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Togo (Tier 2)

The Government of Togo does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. Despite the documented impact of the pandemic on the government’s anti-trafficking capacity, the government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Togo remained on Tier 2. Togolese authorities convicted more traffickers than previous years, continued an awareness raising campaign, and established a new national anti-trafficking committee to coordinate efforts. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Authorities identified fewer child victims and did not identify any adult victims. The government also did not update its national action plan (NAP) for the 14th consecutive year.

  • While maintaining the current stringent penalties Togo’s law calls for, allow courts outside of the Assize Court system to hear trafficking cases to expedite adjudication of pending and future cases.
  • Update the existing victim referral manual to include standard operating procedures (SOPs) for victim identification among adults and high-risk populations, and train law enforcement, justice sector personnel, and community-based child protection organizations on those procedures.
  • Draft, resource, and implement an updated NAP that incorporates adult victims and increases coordination with NGOs, neighboring countries, and regional organizations.
  • Provide training and institutional support to law enforcement and judicial officials to increase their ability to effectively investigate and prosecute trafficking cases; disseminate trafficking indicator documents to all police stations.
  • Designate focal points within the Ministry of Interior and Gendarmerie to coordinate and lead anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts.
  • Enact anti-trafficking legislation that includes provisions for victim protection, including witness protection in the law enforcement and judicial process, as well as the provision of shelter, medical care, and psychosocial services.
  • Work with NGOs and international organizations to increase the accessibility to shelter and provision of protective services to all trafficking victims.
  • Organize anti-trafficking outreach campaigns in collaboration with civil society to raise awareness of trafficking.
  • Develop a data collection and information management system to organize law enforcement and victim referral data, in collaboration with NGOs and international organizations.
  • Increase efforts to distribute birth certificates and national identity documents to citizens to reduce their vulnerability to trafficking.
  • Given significant concerns about forced labor indicators in Cuban international work programs, screen Cuban overseas workers, including medical professionals, and refer trafficking victims to appropriate services.

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Articles 317 through 320 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment and fines between 10 million and 50 million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($17,190 and $85,930) for offenses involving an adult victim and 20 to 30 years’ imprisonment and fines between 20 million and 50 million FCFA ($34,370 and $85,930) for offenses involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent, and with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

The Ministry of Justice’s anti-trafficking unit reported investigating 60 cases, compared with investigating 63 cases in 2020. Officials reported prosecuting 43 cases with 51 suspects, compared with prosecuting 54 suspects in 2020. The government convicted seven traffickers, compared with no convictions during the previous reporting period. Observers noted the Assize Court system, which handles all trafficking cases, had a substantial backlog of cases, which deterred victims from participating in judicial proceedings and resulted in some victims waiting years for their cases to be adjudicated. The lack of coordination between law enforcement and victim care providers hindered the government’s ability to prosecute cases. The absence of designated focal points for trafficking issues in the Gendarmerie and Ministry of Interior hindered law enforcement cooperation. Lack of witness protection programs and legal assistance likely also negatively affected witness cooperation. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes, although judicial corruption may have hindered some trafficking investigations. In past years, officials reported adjudicating some forced child labor cases through informal mediation processes.

The government continued to provide written instructions on victim identification to its law enforcement and immigration officials through the course of their basic training. The government partnered with an international organization to provide anti-trafficking training to judicial police officers. Observers stated in past years that frequent turnover hindered the development of some law enforcement units’ institutional knowledge. Officials did not report utilizing the country’s 2019 tripartite agreement with Benin and Burkina Faso to synchronize law enforcement efforts on transnational trafficking cases during the reporting period, although the pandemic hindered effective implementation.

