As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Benin, and traffickers exploit victims from Benin abroad. Trafficking in the country is predominantly internal. The majority of child trafficking victims are from rural areas and are most often victims of labor trafficking. Children from low-income families and those without birth documents are especially at risk; officials report parent illiteracy and single-parent households also increase children’s risk of exploitation. The pandemic exacerbated some risk factors for trafficking, including poverty and school absences. Some community members and relatives use the promise of education or employment to recruit Beninese children from northern rural areas to the more urban southern corridor and exploit them in forced labor in domestic servitude, markets, farming, as “apprentices” engaged in various trades, and in handicraft manufacturing. Beninese traffickers include farmers, traders, artisans, small factory owners, and civil servants; some belong to criminal networks, and others may have been former trafficking victims. Adults are exploited in sex and labor trafficking.
The government reported traffickers exploit children living in the lakeside areas of Benin—including the commune of So Ava in southeast Benin—in debt bondage. Criminal elements operate in urban areas under the guise of informal employment agents and recruit children for domestic work in private residences, where house managers and families exploit them in domestic servitude. Some parents follow a traditional practice known as vidomegon, which involves sending children to wealthier families for educational or vocational opportunities; some of these families then subject the children to forced labor, often in domestic service and open- air markets, or sexual exploitation. The government reported criminals exploit girls in sex trafficking in Cotonou and Malanville. Officials reported traffickers exploit boys, girls, and women from Djougou and Bassila in the northwest of the country; Parakou in the northeast; Zakpota, Djida, and Agbaizoun in the central region; in the Adja region and in Lobogo in the southwest; and in Pobe and Sakete in the southeast. Traffickers exploit these groups in labor and sex trafficking.
Beninese children are sent to Nigeria, Gabon, the Republic of the Congo, and to a lesser extent other West and Central African countries for domestic servitude and other forms of forced labor. Togolese victims increasingly transit through Benin in route to other destinations. Benin has been the largest source country for trafficking victims in the Republic of the Congo, with the department of Oueme in southeast Benin historically an area traffickers used to recruit child victims. Child marriage remains prevalent nationwide, with some families forcing girls into marriages as a result of generational poverty; these girls may then be subjected to sex trafficking or domestic servitude.
Reports indicate criminal groups fraudulently recruit young Beninese women for domestic work in Lebanon, Algeria, and Persian Gulf countries and subsequently exploit them in forced labor or sex trafficking. In past reporting periods, traffickers and their accomplices have sent child victims to their destinations alone and met the victims upon arrival. International organizations report some adult labor migrants use airports, primarily in Togo—but also in the neighboring countries of Burkina Faso and Nigeria—to circumvent anti-trafficking screening procedures put in place by the government at Cotonou’s international airport, increasing the migrants’ vulnerability to human trafficking.