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Cote d’Ivoire (Tier 2)

The Government of Cote d’Ivoire 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 Cote d’Ivoire remained on Tier 2. These efforts included prosecuting and convicting more traffickers and identifying significantly more victims. The government developed a draft national referral mechanism (NRM) and provided anti-trafficking training to law enforcement and judicial officials. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Law enforcement lacked the specialized training and resources to investigate trafficking cases and identify victims. The interagency anti-trafficking committee (CNLTP) did not meet or coordinate anti-trafficking activities, and the government did not allocate a dedicated budget for the CNLTP’s operations for the third consecutive year. Shelter and services, especially for adult victims, remained inadequate.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including complicit officials, and sentence convicted traffickers to significant prison terms as prescribed by law.
  • Increase training for law enforcement and judicial officials on investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases under the 2016 anti-trafficking law, including specialized investigative and prosecutorial techniques, and enhance coordination of law enforcement efforts across agencies.
  • Increase funding and in-kind resources, as feasible, for the anti-trafficking law enforcement units to investigate trafficking cases nationwide and delineate responsibilities between the units.
  • Develop and implement standardized procedures to identify human trafficking victims, including among vulnerable populations such as Ivoirian labor migrants, foreign migrants, child laborers, and individuals in commercial sex and train law enforcement, service providers, labor inspectors, and other officials on the procedures.
  • Finalize and implement the NRM and train law enforcement, judicial officials, service providers, and civil society on its implementation.
  • Strengthen the CNLTP’s authority to coordinate the government’s anti- trafficking response across agencies conducting anti-trafficking work.
  • Adopt and implement a new national action plan (NAP) and allocate dedicated resources to its implementation.
  • Increase availability of shelter and services, especially for adult trafficking victims.
  • Increase efforts to prevent exploitation of Ivoirian migrants abroad by extending labor protections to workers in the informal sector, especially domestic work, increasing oversight of labor recruitment agencies and holding fraudulent labor recruiters criminally accountable and banning worker- paid recruitment fees.
  • Improve nationwide data collection on anti- trafficking law enforcement and victim identification efforts.

PROSECUTION

The government increased law enforcement efforts. Law No. 2016-111 on the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 5 million to 10 million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($8,590-$17,190) for adult trafficking and 20 to 30 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 10 million to 50 million FCFA ($17,190-$85,930) for child trafficking. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The 2010 Child Trafficking and Child Labor Law was also used to prosecute child trafficking, and it criminalized child sex trafficking and labor trafficking with 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 5 million to 20 million FCFA ($8,590-$34,370). The government used penal code provisions on illegal mining and “pimping” to prosecute trafficking cases. The penal code prescribed penalties of one to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1 million to 10 million FCFA ($1,720-$17,190) for “pimping” and penalties of two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50 million to 100 million FCFA ($85,930-$171,870) for illegal mining. These penalties were significantly lower than those prescribed under the trafficking law.

Authorities initiated at least 11 case investigations and continued three case investigations, compared with investigating 18 cases in the previous reporting period. The government initiated prosecution of 83 alleged traffickers and continued prosecution of six alleged traffickers, and courts convicted 43 traffickers during the reporting period. Judges sentenced all 43 convicted traffickers to between five years and 20 years’ imprisonment. This compared with prosecution of 25 alleged traffickers and conviction of 12 traffickers in the previous reporting period. In one case investigated by the Sub-Directorate in the Fight against Trafficking and Child Labor (SDLTEDJ), law enforcement arrested 24 alleged traffickers and identified 68 child victims, most of whom were from Burkina Faso, exploited in forced labor in cocoa; courts convicted and sentenced five traffickers under Law No. 2016-111 and 17 traffickers under penal code provisions on child labor. The government continued collaborating with foreign counterparts, including from Burkina Faso and Nigeria, on law enforcement activities.

