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The Government of Equatorial Guinea does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included prosecuting two potential trafficking cases, developing formal victim screening and referral procedures, expanding the inter-ministerial coordinating body to include more agencies, and allocating more funding for anti-trafficking efforts. Additionally, authorities investigated two potential cases of trafficking. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity. The government has never convicted a trafficker under its 2004 anti-trafficking law and authorities did not identify any confirmed victims during the reporting period. Official awareness of trafficking remained low despite increasing sensitization and training efforts, and the government’s anti-trafficking law did not criminalize all forms of trafficking. Further, there were allegations military officials were complicit in a sex trafficking ring in Spain. Therefore Equatorial Guinea remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.

Significantly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute traffickers. • Establish as a policy priority the proactive identification of victims of trafficking—separate from fraudulent adoptions or other forms of abuse—including in vulnerable communities such as child laborers in markets; women in commercial sex; domestic and construction workers; undocumented immigrants; and North Korean and Chinese workers. • Amend the 2004 anti-trafficking law—or pass amendments to the penal code—removing the requirement of a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion in child sex trafficking cases. • Form and provide resources to an independent agency mandated to improve the government’s capacity to investigate and prosecute traffickers and identify victims. • Draft, finalize, and resource an updated anti-trafficking national action plan to enhance governmental coordination. • Improve coordination between the Ministry of Social Affairs and Gender Equality and the Ministries of Interior and Local Corporations, Labor, National Security, and other agencies, as well as international organizations and civil society, to disseminate and implement formal procedures for law enforcement and first responders to identify and refer trafficking victims to care. • Continue to expand training for law enforcement and judicial officials to increase their capacity to investigate, prosecute, and—following a fair and transparent trial—sentence convicted traffickers under the anti-trafficking law. • Continue to train social workers, law enforcement, labor inspectors, and immigration officials on trafficking indicators. • Increase funding for victim services and coordinate with civil society as well as NGOs to provide shelter for all identified trafficking victims. • Continue to include local officials in the nation-wide anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns to educate more individuals on trafficking indicators and enhance their ability to report potential victims to first responders using the government’s hotline or web-based portal. • Further research the extent and nature of human trafficking within the country according to the national action plan, and draft an annual public report describing the government’s efforts.

The government decreased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2004 Law on the Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons criminalized some forms of sex trafficking and all forms of labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of at least 50 million Central African francs (CFA) ($94,470) if the offense involved an adult victim; an additional five years would be added to the principal penalty for offenses involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with international law, Equatorial Guinea’s legal framework required a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense, and therefore it did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. Additionally, the law defined trafficking broadly to include illegal adoption without the purpose of exploitation. The government drafted new penal code articles in 2019 with increased victim protection requirements; however, parliament had not approved the articles at the end of the reporting period.

The government did not maintain comprehensive law enforcement statistics and had severely limited information management capabilities. Officials did not report investigating any confirmed trafficking cases during the reporting period compared with arresting and prosecuting two suspected traffickers in 2019. The Ministry of Justice stated it opened investigations into two cases of illegal sale of a child that may have included aspects of human trafficking in 2020. Judicial authorities dismissed an additional possible trafficking case in 2021 due to a lack of evidence. Further, officials coordinated with a foreign government on a possible trafficking case involving an Equatoguinean national and launched a commission of inquiry into reports of soldiers sexually exploiting minors; the commission referred the case to judicial officials and the investigation was ongoing at the end of the rating period. The government has never convicted a trafficker under its 2004 trafficking law. Judicial officials noted a lack of training results in authorities frequently prosecuting and convicting potential trafficking cases under related statutes, such as kidnapping, illegal adoption, or physical abuse.

In October and November 2020, the Director General of Human Rights provided training to approximately 200 law enforcement officers on victim-centered approaches; in 2019, the government provided a related training for 170 individuals. Also during the reporting period, Ministry of Justice officials facilitated a training workshop for 50 judges and state prosecutors on basic trafficking principles.

