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MALI: Tier 2

The Government of Mali 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 Mali was upgraded to Tier 2. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts by increasing prosecution of trafficking crimes, initiating prosecution of two allegedly complicit police officers, continuing to partner with international organizations and NGOs to train law enforcement and community leaders, and approving the 2018-2022 National Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government continued to provide support to and collaborate with the Imghad Tuareg and Allies Self-Defense Group (GATIA), a non-governmental armed group headed by a Malian general that used and recruited child soldiers. The government did not investigate any suspects, including government officials, for child soldiering offenses or make efforts to prevent armed groups from recruiting and using children. Law enforcement continued to lack resources and understanding of human trafficking, which impeded law enforcement efforts.

Cease support to armed groups that unlawfully recruit and use children, and hold criminally accountable any officials complicit in child soldiering. • As part of the peace process, engage with non-governmental armed groups to cease recruitment and use of children. • Follow the established protocol for referring children allegedly associated with armed groups to care, and release any children inappropriately detained. • Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish traffickers, including complicit officials, with sentences prescribed in the 2012 anti-trafficking law. • Expand and strengthen implementation of programs for the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former child combatants that address specific needs of child ex-combatants, including psycho-social care, family reintegration, education, and vocational training. • Train and equip law enforcement on effective investigation techniques. • Regularly train judges and prosecutors on the 2012 anti-trafficking law and standardize refreshment trainings. • Continue to provide funding and in-kind support to NGOs that help identify and assist trafficking victims. • Develop and train officials on standardized mechanisms to identify trafficking victims. • Allocate a dedicated budget, resources, and personnel to the anti-trafficking committee and institutionalize monthly meetings of the anti-trafficking committee to improve operationalization of anti-trafficking policies and inter-ministerial coordination.

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Law 2012-023 Relating to the Combat against Trafficking in Persons and Similar Practices, as amended, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The law prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment for trafficking offenses, except forced begging for which it prescribed lesser penalties of two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 to two million West African CFA francs ($879-$3,520). These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Government officials and NGOs reported that the law could not be effectively implemented to prosecute trafficking cases involving hereditary slavery because hereditary slavery is not precisely defined in the law.

As in the previous reporting periods, the justice minister issued a decree instructing judicial personnel to prioritize prosecutions of cases under the 2012 law. Law enforcement data for this reporting period was incomplete and otherwise difficult to obtain due to a three-month nationwide magistrates’ strike and a lack of a centralized mechanism to collect comprehensive anti-trafficking law enforcement statistics. In addition, the government had limited or no judicial presence in four of the country’s eight regions, primarily in the north and center of the country, due to continuing security challenges. The government reported investigating 17 cases, prosecuting 37 cases involving 55 alleged traffickers, and convicting one trafficker. Most cases the government investigated and prosecuted were sex trafficking cases. The convicted trafficker brought three Malian children to Cote d’Ivoire to exploit them in forced labor; the trafficker received a sentence of four years’ imprisonment. Three convictions from previous reporting periods involving the exploitation of children in forced begging were pending appeal at the end of the reporting period. This is compared with 32 investigations, 13 suspects prosecuted, and one conviction during the previous reporting period. The trafficker convicted in 2017 received a sentence of eight months’ imprisonment.

In collaboration with international organizations, the Ministry of Justice trained more than 200 judges, magistrates, labor inspectors, gendarmerie, and police in five of Mali’s eight regions on victim identification and investigations and prosecutions under the 2012 anti-trafficking law and distributed approximately 200 copies of the anti-trafficking law. Despite these efforts, continued lack of awareness of the 2012 law stymied law enforcement action; for example, prosecutors dropped charges against two alleged traffickers for forced begging because prosecutors were unfamiliar with the 2012 anti-trafficking law. Additionally, the police’s system-wide lack of funding and resources, including vehicles and equipment to investigate crimes, impeded anti-trafficking efforts. The government continued the investigation from the previous reporting periods of a former diplomat from Democratic Republic of the Congo and two Malian police officers for allegedly facilitating the transportation of Congolese girls to African, European, and Asian countries for exploitation; the government initiated prosecution of the two police officers during the reporting period. The non-governmental armed group GATIA, led by a Malian general, recruited and used child soldiers during the reporting period, but the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of traffickers for any child soldiering offenses.

The government maintained efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. Government officials and NGO partners identified 122 trafficking victims and 46 potential victims during the reporting period, including Malians exploited in Mali and abroad and foreigners exploited in Mali. This is compared to the government and NGOs identifying 104 potential trafficking victims the previous reporting period. Among the identified victims, authorities identified 23 forced labor victims, including forced begging, at least three sex trafficking victims, and 84 Malians exploited abroad in Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, and other West and North African countries. The government did not have standardized mechanisms to identify trafficking victims.

The government worked closely with RAFY, a national network composed of NGOs, international organizations, and government ministries, including the Ministry for the Advancement of Women, Children, and the Family (MFFE), to refer all identified trafficking victims to service providers. NGOs—with some government assistance—assisted all trafficking victims identified during the reporting period. Services varied by location but generally included shelter, food, counseling, vocational training, repatriation, and reintegration assistance. Most service providers were NGOs, and the government relied on these NGOs to provide the majority of services, funded by private and international donors. With funding from the national anti-trafficking committee, however, the government provided in-kind support, including furniture to NGO shelters. MFFE had general care facilities that could assist trafficking victims; three of the facilities assisted potential Guinean and Nigerian child trafficking victims during the reporting period. Shelters and services for victims outside the capital remained limited, especially in the north. Foreign and domestic victims received the same services, and while some facilities could offer specialized services for females, there were no such services for males. In collaboration with NGOs, MFFE also coordinated repatriation for 84 Malian nationals exploited abroad, including a trafficking victim identified in Morocco, and provided food, shelter, and medical assistance upon repatriation.

