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GUINEA-BISSAU: Tier 2 Watch List

The Government of Guinea-Bissau does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included continuing to identify child forced begging victims, cooperating with Moroccan authorities on an international criminal investigation, and approving a new national action plan. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. The government has never convicted a trafficker, and the government identified fewer trafficking victims. In addition, the government continued to lack resources and political will to comprehensively combat trafficking. Because the government has devoted sufficient resources to a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute significant efforts to meet the minimum standards, Guinea-Bissau was granted a waiver per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3. Therefore Guinea-Bissau remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year.


Increase efforts to vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including corrupt Quranic teachers who subject boys to forced begging and hotel staff that facilitate child sex tourism in the Bijagos, and sentence convicted traffickers to adequate penalties, which should involve significant prison terms.Cease using extra-judicial or administrative remedies to resolve human trafficking cases.Hold government officials accountable for trafficking-related complicity, including the failure to investigate alleged trafficking offenses and efforts to interfere with ongoing investigations.Allocate sufficient financial and in-kind resources to implement the anti-trafficking national action plan.Provide resources to the Judicial Police at a level that better enables criminal investigations and expands its area of operation, such as in the Bijagos and Catió.Develop and train law enforcement on formal written procedures to identify and refer trafficking victims to services.Increase training for officials on the 2011 anti-trafficking law and procedures to refer trafficking cases to the Judicial Police.Increase support for NGOs to ensure all identified victims—especially child victims of forced begging—receive services and foreign victims are safely repatriated, minimizing the potential for re-trafficking.Increase efforts to coordinate repatriation of trafficking victims with the Government of Senegal.Develop an effective national anti-trafficking program through regular meetings of the anti-trafficking committee and allocation of funding for its activities.Significantly increase efforts to raise awareness of human trafficking, especially forced begging and child sex trafficking.In collaboration with NGOs, allocate adequate space and facilities for a victim shelter in Bissau.Develop a national referral mechanism for victims.Strengthen international law enforcement cooperation to prevent and investigate child sex tourism.


The government maintained inadequate law enforcement efforts. Public Law 12/2011 criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of three to 15 years’ imprisonment and the confiscation of any proceeds from the crime. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In February 2019, the government drafted amendments to the Code of Child Protection in an effort to harmonize it with international laws on human trafficking, but the legislature had not yet adopted the amendments by the end of the reporting period. The government investigated nine trafficking cases during the reporting period. All nine were child forced begging cases, with five of these cases referred to the Public Ministry for prosecution; prosecutions were not yet formally initiated at the end of the reporting period. The government did not report any prosecutions or convictions during the reporting period. The government has never convicted a trafficker under the anti-trafficking law. This was a decrease compared with investigating 23 cases of child trafficking and prosecuting one alleged trafficker during the previous reporting period. During the reporting period, the Judicial Police cooperated with the Government of Morocco to investigate a case of fraudulent recruitment for forced labor in domestic service after Moroccan authorities identified two Bissau-Guinean women in Morocco; the investigation was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. Despite past reports of official complicity, the government did not report investigating, prosecuting, or convicting any corrupt or complicit officials for trafficking crimes. Guinea-Bissau’s judicial system lacked sufficient human and physical capital to function effectively, and corruption remained pervasive.

The Judicial Police had a specialized unit that investigated trafficking cases; however, it did not have nationwide coverage or a dedicated budget for investigations. The police, National Guard, judiciary, and prosecutors all suffered from a chronic lack of funding, which hindered their efforts to combat human trafficking. The Judicial Police were largely absent outside the capital. The National Guard and local police in rural areas had neither the training nor the capacity to investigate trafficking crimes and did not always refer such cases to the Judicial Police, which impeded investigations into forced child begging in eastern regions and child sex trafficking in the Bijagos. In addition, police and judges often resolved intra-familial labor and abuse cases—which could include forced child labor and child sex trafficking by family members—through non-judicial means or tried them as domestic violence cases. When parents broke such agreements and police transferred the cases to court, officials noted community leaders often pressured courts to drop the cases. The government contributed trainers from the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Cohesion’s Institute for Women and Children (IMC) and the National Guard to international organization-funded trainings for police officers and civil society actors on the 2011 anti-trafficking law, national referral mechanisms, trauma-informed care, and data management. However, some law enforcement and judicial officials remained unaware of the 2011 anti-trafficking law.


