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 included identifying and referring to care significantly more potential trafficking victims, including 189 forced labor victims in the cocoa sector; expanding law enforcement and victim protection coordination with the Government of Tunisia; and approving a new action plan to address child labor and trafficking. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not sentence more than half of the convicted traffickers to adequate prison terms. Shelter services for adult victims remained inadequate.

Using the 2016 anti-trafficking law, vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers following due process, including complicit officials, and apply significant prison terms as prescribed by law to those convicted. Train law enforcement and judicial officials on 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. 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. Clearly delineate responsibilities for activities in the 2016-2020 anti-trafficking action plan and fund its implementation. Increase funding to expand shelter and services for trafficking victims, including adults, and continue to establish victim shelters as indicated in the national action plan. 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. 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.

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. 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 five million to 10 million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($8,590 to $17,180) for adult trafficking, and 20 to 30 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 10 million to 50 million FCFA ($17,180 to $85,910) 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. 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 five million to 20 million FCFA ($8,590 to $34,360). The government used penal code provisions on illegal mining and pimping to prosecute trafficking cases during the reporting period. The penal code prescribed penalties of one to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of one million to 10 million FCFA ($1,720 to $17,180) for pimping and penalties of two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50 million to 100 million FCFA ($85,910 to $171,820) for illegal mining. These penalties were significantly lower than those prescribed under the trafficking law.

During the reporting period the government investigated at least 191 cases, prosecuted 35 alleged traffickers, and convicted 12 traffickers under trafficking laws and penal code provisions on illegal mining and pimping. The 2016 anti-trafficking law and related penal code provisions also criminalize the knowing solicitation and patronization of a sex trafficking victim; the government reported 16 investigations, 15 prosecutions, and 11 convictions of such cases. Of the 191 trafficking investigations, the government continued eight forced labor investigations from previous reporting periods and initiated 152 new investigations (23 sex trafficking cases and 160 forced labor cases). Of the 35 prosecutions, 11 were forced labor, 15 were sex trafficking, and nine were initiated in the previous reporting period. This was an overall decrease compared to 147 investigations, 56 prosecutions, and 47 convictions in the previous reporting period. Judges convicted most traffickers under the illegal mining and pimping articles in the penal code rather than under the 2016 anti-trafficking law. Five convicted traffickers received sentences of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine. However, seven of the 12 convicted traffickers received no prison sentence or a fully suspended sentence. 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. As an administrative sanction for unbecoming conduct, the military tribunal sentenced four gendarmes and military firefighters to 50 days in military jail in August 2019; they were alleged to have abducted a trafficking victim from an NGO shelter during the previous reporting period; the criminal investigation remained ongoing. In response to the high number of Ivoirian trafficking victims identified in Tunisia, the government launched a new partnership with the Tunisian government to facilitate law enforcement cooperation. During the reporting period, Ivoirian and Tunisian delegations met twice to exchange information on victim support and trafficking networks.

Limited funding and resources for law enforcement created serious gaps in the government’s ability to address human trafficking. The Sub-Directorate in the Fight against Trafficking and Child Labor (SDLTEDJ, the Sub-Directorate, or anti-trafficking unit) 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 the Sub-Directorate was not present. Funding levels remained severely inadequate. Resource limitations also constrained the Brigade Mondaine—the unit responsible for investigating prostitution and sex trafficking—to Abidjan and a few regional precincts, rendering the two primary anti-trafficking units unable to cover much of the country. The Transnational Organized Crime Unit (UCT) had national jurisdiction over transnational organized crime, including a specialized human trafficking department. The Sub-Directorate 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 and prosecutors remained unaware of the 2016 law and continued to use the 2010 law and pimping statutes to prosecute trafficking cases, which carried lesser penalties. In coordination with a foreign donor and international organization, the government organized two training sessions for 29 magistrates and 15 police investigators on the 2016 anti-trafficking law.

The government increased efforts to identify and protect victims. During the reporting period, the government reported victim identification statistics combining human trafficking, child labor, and broader child exploitation cases. The government identified 1,004 potential trafficking victims and child exploitation victims during the reporting period, a significant increase from 45 trafficking victims and 53 victims of child labor or child trafficking during the previous reporting period. Of these, the government identified 352 children, 652 adults, 312 Ivoirians, and 692 foreign trafficking victims. Of the 692 foreign victims, 300 were Beninese, 32 Burkinabe, 56 Nigerians, and 184 Togolese, while the remaining 120 were from Mali, Senegal, Niger, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Morocco, France, Cameroon, and Liberia. The government identified 137 children and 32 adults in forced labor in the cocoa sector and 14 Ivoirian child forced labor victims in weaving. Traffickers exploited at least 402 of the identified victims in sex trafficking.

