The government marginally decreased efforts to identify and protect victims. Officials identified and referred 50 child labor trafficking victims to shelters providing medical, legal, and psychological care, compared with 65 in 2017. The government did not report identifying any adult trafficking victims and did not provide victims with trafficking-specific resources. The government decreased funding to NGOs that provided shelter and services to victims for the fifth consecutive year, and there continued to be a lack of shelter space to accommodate all trafficking victims. The government continued to fund two NGO-run shelters offering services to orphans and street children vulnerable to trafficking, providing financial and in-kind support, including funding for social workers, medical support, psychological services, legal assistance, tuition, and food and furniture vouchers. Some government workers reportedly used personal funds to assist victims. The same services were available for male, female, foreign, and Gabonese victims, including those repatriated from abroad. There were no government or NGO-run shelters specifically designated for adult victims, although adult victims could potentially access government services for victims of domestic abuse or other forms of violence. The government did not report any victims using these services during the reporting period. Shelters provided services to adults and some allowed child trafficking victims to remain after they reached 18 years of age; however, the government did not report referring any adults to such facilities during the reporting period. Officials have the authority to permit adult male victims to leave shelters unchaperoned but not adult female victims, allegedly for their safety and to prevent re-trafficking.
The Ministry of Health, Social Protection, and National Solidarity, in coordination with foreign embassies, assisted in the repatriation of an unknown number of foreign child trafficking victims, compared with 42 during the previous reporting period. If victim repatriation was not an option, the Ministry of Social Affairs could provide a victim with immigration relief and resettle them in Gabon, but the government did not report any victims utilizing this legal alternative. While the government encouraged victims to cooperate with authorities to provide testimony for the prosecution of alleged traffickers, prosecutors, police, and magistrates routinely took victims’ testimony at the time of the arrest of the suspected traffickers or identification of the victim; this approach is neither victim-centered, nor the most effective. While the government has sought restitution for trafficking victims in the past, it did not report doing so during the reporting period. Victims could file civil suits against their traffickers, but there were no known cases of such action, in part due to lack of knowledge of the option. There were no reports the government detained, fined, or jailed victims for unlawful acts committed as a result of being exploited; however, due to negligible efforts to identify adult trafficking victims, some may have remained unidentified in the law enforcement system.