The government decreased efforts to identify trafficking and protect victims. During the reporting period, the government identified 114 child forced labor victims and 1,628 potential trafficking victims with data from an unknown number of provinces. This is compared to identifying 851 trafficking victims and 2,844 potential trafficking victims with partial data from 30 of 45 provinces during the previous reporting period. Of these 1,628 potential victims, the Ministry of Women identified 1,578 vulnerable children living on the street, including talibés (Quranic students) exploited in forced begging. As part of the July 2019 law enforcement agreement with Cote d’Ivoire, the government identified 114 children from Central and Central-East Burkina Faso in forced labor in artisanal gold mines in Mali and Cote d’Ivoire and intercepted a convoy of 38 children and 12 adults en route to potential exploitation in artisanal gold mines in Bobo-Dioulasso, Mali, and Cote d’Ivoire. In September 2019, the Ministry of Women launched a second campaign to remove all vulnerable children from the street, including talibés exploited in forced begging, similar to the campaign conducted in August 2018. Through the campaign, the government identified and provided care to 1,578 vulnerable children, including potential trafficking victims; however, the Ministry of Women did not involve law enforcement in the campaign, limiting subsequent investigations and prosecutions of traffickers. The government provided all children identified during the campaign shelter and services including family reintegration, counseling, and medical services as needed. The government, in partnership with an international organization, facilitated the repatriation of Burkinabe trafficking victims exploited in Cote d’Ivoire. The government had standard victim identification and referral procedures; in regions where authorities and front-line responders had been trained, they implemented such procedures effectively. In addition, the government had a case management guide for law enforcement and social services personnel to facilitate the uniform referral of child victims of crime, including trafficking, to care. The government continued to coordinate with an international organization to screen for trafficking indicators among refugees and IDPs.
The government operated and staffed two shelters in Ouagadougou for victims of crime, including trafficking victims; the shelters were open 24 hours per day and could accommodate long-term stays for both adults and children. The government referred an unknown number of trafficking victims to the shelters during the reporting period, where they received shelter, food, and medical assistance. Outside of the capital, the government operated 34 regional transit centers for victims of crime that could provide psychological, social, and food assistance. These centers provided short-term services, but usually not shelter, to an unknown number of Burkinabe and foreign child trafficking victims; the centers only operated during weekly business hours and when they had sufficient funding. The government did not report allocating a budget to victim services during the reporting period; in 2018, the government allocated approximately 8.5 million FCFA ($14,600) to victim protection services. The transit centers relied heavily on local NGOs and international organizations for the majority of support. When trafficking victims outside of Ouagadougou required shelter, authorities and NGOs nearly always placed victims with host families or an NGO. Outside of Ouagadougou, there were no shelters or services specifically for adults; however, regional transit centers could accommodate adults when necessary. Long-term care for all victims remained inadequate. The government acknowledged victim services were insufficient, and service providers lacked the funding and resources to support victim protection, rehabilitation, and reintegration; the lack of victim support subsequently resulted in traffickers being able to exploit many victims again. The 2015 law on the prevention and repression of violence against women and girls mandated measures for victim support, including the establishment of free emergency integrated support centers to offer comprehensive services for women and girl victims of violence, including sex trafficking, and the creation of a government support fund for victims. The government had one such center in operation during the reporting period; the ministry did not report how many victims it referred to this center during the reporting period. Similarly, the government reported an unknown number of trafficking victims received support from the fund during the reporting period.
The government encouraged victims to participate in trials against their traffickers by providing protection through the Ministry of Women, a regional human rights office, or foreign victims’ embassies. The 2008 anti-trafficking law and 2018 penal code revisions contained provisions to protect victims’ identities and to encourage their participation in prosecutions by allowing for closed sessions to hear victim testimony, excusing victims from appearing at hearings, and for social workers to accompany child victims. The government did not report if it utilized these provisions during the reporting period. Victims could file civil suits against their traffickers; however, victims were often not aware of this provision and it was not utilized during the reporting period. Foreign victims who faced hardship or retribution in their country of origin could apply for asylum, but there were no reports trafficking victims applied for asylum during the reporting period. The government provided travel documents and facilitated the repatriation of 114 Burkinabe children exploited in forced labor in artisanal gold mines in Mali and Cote d’Ivoire. In collaboration with NGOs and international organizations, the government repatriated Burkinabe trafficking victims from Nigeria, Togo, Benin, and Cote d’Ivoire and provided shelter, food, medical care, psychological support, and family reunification. The government coordinated with the Nigerian embassy in Ouagadougou and provided financial assistance to repatriate 34 Nigerian trafficking victims back to Nigeria. There were no reports of trafficking victims penalized for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit; however, without uniform implementation of victim identification measures, including among vulnerable populations, some victims could have been left unidentified in the law enforcement system. The government detained five children ages 12 to 14 years old for alleged association with violent extremist groups, some of whom may have been trafficking victims; however, authorities held all five children separately from adult detainees and allowed international organizations and NGOs access to provide specialized care. During the reporting period, the government requested international expertise and assistance to establish a disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program for children associated with violent extremist groups.