The government maintained weak protection efforts. For the second consecutive year, the government identified fewer trafficking victims than the previous year. The Ministry of Social Affairs’ (MSA) Child Protection Director General reported the government identified 23 child trafficking victims (one boy and 22 girls) and no adult victims, compared with 132 child victims and 43 adult victims in 2020. The Child Protection Directorate General reported officials intercepted children at Togo’s border destined for Nigeria, Gabon, Benin, and Burkina Faso, but it did not provide information on the number of children intercepted, compared with 250 children intercepted during the prior reporting period. Government officials reported movement restrictions due to the pandemic may have hindered victim identification efforts. NGOs and international organizations reported identifying 419 victims during the reporting period, which included 417 children (316 girls and 101 boys) and two adult women. Law enforcement, immigration, and social service personnel used a written manual, last updated in 2012, to identify and refer victims to services in coordination with NGOs; however, the manual did not include SOPs for identifying victims among high-risk populations, such as women in commercial sex. The MSA continued to run a toll-free hotline for reporting child abuse, which operated 16 hours per day, seven days a week. Officials reported identifying 12 child victims from hotline tips during the reporting period, compared with 13 child victims during the previous reporting period. The MSA provided cell phones to Allo 10-11’s network of 150 contacts to facilitate nationwide coverage and utilized an informal referral system when callers identified potential victims.

The government reported providing psychological support, food, clothing, and health care to 11 victims, compared with providing services to 48 child victims in 2020. While the government ran a shelter for vulnerable children, including child trafficking victims, there were no shelters specifically for adult trafficking victims, severely limiting their access to care and justice. Instead, the government referred adult trafficking victims to a center intended for victims of natural and humanitarian disasters. The MSA continued to operate the Reference Center for the Guidance and Care of Children in a Difficult Situation (CROPESDI). The CROPESDI shelter, located in Lomé, received victims referred by the national child abuse hotline and provided shelter, as well as legal, medical, and social services, before transferring them to care facilities managed by NGOs. The government did not report how many child trafficking victims the shelter served. Observers reported the lack of shelter options for adult victims adversely impacted efforts to investigate potential cases; in some cases, officers reported using their own resources for shelter and basic necessities for adult victims, which disincentivized some police from pursuing viable cases. The government reportedly offered foreign trafficking victims the same access to shelters as domestic victims and performed a risk evaluation before it repatriated potential victims. The government identified and assisted an NGO in the repatriation of ten Ghanian children.

For the third consecutive year, the government allocated 18 million FCFA ($30,940) to efforts combatting child trafficking, of which it designated 11 million FCFA ($18,910) for victim care. The government additionally committed to providing 600,000 FCFA ($1,030) to each of the six NGO shelters that it supported but did not report if these funds were dispersed by the end of the reporting period. In 2020, the government formed a 5,000-person taskforce to enforce the country’s state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the participation of officials with anti-trafficking responsibilities in the taskforce continued to limit the government’s ability to implement protection efforts. The government did not have a formal process to encourage victims’ participation in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers and did not report providing protection services to adult victims who testified during court proceedings. Due to a lack of comprehensive identification procedures, authorities may have detained or deported some unidentified trafficking victims.

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. The government established the National Commission Against Trafficking in Persons (CNLTP) in 2021 and appointed the Commission’s 13 members, including two members from civil society organizations, in January 2022. The Commission began holding meetings in January. The Ministry of Social Action’s General Director of Child Protection chaired the Commission and was responsible for coordinating the government’s anti-trafficking policies and programs. The National Committee for the Reception and Social Reintegration of Child Victims of Trafficking (CNARSEVT) acted as the government’s central hub of information and statistics for child trafficking in Togo, gathering data for the annual trafficking in persons report to ECOWAS. CNARSVET serves as the primary point of contact for NGOs and international organizations to return child trafficking victims to Togo. Observers noted a lack of financial resources limited CNARSEVT’s effectiveness. The government has not updated its anti-trafficking NAP since 2008. In 2020, officials finalized Togo’s five-year NAP on child labor, which partially addressed trafficking. The government continued a national awareness raising campaign, promoting it with print, radio, and community dialogue components, which included information on child trafficking. However, the campaign’s reach was limited due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, including border closures and periodic curfews, and financial constraints resulting from the diversion of resources to pandemic-mitigation efforts. Protection committees comprised of local, traditional, community, and religious leaders existed in 116 municipalities and six administrative regions. These committees occasionally reported suspected trafficking cases to government officials.

