The government increased overall protection efforts, including victim identification, but it did not adequately assist victims identified abroad. The government identified 18 victims, an increase compared with identifying 12 victims in the previous reporting period. This included 11 Nigerian women and girls exploited in sex trafficking within the country and seven Gambian women exploited in domestic servitude in the Middle East. NGOs reported identifying 42 Gambian women exploited in domestic service in Lebanon, Kuwait, and Oman. In collaboration with an international organization, the government adopted an NRM with standard operating procedures to identify and refer trafficking victims to care; the NRM included mechanisms to screen vulnerable populations, including child migrants and individuals in commercial sex, for trafficking indicators. NAATIP, in collaboration with an international organization, trained government social workers, NGOs, prosecutors, and Ministry of Justice officials on the NRM; however, coordination among law enforcement, prosecutors, and social service providers to implement the NRM remained weak.
The government operated one short-term shelter for vulnerable persons, including both foreign and domestic trafficking victims, abandoned children, the elderly, and victims of domestic violence. The shelter had an 80-person capacity, offered basic services such as medical care, and provided limited counseling to children and women; adult victims could leave the shelter unchaperoned. Despite resource constraints caused by the pandemic and spending restrictions imposed by international creditors, the government maintained funding for the shelter; it allocated 600,000 dalasi ($11,540) to the shelter in 2020, the same amount provided in 2019. During the reporting period, NAATIP referred one Nigerian trafficking victim to the shelter, and four victims opted to live at their own residences; the government did not report whether it referred the remaining victims to care. The government improved shelter security by providing additional police officers and installing perimeter fencing. The government and civil society jointly operated daytime centers providing services, including psycho-social, food, and medical assistance, to trafficking victims and vulnerable children. Shelter services were concentrated around the capital, leaving some victims in rural areas without access to assistance. In some cases, law enforcement and child protection actors temporarily sheltered child victims in their own homes or provided care at their own expense until shelter space became available. A small country with few overseas diplomatic missions, select Gambian embassies had welfare offices trained to recognize and support suspected victims of trafficking, but in one high-profile case, the government failed to adequately identify and protect victims abroad. An NGO, in coordination with the Gambian government, repatriated 38 Gambian trafficking victims from Lebanon in September 2020, including 36 women and two children exploited in domestic servitude; the women requested assistance from The Gambian Honorary Consul following the August 2020 explosion in Beirut. According to international organizations and media reports, the Honorary Consul denied assistance to the victims and publicly dismissed their claims. However, the government helped facilitate their repatriation and provided travel documents following protests outside of The Gambian Honorary Consul’s offices. The Ministry of Justice created a select committee led by the National Human Rights Commission and NAATIP to investigate the incident; the government did not publicly report its findings before the end of the reporting period. The government repatriated two additional trafficking victims from Kuwait and Lebanon, and it provided reintegration services to one repatriated victim from Oman.
Authorities did not condition access to victim services on cooperation with law enforcement; the government provided legal aid and transportation to victims who chose to cooperate with law enforcement proceedings. The government did not have a formal witness protection policy and it did not always keep victims’ identities confidential; victims at times were reluctant to cooperate in investigations due to fear of retaliation by their traffickers. The government allowed 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 during legal proceedings, but the government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. Victims could file civil suits against their traffickers; the government did not report any victims doing so, in part due to lack of 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, due to inconsistent application of victim identification procedures, authorities may have detained some victims. During the reporting period, authorities used provisions in the NRM to identify trafficking victims among individuals in commercial sex. However, the screening mechanisms did not include LGBTQI+ persons among vulnerable populations; due to social stigmatization and lack of screening, LGBTQI+ persons remained vulnerable to trafficking.