The government modestly increased efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. The government identified 12 victims, an increase compared with identifying four victims during the previous reporting period. NGOs reported identifying and assisting an additional six victims. Of the 18 victims identified by the government and NGOs, six were Nigerian women and girls exploited in sex trafficking, two were Sierra Leonean women identified en route to exploitation in the Middle East, and 10 were Gambians coerced to work in domestic service in Lebanon and Kuwait. Law enforcement had standard operating procedures (SOPs) to proactively identify potential trafficking victims amongst vulnerable populations, including unaccompanied minors and homeless children; however, the SOPs were limited in scope and officials did not use them consistently. During the reporting period, the government collaborated with an international organization to draft and approve SOPs for the identification of child trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, including child migrants. The government did not have formal referral procedures; however, during the reporting period the government began developing a national referral mechanism with the assistance of an international organization. While law enforcement referred women and children exploited in commercial sex to DSW for care, officials did not systematically screen adults in commercial sex for indicators of sex trafficking. Some border control agents had knowledge of trafficking and screened for trafficking among adults traveling with several minors.
NAATIP referred eight identified victims to the DSW shelter for care; the government reported the other four victims identified by the government declined shelter services and preferred immediate reintegration with their families. DSW operated a shelter in Bakoteh for vulnerable persons including trafficking victims, abandoned children, the elderly, and victims of domestic violence. The government allocated 600,000 dalasi ($11,760) to victim assistance in 2019. The shelter offered basic services such as housing, medical care, and limited counseling to children and women; adult victims could leave the shelter unchaperoned. Foreign donors assisted in renovating the shelter and increasing the capacity of shelter staff, including improving psycho-social assistance. To address previously reported security inadequacies at the shelter, an international organization trained shelter staff on shelter security measures; following the training, the government hired an additional security guard and implemented stricter security protocols. The shelter could assist Gambian victims exploited abroad after their repatriation, as well as both foreign and domestic victims. The Sierra Leonean embassy assisted its citizens identified in The Gambia during the reporting period. An international organization assisted in the repatriation of Gambian trafficking victims identified in Lebanon and Kuwait and continued assisting the government to repatriate trafficking victims from Lebanon identified in previous reporting periods. The director of NAATIP traveled to Beirut to meet with the victims and discuss what support the government could provide. DSW also operated a drop-in center for street children. Shelters were concentrated around the capital, leaving some victims in rural areas without access to assistance.
Provision of government shelter and services was not dependent on victims’ participation in law enforcement proceedings. The government did not have a formal witness protection policy and victims’ identities were not always kept confidential; victims, at times, were reluctant to cooperate in investigations due to fear of retaliation by their traffickers. The government allows victims to provide testimony via video or written statements; however, no victims reportedly did so during the reporting period. The 2007 anti-trafficking law allowed foreign victims to obtain temporary residence visas for the duration of legal proceedings, but there were no other legal alternatives provided in cases in which foreign trafficking victims removed to their countries of origin may have faced hardship or retribution. Victims could file civil suits against their traffickers, but there were no reports any such cases were filed during the reporting period in part due to low awareness of the option. There were no reports the government detained or otherwise penalized trafficking victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit; however, inconsistent application of trafficking identification procedures may have left some trafficking victims unidentified within the law enforcement system.