An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Guinea-Bissau (Tier 3)

The Government of Guinea-Bissau does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Guinea-Bissau remained on Tier 3. Despite the lack of significant efforts, the government took some steps to address trafficking, including investigating trafficking cases, identifying potential victims, launching a national referral mechanism, and continuing to convene its anti-trafficking inter-ministerial committee. However, the government has never convicted a trafficker, and authorities did not prosecute any alleged traffickers for the third consecutive year. Victim identification and services remained inadequate. The government continued to lack resources and political will to comprehensively combat human trafficking.

  • Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including corrupt Quranic teachers who subject boys to forced begging and hotel staff who facilitate child sex tourism in the Bijagos, and sentence convicted traffickers to adequate prison terms, as prescribed in law.
  • Cease using extra-judicial or administrative remedies to resolve human trafficking cases.
  • Hold government officials accountable for trafficking-related complicity, including failure to investigate alleged trafficking crimes and interference in ongoing investigations.
  • Finalize and implement standard procedures to identify trafficking victims and refer them to care, including among vulnerable populations such as children exploited in forced begging, individuals in commercial sex, and Cuban overseas workers.
  • Provide resources to the Judicial Police to expand its area of operation, including in Bijagos and Catió.
  • Fully implement the national referral mechanism and train government officials, including local police, the National Guard, and the judiciary, on the procedures.
  • Train law enforcement and judicial officials on the 2011 anti-trafficking law and procedures to refer trafficking cases to the Judicial Police.
  • Provide funding or in-kind support for NGOs to ensure all identified victims—especially child victims of forced begging—receive services.
  • Allocate financial or in-kind resources to implement the anti-trafficking national action plan (NAP).
  • Increase efforts to coordinate repatriation of trafficking victims with the Government of Senegal and effectively monitor the return and reintegration of victims, especially child victims.
  • Significantly increase efforts to raise public awareness of human trafficking, especially forced begging and child sex trafficking.
  • In collaboration with NGOs, allocate adequate space and facilities for a victim shelter in Bissau and expand shelter services for adults.
  • Strengthen international law enforcement cooperation to prevent and investigate cases of child sex tourism.

The government maintained inadequate law enforcement efforts. Public Law 12/2011 criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of three to 15 years’ imprisonment and the confiscation of any proceeds from the crime. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Draft amendments to the Code of Child Protection that would harmonize it with international law on human trafficking remained pending before the legislature for the third consecutive year.

The government did not report the total number of investigations initiated but did report investigating cases involving 92 potential trafficking victims, all suspected forced begging cases, during the reporting period, compared with 34 case investigations, including eight forced begging and 26 sex trafficking cases, during the previous reporting period. The government did not report any prosecutions for the third consecutive year. The government has never convicted a trafficker under the anti-trafficking law. Despite the prevalence of Bissau-Guinean boys exploited in neighboring countries for forced begging, the government did not cooperate with foreign counterparts 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. The judicial system lacked sufficient human and physical capital to function effectively, and corruption remained pervasive. Observers alleged municipal and provincial government officials interfered in cases and derailed prosecutions of traffickers in exchange for a bribe. The government did not demonstrate political will at the highest levels of government to address human trafficking.

The Judicial Police had a specialized unit that investigated trafficking cases; however, it had limited coverage outside the capital and did not have a dedicated budget. The National Guard patrolled Guinea-Bissau’s borders and had a unit dedicated to investigating crimes involving women and children, including trafficking; however, it also did not have a dedicated budget. The National Guard and local police in rural areas lacked training to investigate human trafficking crimes and did not always refer cases to the Judicial Police, which impeded investigations. The Public Ministry did not have specialized prosecutors for trafficking cases; the ministry’s child protective services enforced court decisions in trafficking cases involving children but did not have coverage outside of the capital. The police, National Guard, judiciary, and prosecutors lacked funding, which hindered their efforts to combat human trafficking. Police and judges often resolved intra-familial labor and abuse cases—which could include forced child labor and child sex trafficking by family members—through non-judicial means or tried them as domestic violence cases. When parents broke non-judicial agreements and police transferred the cases to court, officials noted community leaders often pressured courts to drop the cases. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to law enforcement or judicial officials or support NGOs conducting anti-trafficking training for the second consecutive year, and some law enforcement and judicial officials remained unaware of the 2011 anti-trafficking law.

The government maintained insufficient protection efforts. The government identified 92 child forced begging victims and 33 child victims of sexual exploitation during the reporting period, compared with identifying 99 vulnerable children during the previous reporting period. Authorities referred the children to civil society organizations for care. The government did not have formal procedures to identify trafficking victims; draft procedures compiled in a previous reporting period with the assistance of an international organization remained unfinished. However, officials utilized ECOWAS procedures for the protection and reintegration of children and young migrants. The Institute for Women and Children (IMC) previously developed a victim identification form with an international organization but did not use it to identify victims during the current reporting period. High illiteracy rates, including among security services, hampered the government’s ability to finalize and implement written victim identification procedures. The government began implementing a national referral mechanism developed with funding from a foreign donor and the assistance of local facilitators; the inter-ministerial committee disseminated the procedures to stakeholders.

