The government strengthened 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; in practice, with less than one million people in Djibouti, officials routinely called upon prominent points of contact for trafficking cases rather than refer to the written procedures. During the reporting period, without assistance from international organizations, authorities identified 33 potential trafficking victims and referred them all to care, an increase compared with 28 they independently identified and assisted the previous year. For each of the 33 individuals, the government worked with an international organization to provide appropriate services. The government continued to grant authority to an international organization to conduct trafficking screenings of all transiting migrants—including an unknown number of potential trafficking victims—and partnered with this entity to provide water, food, and temporary shelter for thousands of people during the reporting period. During the reporting year, relevant government entities, in close cooperation with an international organization, facilitated the repatriation of 4,220 migrants to their respective countries of origin, the large majority of whom hailed from Ethiopia. Some of these individuals reportedly encountered violence, coercion, or exploitation during their travels across multiple transit countries, but particularly in Yemen.
With governmental authorization, since June 2019, a locally operated NGO hosted unaccompanied migrant and highly vulnerable street children in Djibouti’s first secure, 24-hour dormitory that could appropriately house trafficking victims. Since the center’s opening, the NGO provided care for 137 young individuals, some of whom may have been trafficking victims. 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. The government provided in-kind support to these local organizations during the year despite being resource-strapped. 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. The government continued its administration and funding of three migrant response centers (MRCs) in Loyada, Obock, and Khor Angar, which included office and short-term living quarters staffed and operated by an international organization in the Obock center 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 hundreds of Ethiopians who transited Djibouti daily to reach the Arabian Gulf. In addition, the Women and Family Promotion Ministry, in response to qualitative research conducted to examine the plight of vulnerable street children, generated an action plan to address specific vulnerabilities unveiled by the study and signed a memorandum of understanding with a local NGO to provide psycho-social support and monitoring for children housed at the country’s aforementioned first and only overnight shelter.
Key ministries that supported groups vulnerable to trafficking continued to be transparent regarding funding and provided relatively significant resources during the reporting period on an array of identification and support services for potential victims of trafficking. The government allocated more than 110 million Djiboutian francs ($621,470) in 2019, a decrease compared with 140 million Djiboutian francs ($790,960) in 2018, to relevant ministries, MRCs, transit centers, and local NGOs, which operated counseling centers and other programs—including a hotline—that assisted potential trafficking victims. 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; the government did not report whether it 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.