The government maintained inadequate victim protection efforts. For the third consecutive year, the government did not report formally identifying any trafficking victims. Similar to previous years, the government quickly repatriated potential victims—most of whom were Ethiopian—to their home countries without screening for trafficking indicators in some instances. Although the government had formal SOPs to guide officials in the proactive identification of trafficking victims and their subsequent referral to care, relevant officials did not consistently use these procedures. In practice, officials routinely called upon prominent points of contact for assistance in determining care options for potential victims rather than consulting the written procedures. In 2021, the Coast Guard formalized SOPs to screen migrants and refugees found at sea for trafficking indicators; however, a lack of resources hampered full implementation of the new SOPs.
The government had a national referral mechanism that outlined guidelines for victim referral to services. In 2021, the government, in partnership with an international organization, developed a trafficking victim referral procedure targeting migrants transiting Djibouti. Additionally, the police updated its procedures to require officers to take identified trafficking victims to the nearest medical center, if needed, where they could receive free medical services. The government, in partnership with an international organization, identified a site for the country’s first trafficking-specific shelter. While the government did not formally identify any trafficking victims, the government, in partnership with international organizations and NGOs, continued to provide services to thousands of individuals among vulnerable populations, which may have included trafficking victims. The government continued to assist potential trafficking victims through programming targeting refugees or migrants more broadly, rather than providing specialized services. The government continued to grant authority to an international organization to conduct trafficking screenings of all transiting migrants—including an unknown number of potential trafficking victims—and provide water, food, medial support, temporary shelter, and repatriation assistance. The government and international organizations reported the provision of services to vulnerable populations—including potential victims— during the ongoing pandemic was difficult, especially in crowded migrant response centers (MRCs) and refugee camps, some of which regularly accommodated double the intended capacity during the year. Observers also reported since November 2020, the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia further exacerbated the strain on the MRCs’ limited resources as many voluntary returnees were unable to return to Ethiopia. With governmental authorization, a locally-operated NGO continued to host unaccompanied migrant children and vulnerable children living on the streets in Djibouti’s first shelter that could appropriately house trafficking victims; police and judges reported referring children to the shelter but did not report how many children were referred or if any were victims of trafficking. In prior years, the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs provided social workers to offer psychosocial support at the shelter; however, the government did not provide this service in 2021. Separately, the Coast Guard provided clothing and food to vulnerable migrants stranded at sea and transported them to care provided by an international organization, typically in Khôr ‘Angar or Obock. The government continued its administration of one MRC in Obock, which was operated by an international organization, and other transit or processing centers along routes heavily traversed by migrants; however, unlike previous years, the government did not report providing funding to the MRC. An international organization closed one MRC in Aour Aoussa, which the government previously supported, during the reporting period due to lack of funding from pandemic-related budget re-allocations. The National Union of Djiboutian Women (UNFD) and the Ministry of Health established new procedures to provide free medical services to victims of gender-based violence (GBV), including potential trafficking victims, identified at the UNFD’s counseling center. The MOJ continued to provide a Pro bono prosecutor liaison to the UNFD counseling center to provide legal assistance to potential victims. Health officials, in partnership with an international organization, continued to operate five mobile clinics along dangerous migration routes that could provide vulnerable migrants with medical assistance.
Key ministries that supported groups vulnerable to trafficking reportedly continued to provide resources to support various protection services for potential victims. However, the government did not report the funding amount allocated in 2021, compared with more than 109 million Djiboutian francs ($615,820) allocated in 2020 to relevant ministries, MRCs, transit centers, and local NGOs, which operated counseling centers and other programs—including a hotline—that assisted potential trafficking victims. The 2016 anti-trafficking law included provisions allowing trafficking victims temporary residency during judicial proceedings and permanent residency, as necessary, as a legal alternative to removal to countries where victims might face hardship or retribution. Additionally, the 2016 law directed the government to provide victims legal assistance and an interpreter, in addition to psychological, medical, and social assistance; the government did not report whether it applied these provisions. Due to inconsistent implementation of formal identification procedures, trafficking victims, particularly vulnerable migrants and individuals involved in commercial sex, may have remained unidentified within the law enforcement system.