The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking crimes; however, official corruption and complicity in trafficking crimes remained concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. Some observers alleged low-ranking police on the borders with Mali and Ghana facilitated smuggling, including potential trafficking cases, and organized a system to collect bribes at checkpoints and along bus routes. In 2018, five gendarmes and two military firefighters allegedly abducted a trafficking victim from an NGO shelter; a military tribunal sentenced four of the gendarmes and the military firefighters to 50 days in military jail in August 2019 as an administrative sanction for unbecoming conduct. Following the 50-day detention, the officials returned to their military duties. A subsequent prosecution of four of the gendarmes and one of the military firefighters for kidnapping of a minor, forced confinement, and attempted rape remained pending before a military investigative judge at the end of the reporting period. Although not explicitly reported as human trafficking, the UN reported there was one new allegation, submitted in 2021, of alleged sexual exploitation with trafficking indicators by Ivoirian peacekeepers deployed to the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti between 2010 and 2012. The UN investigation into the allegation was pending, and the government had not yet reported the accountability measures taken, if any, for the open case by the end of the reporting period.

The SDLTEDJ bore primary responsibility for enforcing anti-trafficking laws and investigating cases throughout the country. Six special police units established under the SDLTEDJ in the previous reporting period continued to investigate child labor and child trafficking cases. These units operated out of SDLTEDJ branch offices in the six cities in which they were based. The gendarmes under the Ministry of Defense were responsible for investigations in rural areas where the SDLTEDJ was not present. Resource limitations constrained the Brigade Mondaine—the unit responsible for investigating prostitution and sex trafficking—to Abidjan and a few regional precincts. The Transnational Organized Crime Unit (UCT) had national jurisdiction over transnational organized crime, including a specialized human trafficking department. The SDLTEDJ was responsible for child trafficking cases, UCT for transnational trafficking cases, and Brigade Mondaine for sex trafficking cases; however, the units lacked coordination, and no unit had a clear responsibility for internal adult labor trafficking cases. Limited funding and resources significantly hindered law enforcement’s ability to identify and investigate human trafficking cases.

In August 2021, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights issued a directive creating new prosecutorial teams within the appeals courts in four cities focused on combating human trafficking to accelerate the procedural process and support the public prosecutor’s office in prosecuting trafficking cases. Although not yet operational, the government, in partnership with a foreign donor, began providing anti-trafficking training to the units. The government, in collaboration with international organizations and foreign donors, trained judicial officials, law enforcement, and civil society organizations on human trafficking laws and regulations, victim protection during criminal proceedings, investigative and prosecutorial techniques, and cross-unit collaboration. Observers reported additional anti-trafficking training for law enforcement and judicial officials was needed. Some judges and prosecutors remained unaware of the 2016 law and continued to use the 2010 law and illegal mining and “pimping” statutes to prosecute trafficking cases, which carried lesser penalties.

PROTECTION

The government increased efforts to identify and protect victims. During the reporting period, the government identified 1,190 trafficking victims, the majority of whom were children, including 437 sex trafficking and 753 forced labor victims, compared with identifying 302 trafficking victims during the previous reporting period. The majority of identified victims were Ivoirian; foreign national victims were from Nigeria, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, Togo, and Benin. Due to the lack of a centralized data collection system and conflation of trafficking with other crimes, victim identification data likely included child labor and sexual abuse cases. The government referred most identified victims to services.

The government did not have standardized procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims and refer them to care; however, the UCT, Brigade Mondaine, and SDLTEDJ each had operational victim referral procedures. The government developed an NRM, in collaboration with an international organization, which remained pending final approval at the end of the reporting period. Despite the lack of a formal NRM, in practice, officials referred adult trafficking victims to NGOs or host families and child victims to NGO and government-run shelters or foster families when necessary. Officials could also refer trafficking victims to government-run centers for victims of abuse for psychological care and NGOs for shelter and services. The government provided food, medical care, and psycho-social support to victims. The government, in partnership with an NGO, operated three shelters for child labor and child trafficking victims, including a new shelter opened during the reporting period. There was no government-run shelter that could accommodate adult victims. Government ministries lacked coordination, which in some cases hindered the provision of services. The Ministry of Women, Children, and Families (MWCF) provided some in-kind support to NGOs caring for victims, including food, hygiene products, and other supplies, but did not report providing any direct financial support. Observers reported government support for victim protection and services remained inadequate, and in many cases, NGOs funded and provided the majority of trafficking victim care. Observers also noted social workers lacked the resources and personnel to effectively care for and monitor the reintegration of victims. The lack of services, especially for adults, and lack of reintegration assistance rendered many victims vulnerable to re-victimization. Foreign victims had the same access to care as Ivoirian victims. The government did not have a formal policy providing temporary or permanent residency to foreign victims who faced hardship or retribution in their countries of origin. In some cases, the government depended on foreign trafficking victims’ home embassies to provide shelter and care prior to repatriation. In at least one case, authorities coordinated with a foreign government and international organization to repatriate a foreign national trafficking victim.