The government did not report any prosecutions or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. In February 2021, Spanish authorities reported investigating a sex trafficking network exploiting women and girls in Spain, allegedly perpetrated with assistance from Equatoguinean military officials who may have falsified the victims’ identity documents; the investigation was ongoing at the close of the reporting period. Equatoguinean authorities opened a formal inquiry into the allegations but stated there was insufficient evidence to prosecute any of the suspects at the close of the rating period.

The government maintained limited efforts to identify victims. In 2020, the government did not report identifying any confirmed trafficking victims, compared with identifying and providing basic services for one potential victim in 2019. Over the course of the reporting period, the Ministry of Social Affairs coordinated with the ministries of National Security and Health to develop standard screening and referral procedures to help first responders identify victims more effectively; the government did not implement these procedures widely. Ministry of Social Affairs representatives stated reporting channels for community leaders to share cases of domestic violence and other abuses to regional delegates could be used to relay suspected trafficking cases; officials disclosed no cases were reported via these channels. Pandemic-related movement restrictions affected the government’s protection efforts by limiting officials’ ability to inspect key sectors for trafficking victims.

Unlike the previous reporting period, the government did not screen individuals employed in the regulated commercial sex trade for trafficking indicators, despite reports of sex trafficking occurring in that sector. Officials continued to designate government housing as temporary shelters for victims of trafficking and domestic violence, although authorities did not report referring any victims to these shelters.

The government increased its allocated budget for NGOs from $100,000 to $566,829 in 2020 to bolster their capacity to provide services to trafficking victims and to raise awareness of the crime among vulnerable populations. The government had no formal policies to provide foreign trafficking victims legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they might face retribution or hardship. In 2020, there were no reports authorities penalized trafficking victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit; due to a lack of widely used formal victim identification procedures, however, officials may have deported or arrested some unidentified trafficking victims. During the reporting period, government officials in Spain provided assistance to Equatoguinean victims identified in a case that allegedly involved complicity by some members of the military.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. Civil society and government officials’ minimal awareness of the crime, as well as the lack of a leading government entity to coordinate key actors’ efforts, continued to impede the country’s anti-trafficking efforts. To address this deficiency, the government continued its nationwide sensitization campaign in 2020 and early 2021 using radio and television to increase Equatoguineans’ understanding of human trafficking. The Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Information, Press, and Radio initiated multiple awareness raising programs leveraging the government’s national television and radio station, including interviews with senior officials such as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the Director General of Human Rights, and with senior officials from a foreign government. The Ministry of Labor’s web-based reporting platform and hotline remained active and available for individuals to anonymously report potential trafficking cases as did the Ministry of National Security’s new hotlines for reporting crimes to the police. The government disclosed that it did not receive any trafficking-related calls in 2020. Restrictions on in-person gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19 resulted in authorities postponing multiple planned sensitization and training events. Some events, such as a training by international experts for government officials, took place virtually.

Per the country’s 2019-2021 national action plan, the government created an interdepartmental committee including representatives from the attorney general’s office, Department of Human Rights, as well as the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Social Affairs, Interior, National Security, Information, Health, Labor, Justice, Education, Finance, National Defense, Culture, and Civil Aviation; the committee convened monthly to monitor action plan activities. The government reported allocating 50 million CFA ($94,470) for the Ministry of Justice to bolster its anti-trafficking efforts and 300 million CFA ($566,830) for NGOs, compared with allocating $149,000 for NGOs to implement trainings during the previous reporting period.

In September 2020, the Ministry of Interior, in collaboration with an NGO and a foreign government, hosted two three-day seminars for civil society actors on human trafficking in the country’s two largest cities: Malabo and Bata. Additionally, officials collaborated with an international organization as well as a foreign government to host a three-day training seminar in November 2020 to strengthen the country’s institutional capacity to combat human trafficking. During the previous reporting period, the government funded a nationwide anti-trafficking initiative for more than 700 government workers and civil society actors to address a widespread lack of knowledge of trafficking among officials and the general population.