Despite past allegations of fraudulent recruiters facilitating the exploitation of Togolese abroad, authorities did not report investigating any foreign labor recruiters for trafficking crimes. The Ministries of Labor and Social Action regulated labor recruitment firms, including foreign recruiters, but the government’s weak information management systems hindered its ability to provide enforcement statistics. The government worked to reduce the demand for forced child labor by continuing to partner with traditional religious leaders to eliminate exploitation in religious “apprenticeships,” which involve parents entrusting their children to religious leaders for education and employment purposes, who exploit them in forced domestic work or sexual slavery when parents are unable to pay “apprenticeship fees.” The government employed 123 labor inspectors who conducted 651 inspections in the first half of 2021, but it did not report whether any inspections identified child trafficking. The government did not report providing training on identifying human trafficking cases to labor inspectors. Financial constraints, including lack of funds for fuel, limited the effectiveness of inspections. The government currently registers approximately half of all children at birth, though the percentage is lower in rural areas; the lack of identification documents contributed to an increased vulnerability to trafficking in persons.

The government did not take any discernible measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Officials provided anti-trafficking training to Togolese troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. Although not explicitly reported as human trafficking, there was one open case of alleged sexual exploitation with trafficking indicators by a Togolese peacekeeper deployed to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali in 2020; the UN substantiated the allegations and repatriated the offender. The government had not yet reported the accountability measures taken, if any, by the end of the reporting period. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided its diplomats a guide to hiring domestic workers but did not report delivering trafficking-specific training.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Togo, and traffickers exploit victims from Togo abroad. While travel restrictions intended to slow the spread of the pandemic may have decreased transnational human trafficking, restrictions such as curfews imposed on the population—and the resulting deleterious economic impacts on livelihoods for individuals in the service and retail sectors—likely increased the vulnerability of many Togolese to exploitation during the reporting period.

Most trafficking victims are children from economically disadvantaged families in rural areas. Traffickers force men and boys to work in agriculture, quarries, and mechanical and carpentry shops. Women and girls are forced to work in markets, domestic service, bars and restaurants, and in commercial sex. Victims exploited in foreign countries are most often sent by land to Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria and via ship to Gabon. Togolese and other West African trafficking victims are also sent through Togo to the Middle East. Observers noted an increase in adult male and female trafficking victims working in Nigerian and Ivorian plantations. Families and trusted intermediaries take advantage of high levels of poverty throughout the country to exploit many Togolese trafficking victims, with the Centrale, Kara, and Savanes regions serving as primary source regions. NGOs and government officials reported markets selling Togolese children for commercial sex acts (“small girls markets” or devissime) exist in Lomé and elsewhere in the country. Traffickers force Togolese children to work in the agricultural sector—particularly on coffee, cocoa, and cotton farms—as well as in stone and sand quarries.

In past years, the western border of the Plateau region, which provides easy access to major roads between Lomé and Accra, Ghana, served as a primary area traffickers used to transport victims. NGOs noted the Abidjan-Lagos corridor remains a prominent route for cross-border trafficking of persons—as well as the smuggling of illicit goods—with criminals using Togo as a transit country. Civil society actors and law enforcement officers reported the country’s rise as a regional economic and logistics hub has led to a corresponding increase in human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Observers stated trafficking networks are predominantly community-based and loosely organized by local actors, while syndicates with ties to the Middle East are more organized.

Traffickers recruit children from Benin and Ghana and transport them to Togo for forced labor. Illicit networks exploit Ghanaian girls in sex trafficking in Togo. In past years, many Togolese adults and children migrated in search of economic opportunities to Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, where criminal elements may exploit them in forced labor and sex trafficking. Traffickers force victims to work in cocoa harvesting in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire; palm wine production and other agriculture sectors in rural Nigeria; gold mining in Burkina Faso; domestic service in urban Nigeria; and sex trafficking in Beninese and Nigerian bars and restaurants. Officials noted sex tourists from Lebanon, France, and Nigeria have exploited children in Togo during previous years, although pandemic-related travel restrictions likely minimized these risks for most of the reporting period. Cuban nationals working in Togo on medical missions may be forced to work by the Cuban government.

U.S. Department of State

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