Access to victim services was not dependent on cooperation with law enforcement proceedings. Ivoirian law required the government to provide protection and assistance to victims who participated in investigations or trials against alleged traffickers, but the government did not report providing this assistance to any victims. The law also called for creation of a national office for the protection of witnesses and victims; however, the office was not yet operational. Observers reported the government did not provide or refer trafficking victims to legal aid, which hindered victims’ ability to press charges against their alleged traffickers and, for foreign victims, to address immigration issues. Trafficking victims could file civil suits, but none reportedly did so, and many victims were not aware of this option. Ivoirian law allowed victims to obtain restitution, and in one case, the court ordered a convicted trafficker to pay 10 million FCFA ($17,190) in restitution. Due to the lack of standardized victim identification procedures, some victims may have remained unidentified within the law enforcement system. International organizations reported border agents sometimes denied entry to foreign nationals, including potential victims, without screening for human trafficking. Law enforcement officials reportedly only screened individuals in commercial sex for trafficking when detaining or arresting them.

PREVENTION

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The CNLTP, while intending to lead the government’s anti-trafficking prevention efforts, did not meet, and the government did not report allocating dedicated funding for its operations for the third consecutive year. The government drafted a NAP for 2021-2025 that remained pending at the end of the reporting period. The government continued implementing its 2019-2021 NAP to combat child labor and trafficking, which had a three-year budget of more than 76 billion FCFA ($130.62 million). The Oversight Committee to Combat Child Trafficking and the Worst Forms of Child Labor (CNS) and the Inter-Ministerial Committee in the Fight Against Child Trafficking, Child Exploitation, and Child Labor (CIM) continued to coordinate efforts to combat child labor and child trafficking. CNS oversaw CIM and conducted monitoring and evaluation activities. Observers reported dedicated resources and more collaboration between the three committees were still needed for the CNLTP to be fully effective. The government held public awareness campaigns focused on child labor, which included some anti-trafficking components. It also collaborated with international organizations to produce pamphlets, t-shirts, and video content to raise awareness of the dangers of human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Observers reported campaign materials were almost exclusively produced in French, rather than local languages and dialects. The labor code regulated labor recruitment and labor migration in the formal sector, but it did not extend to the informal sector, including domestic work, which increased some migrant workers’ vulnerability to trafficking. The government did not report efforts to hold fraudulent labor recruiters accountable. The law did not prohibit worker-paid recruitment fees. The government trained labor inspectors on identifying child labor and trafficking victims. However, despite conducting more than 2,800 inspections in 2021, labor inspectors did not identify any child labor or child trafficking cases during the inspections. The Ministry of Water and Forests, responsible for surveilling the country’s natural resources, also monitored for child labor or trafficking violations during regular patrols of the forests; ministry personnel referred potential child labor or trafficking cases to law enforcement for criminal investigation. The MWCF continued operating a hotline to report child protection and human rights violations, and officials reported identifying 27 potential child trafficking victims as a result of calls to the hotline.