The Ministry of Labor continued to implement regulations requiring all companies to sign formal labor contracts with their employees. During the reporting period—except during the March to July 2020 pandemic lockdown and the partial lockdown that started in February 2021—Ministry of Labor officials inspected some businesses in the formal and informal sectors for human trafficking; ministry representatives did not report identifying any victims through their inspections.

Border security officials stated they increased cooperation with Gabonese and Cameroonian counterparts on screening for potential victims of trafficking; however, they did not report identifying any victims resulting from this coordination during the reporting period though they identified potential victims the government suspected were in fact fraudulent adoptions. Additionally, the government signed an agreement with Burundi in 2020 to formalize labor recruitment standards. Commercial sex was legal in the country and, in an attempt to decrease exploitation of vulnerable individuals and demand for commercial sex acts, the government continued implementing regulations requiring all commercial sex establishments to register and provide contracts to their workers. Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Artisanal Promotion reported that in 2020, it implemented preventive measures to fight against sex tourism involving children at the national level, including through awareness programs for representatives of hotels, hostels, and all tourist venues.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Equatorial Guinea, and traffickers exploit victims from Equatorial Guinea abroad. Many civil society members and government officials lack an understanding of human trafficking, hindering the country’s ability to identify victims and address the crime. Observers reported Equatoguineans exploit the majority of trafficking victims in forced labor in domestic service and commercial sex in the cities of Malabo, Bata, Mongomo, and Ebebiyin, where relative wealth and security attracts Central and West African migrant workers. Equatoguinean traffickers exploit local and foreign women in commercial sex in these cities, with the Malabo neighborhoods of Banapa, Paraiso, and the city center primary areas of concern.

Experts noted the sustained economic downturn due to decreasing oil prices and oil production—exacerbated by the global economic contraction caused by the pandemic—resulted in Equatoguineans in urban centers replacing some foreign domestic workers with children from rural areas in Equatorial Guinea, whom they then exploited in forced labor. Some business owners involved in the hospitality and restaurant sectors exploit hotel and bar workers in forced labor and commercial sex within the country’s urban centers. Experts report LGBTQI+ youth are often left homeless and stigmatized by their families and society, increasing their vulnerability to trafficking. Measures to control the pandemic’s spread—including a months-long border closure and mandatory curfews for the populace—likely increased the vulnerability of migrants and informal sector workers.

Equatoguinean business owners reportedly exploit children from nearby countries—primarily Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, Nigeria, and Togo—in forced labor as domestic workers, market laborers, vendors, and launderers. Observers reported Equatoguinean traffickers—some of whom may be associated with the country’s elites—may exploit women from Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and China in commercial sex at nightclubs, bars, and brothels in the country. Traffickers may exploit Equatoguineans in Spain. During the reporting period, there were reports alleging members of the Equatoguinean military falsified identity documents to facilitate a sex trafficking ring in Menorca, Spain involving women and girls.

Some business owners recruit women from Benin, Cameroon, Ethiopia, and other African countries for work in Equatorial Guinea, and exploit them in forced labor or sex trafficking in markets, hair salons, or commercial sex. Chinese firms recruit Chinese nationals to migrate to Equatorial Guinea for work or to engage in commercial sex; some of these businesses then confiscate workers’ passports, which increases their vulnerability to forced labor or sex trafficking. A small number of North Koreans working in Equatorial Guinea may have been forced to work by the North Korean government. Companies in the construction sector, among others, also sometimes held the passports of foreign workers, increasing their vulnerability to forced labor. Experts reported some corrupt and complicit government workers—including senior officials as well as elected representatives—participated in trafficking-related crimes during the reporting period.

U.S. Department of State

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