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Cabo Verde (Tier 2)

The Government of Cabo Verde does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Cabo Verde remained on Tier 2. These efforts included prosecuting a trafficker for the first time in three years, convicting the same trafficker, and launching standard operating procedures (SOPs) for victim identification and referral to services. The government’s Institute for Children and Adolescents (ICCA) identified and referred vulnerable children, including some potential trafficking victims, to care. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Government agencies charged with combating trafficking continued to lack sufficient resources and training, and overall victim identification and protection efforts remained inadequate. The Observatory for Monitoring and Rapid Identification of Situations of Trafficking in Persons (the Observatory), while intended to lead national efforts, lacked the capacity and mandate to coordinate anti-trafficking activities.

  • Implement and train law enforcement, labor inspectors, child protection actors, and other officials on the SOPs to proactively identify trafficking victims, including among vulnerable populations, such as children referred to ICCA shelters, child laborers and children experiencing homelessness; individuals in commercial sex; and migrant and overseas workers (including People’s Republic of China (PRC), Cuban, and ECOWAS nationals), and refer trafficking victims to care.
  • Increase efforts to vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers using the anti-trafficking provision of the penal code, Article 271-A and sentence convicted traffickers to significant prison terms in accordance with the law.
  • Increase nationwide trafficking data collection on law enforcement and victim identification efforts and develop a system to compile and share data among agencies.
  • Ensure all trafficking cases are prosecuted through the judicial system without political interference, rather than resolved through non-judicial means.
  • Train law enforcement and judicial officials on the anti-trafficking provision of the penal code, Article 271-A.
  • Empower the Observatory to better coordinate the government’s anti-trafficking response and increase stakeholders’ participation in Observatory activities.
  • Strengthen international law enforcement cooperation to prevent, investigate, and prosecute cases of child sex tourism.
  • Increase efforts to raise public awareness of human trafficking, including child sex trafficking and domestic servitude.

The government increased law enforcement efforts. Article 271-A of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of four to 10 years’ imprisonment; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

The government’s capacity to collect anti-trafficking statistics and comprehensively report on law enforcement actions was limited. The government initiated one investigation into an alleged forced labor case. The government continued eight investigations from previous reporting periods and closed four others due to insufficient evidence. This compared with initiating one investigation and continuing 11 investigations during the previous reporting period. The government initiated prosecution of and convicted one Cabo Verdean child sex trafficker, compared with zero prosecutions and zero convictions during the previous reporting period. This was the first trafficking prosecution and conviction in three years. The court convicted the trafficker under penal code provisions on “pimping,” sentenced her to five years’ imprisonment, and ordered her to pay 400,000 escudos ($4,110) in restitution. A case involving three defendants charged in April 2019 with trafficking in persons and employment of undocumented foreign workers on the island of Sal remained pending trial. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees for complicity in human trafficking crimes. One contact reported a concern that some law enforcement officials failed to fully investigate potential trafficking crimes.

Some law enforcement and justice system officials lacked adequate understanding of trafficking crimes and anti-trafficking laws, and the justice system was overburdened, resulting in weak and inconsistent efforts to identify, investigate, and prosecute trafficking cases. The government made some efforts to train law enforcement on combating human trafficking. The government trained new police officers on trafficking victim identification using a training module previously developed by an international organization. The government also provided anti-trafficking training to border police (DEF) officers. An international organization trained law enforcement and justice officials on cybercrime investigations, which included a component on combating child sex tourism, with some government support. Judicial Police (PJ) presence was limited to the four islands with international airports and the most significant tourism activity, affecting the government’s ability to identify trafficking victims, investigate crimes, and collect comprehensive data. Information sharing between agencies remained inadequate, and officials reported additional coordination between the PJ, National Police (PN), and prosecutors was needed. Government social service providers often resolved intra-familial abuse cases, which could include child sex trafficking, through non-judicial means.

The government maintained mixed protection efforts. Weak case management and data collection hindered the government’s ability to track victim-related statistics, and as in previous years, the government did not provide comprehensive data on the number of trafficking victims it identified and referred to services. The government identified and referred one forced labor victim to an international organization for care, but the victim reportedly declined services. This compared with identifying and referring one forced labor victim to care during the previous reporting period. The ICCA, which had personnel located on all nine islands, identified and provided assistance to at least 133 vulnerable children, which may have included potential trafficking victims, in 2021, compared with 196 vulnerable children the previous year. ICCA did not report screening victims referred to its shelters for trafficking indicators.

In September 2021, the government finalized and launched SOPs for trafficking victim identification and referral to services in partnership with an international organization and foreign donor. However, the government had not yet fully implemented the newly-adopted procedures or conducted any trainings for officials on the procedures by the end of the reporting period; therefore, victim identification and protection efforts remained limited. DEF officers had written victim identification procedures but did not consistently receive training on them. The Ministry of Justice (MJ), in collaboration with an international organization, previously developed a child protection case management system for protection actors to identify and track child victims of exploitation, including child trafficking; however, it was not operationalized for the second consecutive year.