In September 2020, the government established two inter-ministerial commissions to adjudicate claims for statelessness, intending to process status for approximately 16,000 people living in the country without identity documents who are therefore vulnerable to trafficking. The commissions began adjudicating claims but lacked capacity and resources to process claims expeditiously. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel. The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to troops prior to their deployment as peacekeepers; although not explicitly reported as human trafficking, there was one open case of alleged sexual exploitation with trafficking indicators by Ivoirian peacekeepers deployed to the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Cote d’Ivoire, and traffickers exploit victims from Cote d’Ivoire abroad. The majority of victims identified are children; due to a stronger emphasis on combating internal child trafficking, the prevalence of adult trafficking may be underreported. Traffickers exploit Ivoirian women and girls in forced labor in domestic service and restaurants and in sex trafficking. Traffickers also exploit Ivoirian boys in forced labor in the agricultural and service industries, especially cocoa production. West African boys, especially Burkinabe, are exploited in forced labor in agriculture (on cocoa, coffee, pineapple, cashew, and rubber plantations and in animal herding), mining, carpentry, construction, and begging in Cote d’Ivoire. Observers reported the pandemic’s economic impacts, as well as insecurity in neighboring countries, have increased child labor and forced child labor, especially on cocoa farms. Traffickers exploit migrant workers, including Malian, Burkinabe, and internal Ivoirian migrants, in the cocoa sector in forced labor and debt bondage; observers reported recruiters deceive workers about working conditions, including wages, hours, and length of contracts—indicators of forced labor. These recruiters charge worker-paid recruitment fees, including for transportation costs; some employers pay the fees and subsequently exploit the workers in debt bondage, reportedly charging them up to five times the original cost of transportation. Traffickers often operate in well-established networks consisting of both Ivoirians and foreigners and, in cases of transnational trafficking, use social media, making networks difficult for law enforcement to detect. In 2018, authorities estimated there were more than 2,000 Ivoirian, Burkinabe, Malian, Nigerien, and Senegalese talibés (students in Quranic schools) in northern and central Cote d’Ivoire and that corrupt teachers force many of them to beg. NGOs and officials report drug traffickers use children—some of whom may be forced—to sell and transport drugs in restaurants and nightclubs. Some Beninese and Togolese workers migrate to Cote d’Ivoire for construction and carpentry work and bring children, whom they exploit in domestic servitude. Traffickers— commonly distant relatives—bring girls from rural Cote d’Ivoire and other West African countries to Abidjan ostensibly to go to school or receive professional training but subsequently exploit them in domestic servitude. Ghanaian, Moroccan, and Nigerian traffickers recruit women and girls from Ghana, Morocco, and Nigeria for waitressing jobs and subsequently exploit them in sex trafficking in restaurants or massage parlors; some victims believe they are transiting Cote d’Ivoire en route to Europe. Nigerian traffickers increasingly exploit Nigerian women and girls in sex trafficking in Cote d’Ivoire’s northern and western mining regions, including near gold mines in Tengrela. An international organization noted cultural beliefs correlating sex with increased chances of finding gold have increased the demand for sex trafficking in mining communities. Nigerian traffickers bring Nigerian children to northern Cote d’Ivoire for domestic servitude. Nigerian victims transit Cote d’Ivoire en route to exploitation in sex trafficking in Asia, the United Arab Emirates, and North Africa. In past years, People’s Republic of China (PRC) national traffickers have exploited PRC national women in sex trafficking in Cote d’Ivoire. Returning refugees and individuals living in Cote d’Ivoire without identity documents are at risk of statelessness, increasing vulnerability to trafficking.

Some Ivoirian community and religious leaders, possibly working with others abroad, reportedly recruit Ivoirian women and girls for work in the Middle East and Europe; some women and girls are then exploited in forced labor in Europe, North Africa, and Gulf countries, primarily Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia. Ivoirian migrants in Libya and Tunisia are vulnerable to trafficking. Migrants commonly depart from Daloa and proceed via airplane to Tunisia or travel overland via Mali and Algeria to Libya or via Niger to Libya. In Tunisia, intermediaries confiscate migrants’ identity documents until they can pay for the next part of their journey, increasing vulnerability to trafficking. In 2021, Tunisian authorities identified an estimated 417 Ivoirian potential trafficking victims, approximately 64 percent of the total trafficking victims identified in Tunisia. International organizations and Ivoirian law enforcement agencies reported Ivoirian migrant smuggling networks based in Tunisia increasingly became involved in trafficking as European governments blocked migration inflows and that these networks also coerced Ivoirians to engage in unlawful acts, including drug smuggling. Traffickers exploit men and boys in forced labor on farms in Tunisia, often promising the men well-paying jobs and the boys the opportunity to play soccer. Ivoirian undocumented migrants in Algeria are vulnerable to trafficking due to their undocumented status. An international organization reported an increase in Ivoirian migrant women and unaccompanied children arriving in Italy; an NGO reported traffickers sexually exploited many of the women in Libya prior to their arrival in Italy. In 2018, French authorities disbanded an Ivoirian trafficking network linked to Daloa that provided Ivoirian children with fake documents and facilitated their travel to France through Libya and Italy. Authorities have also noted an increase in male trafficking victims among migrants traveling to Europe. Ivoirian domestic workers in Kuwait are vulnerable to domestic servitude. Authorities have previously identified Ivoirian trafficking victims in Cyprus, France, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Morocco, and the United Kingdom.

U.S. Department of State

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