SENEGAL: Tier 2 Watch List

The Government of Senegal does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included implementing the third phase of its program to remove vulnerable children, including trafficking victims, from the streets, increasing investigations, prosecutions, and convictions, and adopting a new national action plan. 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 did not investigate or prosecute traffickers exploiting children in forced begging consistent with the 2005 anti-trafficking law and did not take action against officials who refused to investigate such cases during the reporting period. Officials did not consistently use the 2005 anti-trafficking law to prosecute alleged traffickers and continued to apply penalties inconsistent with the law. Efforts to identify adult trafficking victims and refer them to services remained weak. Therefore Senegal remained on the Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.

Explicitly direct law enforcement and judicial officials to significantly increase efforts to actively investigate and criminally prosecute trafficking offenses, including those who exploit children in forced begging. • Punish convicted traffickers with significant prison terms consistent with the 2005 anti-trafficking law. • Ensure draft legislation and implementing decrees developed to regulate daaras (Quranic schools) explicitly prohibit forced begging; approve the draft legislation and implementing decrees, and allocate adequate resources, including inspectors, to enforce their implementation. • Establish a system to automatically trigger police or judicial investigations of alleged traffickers when potential trafficking victims are identified, including potential child forced begging victims. • Increase the number of investigators, magistrates, prosecutors, and judges trained on application of the 2005 anti-trafficking law. • Strengthen the anti-trafficking task force’s (CNLTP) authority to coordinate anti-trafficking activities among agencies conducting anti-trafficking work. • Establish and enforce standard operating procedures to ensure officials, including local administrative officials, regularly inspect daaras to ensure they do not force children to beg and meet child protection standards. • Proactively screen for trafficking indicators among vulnerable populations—including child beggars, Senegalese women traveling abroad for domestic work, returning migrants, domestic and foreign workers on Chinese-operated fishing vessels, and North Korean workers—and investigate cases, refer victims to services, and prevent their penalization. • Provide technical and financial support to local governments seeking to combat human trafficking, including child forced begging, and regulate daaras. • Develop a framework to regulate overseas labor recruitment and provide pre-departure sensitization for labor migrants on their rights to prevent exploitation of Senegalese workers abroad. • Ensure labor inspectors inspect the informal sector for forced labor. • In partnership with NGOs, expand access to protective services for trafficking victims outside of Dakar and for adults. • Broaden efforts to raise public awareness of trafficking, including child forced begging in daaras. • Implement the Systraite database system in Senegal’s 14 regions.

The government modestly increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts; however, the government maintained insufficient efforts to investigate and prosecute cases of child forced begging. Senegal’s 2005 Law to Combat Trafficking in Persons and Related Practices and to Protect Victims criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The law prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine for sex trafficking and labor trafficking—except forced begging—and prescribed lesser penalties of two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine for forced begging. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. While the 2005 anti-trafficking law criminalized forced begging, provisions in the penal code that allowed seeking of alms under certain conditions may have hampered law enforcement officials’ ability to distinguish traditional alms-seeking and exploitation through forced begging. The government continued to draft revised anti-trafficking legislation in collaboration with an international organization; the legislation remained pending before the Ministry of Justice at the end of the reporting period.

Due to the pandemic, courts were closed for five months during the reporting period. Despite this, in data collected from five of Senegal’s 14 regions, the government reported investigating at least 14 trafficking cases, prosecuting 19 alleged traffickers, and convicting 12 traffickers, including one Senegalese, five Burkinabes, one Malian, one Ivorian, and four Nigerians; this was an increase compared with 12 investigations, prosecutions of 17 alleged traffickers, and convictions of five traffickers during the previous reporting period, with data from five regions. The government did not prosecute or convict any alleged traffickers for child forced begging, compared to one conviction the previous reporting period. Judges sentenced five traffickers convicted of forced labor to sentences between three months and two years’ imprisonment, six traffickers convicted of sex trafficking to sentences between two and 10 years’ imprisonment, and one trafficker convicted of an unknown form of trafficking to two years’ imprisonment. Officials did not consistently use the 2005 anti-trafficking law to prosecute alleged traffickers and continued to apply penalties inconsistent with the law. The court sentenced 11 out of the 12 convicted traffickers to a prison term over one year, compared with two out of five convicted traffickers during the previous reporting period; however, the court sentenced only four traffickers to penalties in compliance with those prescribed in the anti-trafficking law. When officials identified a potential forced begging case, they often issued administrative penalties to the alleged perpetrators instead of criminally investigating and prosecuting the case, in part due to public pressure associated with the social influence of Quranic teachers. By not criminally investigating or prosecuting these forced begging cases, the government did not adequately hold traffickers accountable. Despite allegations of government complicity—either by refusing to investigate trafficking offenses or pressuring the judiciary to drop cases—the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.