The government maintained inadequate efforts to identify and protect victims. The government identified 158 trafficking victims—53 child forced labor victims and 105 child forced begging victims—and referred all victims to care during the reporting period. It also identified 22 forced marriage victims, some of whom may have been trafficking victims. This was a decrease compared to the government’s identification of 171 trafficking victims and seven potential victims in 2018. In addition, an NGO reported assisting seven children forced to harvest cashews, and an international organization assisted 161 child forced begging victims. The government did not have formal procedures to identify trafficking victims or refer them to care; draft victim identification procedures, written with the assistance of an international organization in the previous reporting period, remained unfinished. During the reporting period, IMC collaborated with an international organization to develop a form for officials to use when they identify a potential trafficking victim. Because of the country’s high rate of illiteracy, including among its security services, written victim identification procedures will need to be augmented with extensive hands-on training. The government did not continue work on a national referral mechanism begun in the previous reporting period with funding from a foreign donor and the assistance of local facilitators. During the previous reporting period, IMC and their NGO partners validated a national policy document intended to protect children of all ages, but the government had not yet adopted it. The IMC was responsible for victim services and coordination of services among various entities; however, it had no operating budget nor vehicles for victim services. The government did not have a specific fund for victim services and relied on international organizations and local NGOs to provide nearly all victim services; these NGOs subsequently relied on international donors for funding. Unlike the previous reporting period, the government did not contribute to NGOs providing assistance to trafficking victims. Three NGO shelters were accessible to trafficking victims but were severely overcrowded and underfunded; one was unable to receive victims due to lack of funding, and some shelter volunteers used their own homes to house victims temporarily. Shelter was only available for child victims, and only one NGO shelter provided trafficking-specific services. The quality of victim care at these facilities was generally poor due to lack of funding. The government did not have formal procedures to encourage victims to participate in investigations or prosecutions against their traffickers. Victims could not obtain restitution from the government. In addition, victims could not file civil suits against their traffickers. There were no legal alternatives to removal to countries in which victims would face hardship or retribution. There were no reports the government penalized victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit; however, due to a lack of formal identification procedures, some victims may have remained unidentified within the law enforcement system. Observers noted that more coordination was needed between the governments of Guinea-Bissau and Senegal regarding repatriating child forced begging victims.


The government decreased efforts to prevent trafficking. The inter-ministerial committee—led by the IMC and including government agencies, NGOs, and religious groups—met four times during the reporting period but lacked funding for anti-trafficking activities, which weakened its response to trafficking and the development of an effective national anti-trafficking program. In part due to an ongoing political crisis, the government did not demonstrate political will to address trafficking at the highest levels of government. The government and civil society actors were unable to coordinate and communicate on anti-trafficking efforts, such that there was duplication of efforts by NGOs and the National Guard in some areas. Although, observers noted an increase in communication between the government and NGOs on responding to the problem of forced begging among talibés. The government drafted a new national action plan to address human trafficking; the Minister of Women, Family and Social Protection approved the action plan during the reporting period. IMC provided materials to local community committees to conduct awareness raising campaigns in Gabu and Bafata. IMC conducted a national public awareness campaign, but it had limited reach due to lack of funding and engagement from high-level political officials. IMC and the Ministry of Tourism continued implementing the code of conduct against sexual exploitation in the tourism sector in the Bijagos islands, Bubaque, Sao Domingos, and Bissau. Activities in the code of conduct included increasing public awareness of child sex trafficking in Bissau and the Bijagos, encouraging hotels to combat these crimes, training various hotel owners and managers on child sex trafficking, and building the capacity of tourism inspectors. The labor inspectorate, housed within the Ministry of Labor, Civil Service and Public Administration, did not receive regular funding from the government and lacked personnel, material resources, and training to investigate forced labor nationwide. In addition, the government did not have the means to inspect local daaras (Quranic schools) to ensure they did not force children to beg. Domestic workers were not covered by labor laws, which left them vulnerable to trafficking; amendments to the labor code that would cover these gaps have been pending in the national assembly since 2015. The government did not make 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 Guinea-Bissau, and traffickers exploit victims from Guinea-Bissau abroad. Many Bissau-Guinean boys attend Quranic schools led by corrupt Quranic teachers. Some exploitative Quranic teachers force or coerce their students, called talibés, to beg and do not provide an education, including at some schools in Bissau’s Afia neighborhood. The traffickers are principally men from the Bafata and Gabu regions—often former talibés or men who claim to be working for a Quranic teacher—and are generally well-known within the communities in which they operate. Corrupt Quranic teachers increasingly force Guinean, Gambian, and Sierra Leonean boys to beg in Bissau and exploit Guinea-Bissau’s weak institutions and porous borders to transport large numbers of Bissau-Guinean boys to Senegal—and to a lesser extent Mali, Guinea, and The Gambia—for forced begging in exploitative daaras.

Traffickers force Bissau-Guinean boys into street vending and forced labor in the agricultural and mining sectors in Senegal, especially in the southern cities of Kolda and Ziguinchor. Traffickers force West African boys to harvest cashews during Guinea-Bissau’s annual harvest, and some are recruited for work in the harvest but then are forced to beg. Traffickers exploit some Guinean boys for forced labor in shoe shining in Guinea-Bissau. Traffickers exploit Bissau-Guinean girls in sex trafficking and forced labor in street vending and domestic work in Guinea, The Gambia, and Senegal, as well as in Spain. Senegalese trafficking networks recruit Bissau-Guinean girls for modeling jobs or traveling football clubs but subject them to sex trafficking. Bissau-Guinean girls are exploited in domestic servitude and in sex trafficking in bars, nightclubs, and hotels in Bissau. Bissau-Guinean girls from the Bijagos—and to a lesser extent mainland girls and boys—are exploited in child sex tourism in the Bijagos, an archipelago off the coast of Guinea-Bissau that is far from the mainland and largely devoid of government and law enforcement presence. Although the extent of child sex tourism is unknown, it is widely acknowledged among civil society, NGOs, and mid-level government officials. In most cases, French nationals own hotels on the islands and use Bissau-Guinean intermediaries to exploit island girls aged 13 to 17 years old for French and Belgian child sex tourists. International sources report these same hotel owners provide jobs and significant support to the island community, wielding influence that can deter victims from notifying law enforcement. Some families may encourage their children to endure such exploitation for financial gain. Bissau-Guinean men from the mainland fuel local demand for commercial sex on the islands. During previous reporting periods, there were reports of official complicity in human trafficking among island officials and in the judiciary.

U.S. Department of State

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