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Sudan (Tier 2)

The Government of Sudan 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 on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Sudan remained on Tier 2. These efforts included convicting more traffickers, updating its national action plan, and providing training on the illegality of child soldier recruitment and use to civilian protection and military forces. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Substantial personnel turnover related to the October 2021 military takeover hindered Sudan’s ability to maintain consistent anti-trafficking efforts. Authorities continued to conflate human trafficking with migrant smuggling, hindering law enforcement efforts. For the third consecutive year, the government did not disseminate or implement standard operating procedures (SOPs) for victim identification and referral to care for child trafficking victims developed in partnership with an international organization. For the third consecutive year, there were allegations officials may have sexually exploited refugees in government-run camps. The government has yet to investigate or prosecute any officials for forced recruitment or use of child soldiers.

  • Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute traffickers as well as complicit officials, including distinguishing those allegedly responsible for labor and sex trafficking as distinct from migrant smuggling or kidnapping crimes.
  • Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute officials who were complicit in child soldier recruitment and use.
  • Coordinate with civil society and international organizations to disseminate and implement SOPs for authorities and first responders to identify child sex and labor trafficking victims and develop SOPs for adult trafficking victims.
  • Ensure all identified trafficking victims are referred to appropriate protective services.
  • While respecting fair trial guarantees, sentence convicted traffickers to adequate penalties according to the country’s anti-trafficking law.
  • Increase training for security and judicial officials on distinguishing trafficking from other crimes, such as migrant smuggling and kidnapping for ransom, and ensure recipients use this guidance to train other officials.
  • Ensure authorities do not penalize trafficking victims for crimes committed as a direct result of unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit, such as women coerced into commercial sex acts.
  • Provide sufficient human and material resources to the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking (NCCHT).
  • Implement and dedicate adequate resources to the 2021-2023 national anti-trafficking action plan.
  • Partner with civil society, international organizations, and the private sector to establish additional shelter options for trafficking victims.
  • Develop a data collection and information management system in collaboration with international organizations to more effectively organize law enforcement data.
  • Draft and finalize a standalone smuggling law to enhance judicial officials’ ability to prosecute migrant smuggling crimes separate from human trafficking crimes.

The government maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2014 Anti-Human Trafficking Law, as amended, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The law prescribed between three and 10 years’ imprisonment for base offenses involving adult male victims and between five and 20 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving adult female and child victims or involving additional aggravating circumstances; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with the penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 14 of the Sudan Armed Forces Act of 2007 criminalized the recruitment of children younger than 18 years old by state armed forces, the enslavement of civilians, sexual slavery, and coercing civilians into prostitution, and it prescribed penalties between three years’ imprisonment and death.

Authorities continued to conflate migrant smuggling and human trafficking crimes; thus, the government’s reported data likely included cases that did not involve trafficking elements in line with international definitional standards. The government reported investigating 26 cases, involving an unknown number of suspects, compared with an unknown number of cases that involved 118 suspects in the previous reporting period. The government reported prosecuting eight cases, involving an unknown number of suspects, compared with 36 cases involving 80 suspects in the previous reporting period. The government reported convicting 32 traffickers compared with convicting eight defendants of trafficking-related crimes in the previous reporting period. Two additional cases resulted in acquittals, and five cases were dismissed. In prior years, insufficient sentencing of traffickers weakened deterrence and was not in line with sanctions required by the country’s anti-trafficking law. Courts were intermittently closed during the year due to strikes and pandemic restrictions.

The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to law enforcement, prosecutors, or judges. Authorities continued to conflate human trafficking, migrant smuggling, and kidnapping for ransom, which impeded accurate assessment of Sudan’s anti-trafficking law enforcement data. Experts noted the lack of a standalone smuggling law impeded judicial officials’ efforts to prosecute migrant smugglers separate from human traffickers. In a previous reporting period, law enforcement officers stated potential foreign victims declining to cooperate with investigators impeded prosecutions of transnational cases.

Authorities did not report the results of investigations into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse—which may have included aspects of sex trafficking, to include transactional sex—by officials from the Commission of Refugees and General Intelligence Services. Experts noted some law enforcement and border officers were complicit in or otherwise profited from trafficking crimes specifically related to exploiting migrants along Sudan’s borders. During the reporting period, an international organization reported on the abduction and detention of a girl on a Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) base in sexual slavery for an extended period, which meets the legal standards for recruitment and use of a child soldier by the SAF. The government did not report efforts to investigate complicit officials.

The government maintained inadequate efforts to identify and protect victims. The government reported identifying 633 potential trafficking victims, 400 men and 233 women, compared with identifying 494 potential victims during the previous reporting period. Due to a dearth of training and ongoing conflation between migrant smuggling and human trafficking, the government did not always distinguish between trafficking victims and individuals who purchased the services of smugglers to cross international borders illegally and were not exploited in forced labor or sex trafficking. The government reported providing food, psycho-social services, and basic medical services at two government-run shelters. The government reported referring an unspecified number of potential victims to shelters. Officials reported existing shelters were in dire need of refurbishment and a dearth of trained mental health professionals to provide care to trafficking victims. The lack of shelters adversely affected the country’s ability to protect victims once identified.