The government continued to partner with an international organization to implement “Systraite”—an anti-trafficking database to collect law enforcement and victim protection data—in the regions of Dakar, Saint Louis, Thies, Kedougou, and Tambacounda; the pandemic delayed expansion to additional regions during the reporting period. The government and an international organization provided trainings on the database to 20 local judicial actors within all five regions. Due to pandemic-related gathering restrictions, the government could not provide specialized training to magistrates and prosecutors on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting human trafficking cases during the reporting period, compared to training 30 magistrates and prosecutors on case investigation and prosecution in the previous reporting period. Many law enforcement and judicial personnel remained unaware of the provisions of the 2005 law, which, coupled with limited institutional capacity, inhibited efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers under the law, and collect data on such efforts. Observers reported investigative magistrates lacked training to identify trafficking cases, leading to potential misclassification of charges in applying penalties according to the 2005 trafficking law.

The government maintained efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. The government identified and referred to services 129 foreign adult trafficking victims from Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso, and 6,187 vulnerable children, including potential child trafficking victims, during the reporting period. This was a significant increase compared with identifying 1,358 vulnerable children, including potential child trafficking victims, during the previous reporting period. Law enforcement, immigration, and social services personnel had formal written procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations. However, adult victim identification and referral to services remained insufficient. Authorities housed 87 Sierra Leonean female adult trafficking victims in the defendants’ property until the Sierra Leonean embassy in Dakar repatriated them; authorities referred the other 42 adult trafficking victims identified during the reporting period to an international organization for care. The Ministry of Women, Family, Gender, and Child Protection (MWFGCP) referred 598 children to its shelter at the Ginddi Center for care during the reporting period, compared to 359 children in the previous reporting period. An NGO in Saint Louis identified and cared for an additional 164 child trafficking victims. During the reporting period, the government implemented the third phase of its “Le retrait des enfants de la rue” campaign to remove vulnerable children, including forced begging victims, from the street in Dakar following similar operations in 2016 and 2018; the government identified and referred to care 6,187 vulnerable children, including potential trafficking victims, during the campaign. The government placed children at the Ginddi Center or temporary shelters outside of Dakar until they could be returned to their families or placed with a foster family. Each child received medical care, clothing, food, and psycho-social support. Some religious leaders continued to mobilize against the campaign, placing immense pressure on officials to discontinue the effort. Officials observed children back in the streets after having returned them to their families. Despite law enforcement officials accompanying child protection actors to ensure the actors’ safety during the operations, authorities did not initiate investigations of suspected traffickers following the identification of forced begging victims. As in past phases, this practice inhibited subsequent investigations and prosecutions of traffickers and failed to deter future exploitation.

Authorities inconsistently applied the victim referral system, and it was not available in all regions of the country. Authorities referred victims identified along Senegal’s borders to an international organization and government center for questioning before referring them to NGOs or government centers for protective services. In Dakar and rural areas, law enforcement, civil society, and community protection groups generally referred children to the government or NGOs for social services and repatriation; however, authorities were not always aware of the shelters and services available, especially for adults, which at times caused delays in the provision of services.

The Ginddi Center, under the aegis of the MWFGCP, provided temporary shelter and basic care to both foreign and domestic child victims. The government provided 269.8 million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($510,020) to the Ginddi Center in 2020, an increase compared with 150 million FCFA ($283,550) in 2019. The center provided meals, shelter, psycho-social care, clothing, and vocational training; two staff nurses provided basic medical care. The center expanded its capacity but continued to lack space, limiting the number of victims authorities could remove from exploitation and how long victims could remain at the center. As a result, the government at times sent victims to the center for immediate services, and then to NGOs or to partner daaras—which the government had certified met capacity, hygiene, and security standards and did not engage in forced begging—that provided children with follow-on support until family reunification. The pandemic further strained providers’ limited resources and insufficient staffing levels, and delayed victims’ reintegration. The Ministry of Justice operated three shelters (CPAs) for child victims of crime, witnesses, and children in emergency situations, which child trafficking victims could access. Outside of Dakar, international observers reported NGOs often had to provide critical shelter and trafficking victim services due to a lack of government resources. Shelter and services for adult victims remained severely inadequate. Several NGOs operated shelters for trafficking victims throughout the country; however, only one private shelter located in Dakar could accommodate female adult victims, while no shelters were available for male adult victims. The Ministry of Health and Social Action organized a two-day training for approximately 30 officials on child protection issues; the Ministry of Justice, through the Department of Supervised Education and Social Protection, also participated in the training to discuss administrative and judicial procedures for child trafficking cases.

The law provided alternatives to the removal of foreign victims who may face hardship or retribution upon return, including the option to apply for temporary or permanent residency; the government did not report how many victims received this relief during the reporting period. The 2005 anti-trafficking law includes provisions for victim protection during trials including allowing video-taped testimony; the government did not report using these provisions during the reporting period. Victims could legally obtain restitution; the government did not report requesting restitution during the reporting period. Victims could file civil suits against their traffickers; however, no victims reportedly used this provision during the reporting period and many victims were unaware of the option.