There were no shelters or services specifically for trafficking victims, but government-funded agencies provided emergency services, shelter, and psycho-social care to at-risk populations and female and child victims of crime, including potential trafficking victims. Law enforcement and first responders could refer child victims to ICCA, victims requiring long-term care to the Public Ministry, adult female victims to the Cabo Verdean Institute for Gender Equality (ICIEG) or NGOs, and foreign victims to the High Authority for Migration (AAI) or an international organization. ICCA operated a national network to assist child victims of crime, including with referral to care and legal support, and operated 15 centers on eight of Cabo Verde’s nine inhabited islands that provided care for child victims of sexual abuse, violence, and abandonment, including at least two centers located on both the islands of Santiago and Sao Vicente that provided 24-hour emergency care. The government funded and provided police security to ICCA and ICIEG shelters. AAI opened the first of five planned centers to assist and provide social services to migrants.

Law enforcement had policies to interview sex trafficking victims in collaboration with psychologists and, in cases of child victims, in collaboration with the victims’ parents, as appropriate. The government did not report providing these benefits to any victims during the reporting period. Authorities noted it was difficult to provide meaningful protection to victim-witnesses due to the small population and close-knit community. The government continued providing in-kind support to an NGO project seeking to enhance the justice system’s capacity to support child victims of sexual abuse, including trafficking. Cabo Verdean law provided legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution; authorities did not report providing these benefits to any victims. The law provided for restitution, and in one case noted above, the court awarded a victim 400,000 escudos ($4,110) in restitution. The government did not report if the restitution was paid by the end of the reporting period. In addition, victims could file civil suits against traffickers, but no victims reportedly did so, in part due to lack of awareness. Due to limited use of formal identification procedures and screening of vulnerable populations, including individuals in commercial sex and migrants, some victims may have remained unidentified within the law enforcement system.

The government maintained prevention efforts. The Observatory, led by MJ, coordinated the government’s efforts to combat human trafficking and included officials from the PN, PJ, ICCA, ICIEG, Ministry of Family, Inclusion, and Social Development (MFIDS), other government institutions, and civil society organizations. However, it lacked the capacity and resources to effectively lead the government’s efforts. The Observatory met twice during the reporting period, compared to meeting once during the previous reporting period. The government had a 2018-2021 anti-trafficking national action plan (NAP) and allocated 7 million escudos ($72,000) for anti-trafficking activities, including the implementation of the NAP, the same amount allocated the previous year. Observers reported the Observatory lacked authority and struggled to ensure all members fully participated in meetings and met their reporting commitments. The government made minimal efforts to raise public awareness of trafficking; however, it conducted some awareness raising campaigns focused on child sexual abuse and exploitation. ICCA continued to support municipal Committees for the Defense of Children’s and Adolescents’ Rights to prevent child abuse, including child trafficking.

ICCA continued to operate two drop-in centers for vulnerable children through its Nos Kaza project, which aimed to reduce the vulnerability of children who were homeless or used the streets as a source of livelihood. ICCA operated a hotline linked to the PN hotline to report cases of violence against children, including trafficking. The government did not report training hotline workers to differentiate trafficking from similar crimes, and officials did not report identifying any trafficking victims as a result of calls to the hotline. The government made some efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex that equated to child sex trafficking, but it did not make efforts to reduce demand for other forms of commercial sex. The government continued enforcing the Ethics Code of Conduct for Tourism, which included provisions to counter child sex tourism. The Children and Adolescent Committee to Prevent and Combat Sexual Abuse and Exploitation coordinated the government’s efforts combating child sexual abuse, including child sex tourism; however, officials reported the committee did not function effectively. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Cabo Verde, and to a lesser extent, traffickers exploit victims from Cabo Verde abroad. Traffickers exploit boys and girls, some of whom may be foreign nationals, in sex trafficking on Brava, Santiago, Fogo, Sal, Sao Vicente, and Boa Vista, sometimes through child sex tourism. In the past, observers reported tourists perpetrated child sexual abuse on the islands of Sal, Boa Vista, Sao Vicente, Fogo, and Maio. In some cases, parents have encouraged their daughters’ exploitation in commercial sex by tourists, especially Cabo-Verdean Americans, as potential marriage could result in immigrant visas to the United States or remittances to support the family. Traffickers have exploited West African women, including Nigerians and Senegalese, in sex trafficking. Traffickers exploit West African women in domestic servitude. On Sao Vicente, traffickers have coerced girls as young as 12 years old in sexual exploitation in exchange for drugs. Cabo Verdean children engaged in begging, domestic work, street vending, car washing, construction, garbage picking, fishing, and agriculture are vulnerable to trafficking; children used in illicit activities, including drug trafficking, are also vulnerable to human trafficking. Children living in impoverished neighborhoods with little state presence are also at risk of trafficking, especially sex trafficking. West African migrants may transit the archipelago en route to exploitive situations in Europe. Cuban overseas workers, including medical professionals, working in Cabo Verde may be forced to work by the Cuban government. Some adult migrants from ECOWAS countries and the PRC receive low wages and work without contracts, rendering them vulnerable to forced labor and sex trafficking. In 2018, alleged labor traffickers exploited four PRC nationals (two girls and two men) in the retail sector; some observers suspect there may be organized syndicates engaging in similar forced labor exploitation in the country. During a previous reporting period, the government investigated a PN officer for complicity in a forced labor case; the government reported investigators found insufficient evidence to bring charges against the officer, and the case was closed. In previous reporting periods, observers reported Nigerian criminal syndicates exploited Cabo Verdean women in sex trafficking in Brazil, and labor traffickers exploited a Cabo Verdean man in Europe.

U.S. Department of State

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