The IMC was responsible for victim services and coordination of services among various entities; however, it had no operating budget or vehicles and could not provide sufficient assistance to victims. The government did not have a specific fund for victim services and relied on international organizations and local NGOs to provide nearly all victim services, including family identification and reintegration, shelter, medical services, and legal assistance; these NGOs subsequently relied on international donors for funding. The government did not provide financial or in-kind support to NGOs assisting trafficking victims for the third consecutive year. Three NGO shelters were accessible to child trafficking victims but were severely overcrowded and underfunded; some shelter volunteers used their own homes to house victims temporarily. Shelter was only available for child victims, and only one NGO shelter provided trafficking-specific services. The government did not have formal procedures to encourage victims to participate in investigations or prosecutions against their alleged traffickers. Victims could not obtain restitution or file civil suits against their traffickers. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. Due to a lack of formal identification procedures, authorities may have detained some unidentified trafficking victims. Observers noted more coordination was needed between the Governments of Guinea-Bissau and Senegal in repatriating child forced begging victims.

The government maintained minimal efforts to prevent trafficking. The inter-ministerial committee, led by the IMC and including government agencies, NGOs, and religious groups, met regularly. However, the committee lacked funding for anti-trafficking activities, which weakened its capacity to respond to trafficking and coordinate national anti-trafficking efforts. The government had a national action plan to address human trafficking but did not report allocating any resources to its implementation. The government did not report conducting or providing support to NGO-facilitated awareness campaigns for the second consecutive year. The IMC and the Ministry of Tourism had a code of conduct against sexual exploitation in the tourism sector in the Bijagos islands, Bubaque, Sao Domingos, and Bissau. The code included provisions for raising public awareness of child sex trafficking and increasing awareness of hotel workers and tourism labor inspectors to combat these crimes; although the code remained in effect, the government did not report conducting any of the activities described, in part due to the pandemic’s impact on the tourism sector and gathering restrictions. The labor inspectorate, housed within the Ministry of Labor, Civil Service and Public Administration, lacked funding, personnel, material resources, and training to investigate cases of forced labor nationwide. The government did not inspect local daaras (Quranic schools) to ensure they did not force children to beg. Amendments to the labor code that would extend labor protections to domestic workers have remained pending in the national assembly since 2015. The government issued birth registrations to trafficking victims and child victims’ parents with support from an international organization. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. 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 Guinea-Bissau, and traffickers exploit victims from Guinea-Bissau abroad. Forced child begging is the most prevalent form of human trafficking. Some corrupt Quranic teachers force or coerce students, called talibés, to beg and do not provide an education. The traffickers are principally men from the Bafata and Gabu regions—often former talibés or men who claim to be working for a Quranic teacher—and are generally well-known within the communities in which they operate. Corrupt Quranic teachers force Bissau-Guinean, and increasingly Guinean, Gambian, and Sierra Leonean, boys to beg in Bissau and exploit Guinea-Bissau’s weak institutions and porous borders to transport large numbers of Bissau-Guinean boys to Senegal—and to a lesser extent Mali, Guinea, and The Gambia—for forced begging in exploitative daaras. Due to border closures as a result of the pandemic, observers reported traffickers exploited more children in forced begging in Bissau rather than abroad.

Traffickers exploit Bissau-Guinean boys in forced labor in street vending and in the agricultural and mining sectors in Senegal, especially in the southern cities of Kolda and Ziguinchor. Traffickers force West African boys to harvest cashews during Guinea-Bissau’s annual harvest, and some boys recruited for work in the harvest are then forced to beg. Traffickers exploit some Guinean boys for forced labor in shoe shining in Guinea-Bissau. Traffickers exploit Bissau-Guinean girls in sex trafficking and forced labor in street vending and domestic work in Guinea, The Gambia, and Senegal, as well as in Spain. Senegalese trafficking networks recruit Bissau-Guinean girls for modeling jobs or traveling football clubs but subject them to sex trafficking. Bissau-Guinean girls are exploited in domestic servitude and in sex trafficking in bars, nightclubs, and hotels in Bissau. Bissau-Guinean women are fraudulently recruited and exploited in domestic servitude abroad. Bissau-Guinean girls from the Bijagos—and to a lesser extent mainland girls and boys—are exploited in child sex tourism in the Bijagos, an archipelago off the coast of Guinea-Bissau that is far from the mainland and largely devoid of government and law enforcement presence. Although the extent of child sex tourism is unknown, it is widely acknowledged among civil society, NGOs, and mid-level government officials. In most cases, French nationals own hotels on the islands and use Bissau-Guinean intermediaries to exploit island girls 13-17 years old for French and Belgian child sex tourists. International sources report these same hotel owners provide jobs and significant support to the island community, wielding influence that can deter victims from reporting to law enforcement. Some families may encourage their children to endure such exploitation for financial gain. Bissau-Guinean men from the mainland fuel local demand for commercial sex on the islands. During previous reporting periods, there were reports of official complicity in human trafficking among island officials and in the judiciary. According to an international organization, Guinea-Bissau’s birth registration rate is less than 25 percent, increasing vulnerability to trafficking, especially among children. Cuban nationals working in Guinea-Bissau may have been forced to work by the Cuban government.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future