable to trafficking; it provided fully funded transportation to the Ethiopian border and subsequently coordinated with Ethiopian officials to conclude the repatriation process. The government continued to grant authority to an international organization to conduct trafficking screenings of all transiting migrants—many of whom were potential trafficking victims—and partnered with this entity to provide water, food, and temporary shelter for more than 1,000 people during the reporting period.
In January 2019, the MOI allocated government land to a locally operated NGO for the construction of a shelter for unaccompanied migrant and highly vulnerable street children—the first secure, 24-hour dormitory in the country that could appropriately house trafficking victims. For the first time, the government also permitted one NGO and other organizations working with orphans to host minors at their respective facilities overnight; many of these vulnerable children previously slept on the streets or along Siesta Beach—a spot once notorious for trafficking. Separately, the Coast Guard provided clothing and food to vulnerable migrants stranded at sea and transported them to care provided by an international organization, typically in Khor Angar. Additionally, the government continued its administration and funding of three migrant response centers (MRCs) across the country, in Loyada, Obock, and Khor Angar, which included office and short-term living quarters staffed and operated by an international organization, along routes heavily traversed by migrants. Since 2017, the Ministry of Health has provided one full-time doctor—trained to identify trafficking indicators—to the National Union for Djiboutian Women counseling center, a facility that deals with trafficking cases among other crimes. Also during the year, health officials, in partnership with an international organization, continued to operate five mobile clinics in Djibouti’s critical regions to provide care for the more than 300 Ethiopians who transited Djibouti daily to reach the Arabian Gulf. In addition, the Women and Family Promotion Ministry, in partnership with the European Union, executed and validated a qualitative research study to examine the plight of street children, one of the groups most vulnerable to exploitation. This ministry also increased the presence of social workers in Djibouti’s rural areas to respond to instances of abuse, including trafficking, marking the first time rural citizens had access to counseling.
Key ministries that supported groups vulnerable to trafficking increased transparency regarding funding and provided significant resources during the reporting period, despite being overall resource-strapped. The government increased its funding from more than 90 million Djiboutian francs to more than 140 million Djiboutian francs ($508,470 to $790,960) to relevant ministries, MRCs, transit centers, and local NGOs, which operated counseling centers and other programs—including a hotline—that assisted potential trafficking victims during the year. The 2016 anti-trafficking law included provisions allowing trafficking victims temporary residency during judicial proceedings and permanent residency, as necessary, as a legal alternative to removal to countries where victims might face hardship or retribution; it was unclear whether the government employed these provisions during the reporting year. Additionally, the 2016 law directed the government to provide necessary victims legal assistance and an interpreter, in addition to psychological, medical, and social assistance. There were no reports the government penalized victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit; however, due to irregular implementation of formal identification procedures, trafficking victims may have remained unidentified within the law enforcement system.