While the government did not have formal mechanisms to proactively identify trafficking victims or refer trafficking victims to care, the UCT, Brigade Mondaine, and Sub-Directorate had operational procedures to refer victims to care. Government ministries lacked coordination, which in some cases hindered the provision of services. The government provided some forms of assistance to all 1,004 identified victims including shelter, medical care, or psycho-social assistance. The government referred 137 forced labor victims to an NGO shelter in Aboisso for care and 14 child forced labor victims to a government-run orphanage outside of Abidjan. 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. The government partnered with an NGO to plan a shelter for child victims of exploitation in Ferkessedougou. During the reporting period, the government-run shelter for child victims of exploitation in Soubre assisted 107 children (65 girls and 42 boys). The government continued to provide 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; the government referred 68 Nigerian trafficking victims to the Nigerian mission in Abidjan for care during the reporting period. 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. The government collaborated with international organizations to facilitate the repatriation of 77 Ivoirian trafficking victims (61 women and 16 men) from Tunisia, Morocco, Kuwait, Turkey, Madagascar, and Comoros.

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. In December 2018, the government approved a law protecting victim and witness testimony by establishing a bureau to coordinate victim-witness protection issues and develop a case management system for individuals; the decree to implement this law was not yet approved at the end of the reporting period. Trafficking victims could file civil suits against their traffickers, though, many victims were not aware of this option. 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.

The government modestly increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The interagency Anti-Trafficking Committee led anti-trafficking prevention efforts, including implementation of the 2016-2020 anti-trafficking national action plan, with the assistance of foreign donors. The government did not allocate a budget to implement the national action plan in 2019, compared with allocating 2.2 billion FCFA ($3.78 million) in 2018. In June 2019, the government approved a 2019-2021 action plan to combat child labor and trafficking with a three-year budget of more than 76 billion FCFA ($130.6 million). The Oversight Committee to Combat Child Trafficking and the Worst Forms of Child Labor (CNS) and the Inter-Ministerial Committee in the Fight Against Child Trafficking, Child Exploitation, and Child Labor (CIM) continued to coordinate child labor and child trafficking efforts. CNS also oversaw CIM and conducted monitoring and evaluation activities. Several government ministries organized awareness-raising campaigns with input from trafficking survivors on child labor regulations and the 2016 anti-trafficking law. In July 2019, the government held an anti-trafficking awareness event with 600 participants from youth and women’s associations, religious leaders, and traditional leaders. The government collaborated with foreign donors, the Government of Ghana, and international chocolate companies to review and discuss the findings of a draft report on child labor and child trafficking in the cocoa-producing areas of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. 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 2019, 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 a hotline for child protection and human rights; however, the hotline was undergoing rehabilitation for technical repairs and upgrades during the reporting period. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.

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. Traffickers exploit some Ivoirian women and girls to forced labor in domestic service and restaurants and in sex trafficking. Traffickers also exploit Ivoirian boys in 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 herding) 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. In 2018, authorities estimated there were 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 rural 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 exploitation in sex trafficking in Asia, the United Arab Emirates, and North Africa. Chinese traffickers force Chinese women into commercial sex in Cote d’Ivoire.

Some Ivoirian community and religious leaders, possibly working in concert with others abroad, reportedly recruit Ivoirian women and girls for work in the Middle East and Europe. While much of this is for legitimate employment, some women and girls are subjected 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 over the previous year. Migrants commonly depart from Daloa and proceed via airplane to Tunisia, or 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, the Tunisian government, NGOs, and international organizations identified approximately 1,470 Ivoirian potential trafficking victims in Tunisia, approximately 80 percent of the total trafficking victims identified in Tunisia. International organizations and Ivoirian law enforcement agencies reported Ivoirian migrant smuggling networks based in Tunisia increasingly became involved in trafficking as European governments blocked migration inflows and that these networks also coerced Ivoirians to engage in criminal acts including drug smuggling. Ivoirian irregular migrants in Algeria are vulnerable to trafficking due to their irregular status. During the previous reporting period, French authorities disbanded an Ivoirian trafficking network linked to 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. During the reporting period, Ivoirian trafficking victims were identified in Spain, Italy, and United Kingdom. Authorities previously identified Ivoirian female trafficking victims in Iraq, Israel, Cyprus, France, and Morocco.

U.S. Department of State

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