The government maintained minimal law enforcement efforts. The Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2017 criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both if the victim was an adult and up to 20 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $15,000, or both if the victim was younger than age 18. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with other serious crimes, such as rape.
For the second consecutive year, the government did not report any new prosecutions, and the government has not convicted any traffickers since 2011. Authorities continued the investigation, begun in 2020, of the former Director of Immigration for alleged complicity in trafficking crimes; the investigation remained ongoing. The government did not report any other investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes. In connection with the above case, the government opened a potential trafficking investigation involving six alleged traffickers; the case was ongoing. Authorities did not report an update to an investigation of a suspected commercial sex establishment opened the previous year. Government officials’ limited understanding of trafficking indicators and the perceived requirement of movement for trafficking crimes hindered progress.
The government established a specialized anti-trafficking unit within the Attorney General’s office criminal division to oversee anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The unit was composed of two full-time positions, one funded by the government and the other donor-funded; the donor- funded position remained open at the end of the reporting period. In March 2022, the government hired a new chief prosecutor to address prosecutorial gaps, such as lack of case management, strategy and policy development, and funding and resources. The government, in partnership with an international organization, trained national and local law enforcement officials on victim identification, evidence collection, and the victim identification and referral standard operating procedures (SOPs). In addition, the government provided trauma-informed response training to front-line responders, including law enforcement and health care professionals. The government reported it redirected or limited resources and institutional capacity among law enforcement and other government agencies as a result of the pandemic; this may have adversely affected the government’s ability to detect and address trafficking. The government reported a reduction in court cases heard, which may have been due to the pandemic and the adjustments of the courts to pandemic-related restrictions. The government lacked technical capacity for law enforcement to employ investigative and surveillance techniques and for prosecutors to use effective case management and court filing procedures. In addition, the government lacked sufficient institutionalized law enforcement training, recruitment of officers, law enforcement facilities, and funding to combat trafficking.