For the third consecutive year, officials did not report disseminating or implementing child trafficking victim identification SOPs developed in 2018 in partnership with an international organization. The government did not have SOPs for victim identification and referral to care for adults. The government’s past denial of sex trafficking occurring within Sudan, coupled with authorities’ inconsistent screening of vulnerable populations, likely resulted in the arrests and detention of women whom traffickers compelled into commercial sex. Sudan’s Domestic Workers Act of 2008 provided a legal framework for employing and registering domestic workers with limited labor rights and protections; however, the government did not report registering or protecting any domestic workers under the law during the reporting period.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The NCCHT led the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, including implementing the 2021-2023 national action plan, which launched in August. The NCCHT, which included subcommittees in the states of Gedaraf, Kassala, North and West Darfur, and Northern State, convened regularly. Observers noted that a lack of human and material resources—as well as a limited presence outside the capital—hindered the NCCHT’s ability to execute its mandate. The Ministry of Interior’s Department of Combating Human Trafficking is responsible for anti-trafficking law enforcement and would provide services to identified trafficking victims, including maintaining one shelter which was in need of repairs.

The government reported it conducted awareness raising campaigns about the 2021 amendments to the anti-trafficking law and the national action plan. Additionally, trafficking was covered in primary and secondary school curricula. The government provided training to recruitment agencies and prepared informational material on the risks of exploitation for Sudanese seeking work abroad. The government reported it ran a hotline but did not provide information on the hotline’s purpose or utility. Ministry of Labor inspectors were responsible for providing oversight of recruitment agencies, but they did not report investigating or sanctioning fraudulent recruiters during the reporting period. The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. Officials did not report efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex.

SAF officials continued to staff the Child Rights Unit (CRU), established in 2019, which led the government’s child protection efforts in conflict areas. The government reported the CRU provided training focused on the rights of the child in conflict—including sensitization on the illegality of child soldier recruitment and use—to civilian protection and military forces. The government did not report inspecting Rapid Support Forces (RSF) or SAF units to ensure there were no cases of child soldier recruitment or use. For the second consecutive year, the government did not report finalizing the military’s training manual on child rights, including child soldier prevention and referral. The Sudanese Joint Chiefs of Staff continued to issue and disseminate command orders every three months during the reporting period, directing military officials to follow the government’s ban against recruiting or using individuals younger than 18 years of age in support or combat roles.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Sudan, and traffickers exploit victims from Sudan at home and abroad. Traffickers exploit children experiencing homelessness in Khartoum—including Sudanese and unaccompanied migrant children from West and Central Africa—in forced labor for begging, public transportation, and large markets and in sex trafficking. Business owners, informal mining operators, community members, and farmers exploit children working in brick-making factories, gold mining, collecting medical waste, street vending, and agriculture; the traffickers expose the children to threats, physical and sexual abuse, and hazardous working conditions with limited access to education or health services. Criminal groups exploit Sudanese women and girls—particularly internally displaced persons (IDPs) or those from rural areas—in domestic work and in sex trafficking.

Due to regional instability and conflict, there are more than three million IDPs and 1.1 million refugees in Sudan—populations with increased vulnerability to forced labor or sex trafficking. Observers reported concerns that government officials from the Commission of Refugees and General Intelligence Service were potentially sexually exploiting refugees—including newly arrived Ethiopians—in Sudan. Additionally, due to the government’s refugee encampment policy that restricts refugees from moving freely within the country, some refugees utilized migrant smugglers inside Sudan, which further increased their risk of exploitation. Additionally, reports alleged corrupt RSF officials financially benefited from their role as border guards and took a direct role in human trafficking. In past years, the non-governmental armed groups Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) al-Hilu and SPLM-N Malak Aga conscripted child soldiers from refugee camps in South Sudan and brought them into Sudan. The Sudanese Alliance recruited and used child soldiers in Darfur. An international organization reported there were at least 300 child soldiers in Darfur being used by unidentified armed groups.

Sudan is a primary transit point for irregular migrants and refugees from the Horn of Africa seeking to reach Europe. Large populations of Eritrean, Ethiopian, and other African asylum-seekers, as well as some Syrians—all populations vulnerable to trafficking due to their economic fragility and lack of access to justice—resided in Khartoum while planning to travel to Europe. Sudanese traffickers compel Ethiopian women to work in private homes in Khartoum and other urban centers. Well-organized and cross-border criminal syndicates force some Ethiopian women into commercial sex in Khartoum by manipulating debts and other forms of coercion. Attempting to escape conflict and poverty, many East African victims of trafficking initially seek out the services of migrant smugglers, who coerce the migrants into forced labor or sex trafficking. Egyptian government forces allegedly exploit some Sudanese migrants in forced labor in Egypt. Sudanese transiting the Sinai on their way to Israel are at risk of kidnapping and exploitation by Bedouins and at further risk of trafficking when they arrive in Israel.

Due to the years of conflict in South Sudan, the South Sudanese refugee population in Sudan was more than 800,000 in 2021; many of these refugees remain vulnerable to forced labor and sex trafficking. In 2018, an international organization documented cases of traffickers exploiting West and Central African nationals—primarily from Chad, Mali, and Niger—arriving in Sudan via irregular migratory routes.

Darfuri armed groups exploit some migrants in forced labor or sex trafficking. Smugglers linked to the Rashaida and Tabo tribes abduct Eritrean nationals at border crossings, extort them for ransom, and subject them to abuse, including trafficking. Other cross-border tribes also force abductees to perform domestic or manual labor and abuse them in other ways, including exploiting them in forced labor or sex trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

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