The government maintained mixed efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. The government identified eight victims from The Gambia, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, compared with 18 victims identified in the previous reporting period. An international organization reported identifying an additional 10 victims, including two sex trafficking and eight forced labor victims. The government formally launched its NRM, adopted in the previous reporting period, with standard operating procedures to identify and refer trafficking victims to care; the NRM included mechanisms to screen vulnerable populations, including child migrants and individuals in commercial sex, for trafficking indicators. Under NRM provisions, front-line officials referred trafficking cases to the Department of Social Welfare, which assigned a case manager and worked with partner service providers in the referral directory to conduct an assessment and develop an individual case plan. In one case, law enforcement intercepted 37 vulnerable individuals en route to the Canary Islands for potential exploitation; consistent with NRM procedures, authorities referred all 37 individuals to an international organization for trafficking screening and services. The National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons (NAATIP), in collaboration with an international organization, trained law enforcement, social and medical service providers, and media on the NRM. However, coordination among law enforcement, prosecutors, and social service providers remained limited.
The government operated one short-term shelter for vulnerable persons, including both Gambian and foreign national trafficking victims, vulnerable children, the elderly, and victims of domestic violence. The shelter generally had an 80-person capacity, offered basic services such as medical care, and provided limited counseling to children and women; adult victims could leave the shelter unchaperoned. The pandemic reduced the shelter’s capacity to allow for social distancing, and observers reported the pandemic’s strain on the healthcare system reduced victims’ access to medical care. The government allocated 600,000 Dalasi ($11,540) to the shelter in 2021, the same amount provided in 2020. NAATIP referred at least two victims to the shelter and three victims to an international organization for care; the government did not report what services, if any, it provided to the remaining three victims. The government and civil society jointly operated daytime centers providing services, including psycho-social, food, and medical assistance, to trafficking victims and vulnerable children. Shelter services were concentrated around the capital, leaving some victims in rural areas without access to assistance. NAATIP operated an anti-trafficking hotline, and caseworkers identified five trafficking victims; authorities referred all five victims to services. The government continued collaborating with an international organization to repatriate and provide care for Gambian trafficking victims identified abroad, including victims identified in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). A committee led by the National Human Rights Commission and NAATIP investigated a case in which the Gambian Honorary Consul in Lebanon denied assistance to 38 Gambian trafficking victims exploited in domestic servitude. The commission released its final report and found fraudulent recruitment agents provided the women with false contracts in a different language and facilitated their travel to Lebanon. Upon arrival in Lebanon, traffickers seized their documents, exploited them in domestic servitude, and physically abused them, resulting in one victim’s death. The Gambian Honorary Consul reportedly returned the women to their traffickers repeatedly when they sought the government’s assistance. Gambian authorities provided some assistance to the victims in collaboration with an NGO that facilitated their repatriation to The Gambia in September 2020. NAATIP subsequently released its own report responding to the commission’s findings and recommendations. The government did not report taking further action on the committee’s recommendations or instituting accountability measures to address the honorary consul’s actions.
Authorities did not condition access to victim services on cooperation with law enforcement. The government provided legal aid and transportation to victims who chose to cooperate with law enforcement proceedings, and at least two victims reportedly did so. The government offered some protection to victims participating in proceedings against their alleged traffickers, including psychological support; however, officials did not always keep victims’ identities confidential during law enforcement proceedings, and victims, at times, were reluctant to cooperate in investigations due to fear of retaliation by their traffickers. The government allowed victims to provide testimony via video or written statements but did not report any victims doing so. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution; however, the 2007 anti-trafficking law allowed foreign victims to obtain temporary residence visas during legal proceedings. Courts could grant restitution to victims, and victims could file civil suits against their traffickers; however, neither reportedly occurred, in part due to lack of awareness. Due to inconsistent application of victim identification procedures, some victims may have remained unidentified in the law enforcement system. Authorities used provisions in the NRM to screen vulnerable populations, including individuals in commercial sex, for trafficking indicators. However, the screening mechanisms did not include LGBTQI+ persons among vulnerable populations; due to social stigmatization and lack of screening, LGBTQI+ persons remained vulnerable to trafficking.