The government decreased efforts to identify trafficking victims, while maintaining protection services that could benefit potential victims. For the second consecutive reporting period, the government did not report identifying any trafficking victims and quickly repatriated all potential victims—most of whom were Ethiopian—to their home countries without screening for trafficking indicators. As no victims were formally identified, the government did not report referring any trafficking victims to services; however, the government, in partnership with international organizations and NGOs, continued to provide services to thousands of individuals in vulnerable populations, which may have included trafficking victims. Although it had formal SOPs to guide officials in the proactive identification of victims and their subsequent referral to care, relevant officials did not consistently use these procedures, and few officials were trained do so; in practice, officials routinely called upon prominent points of contact for assistance in determining care options for victims rather than consulting the written procedures. 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 during the reporting period. During the reporting year, relevant government entities, in close cooperation with an international organization, facilitated the repatriation of 537 migrants to their respective countries of origin, the large majority of whom were Ethiopian, compared with 4,220 repatriations in 2019. Some of these individuals reportedly encountered violence, coercion, or exploitation during their travels across multiple transit countries. The government and international organization involved with repatriations attributed the significant decrease to border closures and travel and movement restrictions in response to the pandemic.
The government continued to depend on ad hoc mechanisms to refer victims to care and continued to assist potential trafficking victims through programming targeting refugees or migrants more broadly, rather than providing specialized services. The government and international organizations reported that the provision of services to vulnerable populations—including potential victims—during the pandemic was difficult, especially in crowded migrant response centers (MRCs) and refugee camps, some of which regularly accommodated double the intended capacity during the year. With governmental authorization, a locally-operated NGO continued to host unaccompanied migrant and highly vulnerable street children in Djibouti’s first secure, 24-hour dormitory that could appropriately house trafficking victims; the police unit that focused on vulnerable children had a mandate to refer children to the shelter, but the government did not report referring any potential victims to the shelter during the reporting period. In prior years, the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs provided social workers to offer psychosocial support at the shelter; however, in light of pandemic restrictions, the government did not provide this service during the reporting period. 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 Khôr ‘Angar or Obock. The government continued its administration and funding of two MRCs, in Obock and Aour Aoussa, which included office and short-term living quarters staffed and were operated by an international organization, and other transit or processing centers along routes heavily traversed by migrants. An international organization closed two MRCs in Loyada and Khôr ‘Angar, which the government previously supported, during the reporting period due lack of funding from pandemic-related budget allocations. 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; the MOJ provided a prosecutor liaison to the same center to provide legal assistance to victims. Health officials, in partnership with an international organization, continued to operate five mobile clinics along dangerous migration routes that could provide vulnerable migrants with medical assistance.
Key ministries that supported groups vulnerable to trafficking continued to provide resources to support various protection services for potential victims. The government allocated more than 109 million Djiboutian francs ($615,820) in 2020, compared with more than 110 million Djiboutian francs ($621,470) in 2019 and 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. Additionally, the 2016 law directed the government to provide victims legal assistance and an interpreter, in addition to psychological, medical, and social assistance; the government did not report whether it applied these provisions during the reporting year. 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, particularly vulnerable migrants and individuals involved in commercial sex, may have remained unidentified within the law enforcement system.