The government modestly increased prevention efforts. During the reporting period, the government adopted the 2021-2023 anti-trafficking national action plan following a three-day workshop to consult with international organizations and civil society stakeholders on strategies to improve efforts to combat trafficking. The government allocated 60 million FCFA ($113,420) to the CNLTP in 2020, a significant increase compared with 16 million FCFA ($30,250) allocated in 2019. The government canceled a decree to move the CNLTP from within the Ministry of Justice to the Office of the Presidency to increase the CNLTP’s authority. The Ginddi Center continued to operate a hotline for child victims of crime in three languages. The hotline received 4,881 calls during the reporting period; the government did not report the number of criminal investigations initiated or the number of potential trafficking victims identified as a result of the calls; however, Ginddi Center staff retrieved children requiring assistance and brought them to the center for care. The government conducted an awareness-raising campaign during the third phase of “Le retrait des enfants de la rue” in collaboration with an NGO; the campaign included print and television coverage, billboards, flyers, posters, and distributable materials for events organized by the MWFGCP.

Four municipal governments within Dakar continued implementing provisions developed with an international organization to increase oversight of daaras; provide food, hygiene, and medical services to children in daaras; and decrease incidents of forced begging. As a result, all four local municipalities passed regulations prohibiting child begging; child begging was reduced to zero percent in one municipality and reduced by 25 percent in the other three. As part of “Le retrait des enfants de la rue,” the government closed numerous unsafe daaras for health and safety violations. The government allocated 378 million FCFA ($714,560) for emergency pandemic response for vulnerable children, providing over 72,000 hygiene kits to more than 500 daaras. For the third consecutive year, the draft bill and implementing decrees to modernize daaras remained pending approval by the National Assembly during the reporting period; if passed, the bill would outline requirements that daaras must meet in order to be eligible for government subsidies. Furthermore, the draft legislation and the draft presidential decrees that would operationalize the legislation specified standards that daaras would need to maintain; for the first time, the government would have the oversight and authority to approve or deny the opening of new daaras and to close daaras that do not meet requirements. However, neither the draft legislation nor any of the implementing decrees explicitly prohibit child forced begging. The CNLTP continued to participate in the West Africa Network for the Protection of Children, a sub-regional referral mechanism for vulnerable children, including trafficking victims, comprising NGOs and officials from neighboring countries focused on combating trafficking. The government regulated labor recruiters and brokers but did not report any investigations into fraudulent recruitment during the reporting period. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The task force’s tourism police forces continued to monitor the resort areas of Saly and Cap Skirring for indicators of child sex tourism and other abuses, although they did not report identifying any cases of child sex tourism.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Senegal, and traffickers exploit victims from Senegal abroad. Forced begging is the most prevalent form of trafficking; some Quranic teachers and men who claim to be Quranic teachers force children to beg in Dakar and other major cities in Senegal. In 2019, an NGO estimated 100,000 children living in residential daaras across Senegal are compelled to beg. The same NGO estimated that traffickers coerce nearly 30,000 children to beg in Dakar alone. In addition, a 2017 NGO-led study identified more than 14,800 child forced begging victims in Saint-Louis and reported that 187 of the city’s 197 daaras send children to beg for at least part of the day. Traffickers fraudulently recruit victims through the pretext of traditional cultural practices called confiage where parents send children to live with family or acquaintances in order for the child to have better access to education and economic opportunities; traffickers then exploit the children in forced labor and sex trafficking. Traffickers subject Senegalese children and women to sex trafficking and forced labor in domestic servitude and gold mines. Internal trafficking is more prevalent than transnational trafficking, although traffickers exploit boys from The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Mali in forced begging in Senegalese cities as well as in forced labor in artisanal gold mines in Senegal.

Traffickers exploit Senegalese women and girls in domestic servitude in neighboring countries, Europe, and the Middle East. Reports indicate traffickers exploit most Senegalese sex trafficking victims within Senegal, particularly in the southeastern gold-mining region of Kedougou. Traffickers also subject Burkinabes, Ghanaians, Guineans, Malians, and Nigerians to forced labor and sex trafficking in mining communities. The government continued to allow North Korean companies to operate in Senegal in construction and other sectors in potential violation of applicable UN Security Council resolutions; North Korean workers in Senegal may have been forced to work by the North Korean government. Chinese-owned and operated vessels flagged to Senegal may have exploited West African men, including Senegalese, and Chinese workers in forced labor. The pandemic’s impact on Senegal’s economy, particularly the informal sector, and foreign vessels’ decimation of its fishing stock, are causing a surge in irregular migration to Europe, including Spain; these migrants are vulnerable to trafficking. In 2018, authorities identified Ukrainian and Chinese women exploited in sex trafficking in bars and nightclubs. West African women and girls are subjected to domestic servitude and sex trafficking in Senegal, including for child sex tourism for tourists from Belgium, France, Germany, and other countries. Child sex tourism primarily occurs in the cities of Dakar and Saint Louis, and to a lesser extent in Cap Skirring and La Petite Côte, in traditional tourist areas and increasingly in private residences. In 2018, a government and international organization report alleged some Saudi diplomats in Senegal are complicit in fraudulently recruiting and exploiting some Senegalese women in domestic servitude in Saudi Arabia. In 2017, an international organization identified more than 1,100 Senegalese migrants in Libya who were vulnerable to trafficking. Many migrants reported traveling through Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger to reach Libya, with the intent to reach Europe.

U.S. Department of State

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