The government did not offer legal alternatives to removal to countries in which victims would face retribution or hardship, and it did not have formal policies to encourage victims to participate in trials against their traffickers. Victims could file civil suits against their traffickers, but the government did not report that any did so during the reporting period. Malian law protected victims from being fined, detained, or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit; however, a foreign government alleged Malian law enforcement physically abused, detained, and, in some cases, returned trafficking victims to their traffickers. Authorities continued following the government’s 2013 inter-ministerial protocol requiring them to direct former child soldiers to rehabilitation centers. The Directorate for the Promotion of Children and Family (DPCF) within the Ministry for Promotion of Women, Children and Family reported identifying 53 children used by armed groups in 2018 and referred these children to international organizations for care; the government reunified 21 of these children with their families in 2018.

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. In coordination with international organizations, the government finalized and published the 2018-2022 National Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons in January 2019. The national anti-trafficking committee met quarterly during the reporting period, but the lack of coordination and ownership for activities in the action plan among committee members impeded its effectiveness. The government allocated 200 million West African CFA francs ($351,710) for anti-trafficking efforts, the same amount allocated the previous year. With this funding, the government conducted activities outlined in the 2018-2022 National Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons such as anti-trafficking trainings, awareness-raising activities, and provided in-kind support to NGO victim shelters. With an NGO, the government also conducted three awareness-raising sessions on child forced begging for 300 community leaders and Quranic teachers in Segou. The police had a hotline for crimes against women and children, although it did not report receiving any trafficking cases during the reporting period. The government did not make efforts to address the fraudulent recruitment of Malians abroad, and labor inspectors remained without sufficient capacity or resources to regulate the informal sector, where most cases of forced labor occurred. The government did not make efforts to decrease the demand for commercial sex or forced labor. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to Malian troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Mali, and traffickers exploit victims from Mali abroad. Humanitarian actors report high unemployment, food insecurity, and security threats drive some families to sell their children into domestic servitude or forced labor in gold mines. Internal trafficking is more prevalent than transnational trafficking. Boys from Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso are subjected to forced labor in agriculture—especially rice, cotton, dry cereal, and corn cultivation—artisanal gold mines, domestic work, transportation, begging, and the informal commercial sector. Corrupt Quranic teachers also coerce and force Malian boys to beg or perform agricultural work in in neighboring countries, including Senegal, Guinea, and Cote d’Ivoire. Some members of Mali’s black Tuareg community are subjected to slavery practices rooted in traditional relationships of hereditary servitude. Men and boys, primarily of Songhai ethnicity, were subjected to a long-standing practice of debt bondage in the salt mines of Taoudeni in northern Mali. NGO reports indicate Malian children endure forced labor on cotton and cocoa farms in Cote d’Ivoire. Malian women and girls are victims of sex trafficking in Gabon, Libya, Lebanon, and Tunisia and domestic servitude in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia. Women and girls from other West African countries, particularly Nigeria and Benin, are recruited with promises of jobs as nurses or waitresses in Bamako but exploited in sex trafficking throughout Mali, including in Chinese-run hotels and especially in small mining communities. In January 2019, Nigerian authorities estimated more than 20,000 Nigerian girls are victims of sex trafficking in Mali, although this data has not been corroborated. Traffickers force women and girls into domestic servitude, agricultural labor, and support roles in artisanal gold mines. Reports allege corruption and complicity among local police and gendarmes in Farako may have facilitated forced labor and sex trafficking in mining communities. Africans transiting Mali to Europe, primarily via Algeria and Libya and less so via Mauritania, are vulnerable to trafficking, and Nigerian traffickers exploit Nigerian women in sex trafficking in Mali en route to Europe. An international organization repatriated more than 1,430 Malians from Libya in 2017, some of whom may have been trafficking victims.

During the reporting period, the government did not exercise control over the majority of its territory and lost ground it had previously regained. Justice officials had no or an extremely limited presence in four of Mali’s eight regions, limiting the government’s ability to provide justice, victim services, and gather data. Since early 2012, rebel and Islamic extremist groups have occupied parts of northern Mali. Terrorist organizations and armed groups continue to recruit and use children, mostly boys, in combat, requiring children to carry weapons, staff checkpoints, guard prisoners, and conduct patrols; some used boys for running errands and spying. Some of these groups used girls in combat, support roles, and for sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery through forced marriages to members of these militias. The armed groups purportedly force some families to sell their children to the groups or coerced communities into giving up teenage boys to the groups for “community protection.” An international organization reported traffickers fraudulently recruited some children for education in Quranic schools but forced them to fight with armed groups. Some families reportedly insert their children into the ranks of armed groups because parents believe they will benefit from disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration assistance. In the past, a Malian armed group forcibly recruited Malian refugees in Mauritania to be child soldiers in Mali. The government provided in-kind support to and collaborated with GATIA, a non-governmental armed group led by a Malian general that used and recruited at least 22 children during the reporting period. In 2016, an international organization investigated GATIA officials, Malian Defense and Security Forces officers, and civilians for conflict-related sexual violence, including sex trafficking and sexual slavery.

U.S. Department of State

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