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The transition government of Burkina Faso does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The transition government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Burkina Faso was upgraded to Tier 2. These efforts included the transition government reporting prosecutions and convictions of traffickers for the first time in four years and identifying significantly more trafficking victims. The transition government drafted and approved an anti-trafficking NAP and signed a handover protocol for the transfer of children allegedly associated with armed groups, including potential trafficking victims, to protection actors. However, the transition government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Substantial personnel turnover related to the September 2022 consolidation of military power hindered Burkina Faso’s ability to maintain consistent anti-trafficking efforts and accurately report on those efforts for this reporting period. Officials did not effectively screen vulnerable populations for trafficking indicators and likely inappropriately detained unidentified trafficking victims for offenses committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Shelter services, especially for adult victims, remained insufficient. The transition government did not report any trafficking investigations and courts issued fully suspended sentences to most convicted traffickers. The national anti-trafficking committee did not meet or coordinate anti-trafficking activities. The transition government did not investigate or hold officials accountable for complicity in trafficking crimes.

  • Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes – including the forced recruitment or use of children and official complicity in trafficking crimes – while respecting due process; seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms, as prescribed in the 2018 penal code.
  • Fully implement the handover protocol for children associated with non-state armed groups in collaboration with international organizations; cease inappropriately detaining children for offenses committed as a direct result of being trafficked and prioritize reintegration of children allegedly associated with armed groups.
  • Increase the quantity and quality of services available to all victims, including adults, in coordination with civil society.
  • Empower the national anti-trafficking committee to coordinate the transition government’s anti-trafficking response and implementation of its 2023-2025 NAP, including by providing financial and in-kind resources and convening regular meetings.
  • Standardize and train front-line officials throughout the country on SOPs to identify victims among vulnerable populations, such as IDPs, labor migrants, children associated with non-state armed groups, and women in commercial sex, and refer trafficking victims to protective services.
  • Increase nationwide trafficking data collection and sharing on law enforcement and victim identification efforts.
  • Train law enforcement, prosecutors, and the judiciary on investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases using the 2018 anti-trafficking law.
  • Increase oversight of labor recruitment agencies and hold fraudulent labor recruiters criminally accountable.
  • Increase public awareness campaigns on all forms of trafficking, including child forced begging and trafficking that does not involve movement, in collaboration with civil society.

The transition government increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Articles 511-1 to 511-5 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and fines of 1 million to 5 million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($1,625-$8,130) for offenses involving a victim older than the age of 15, and 11 to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 2 million to 10 million FCFA ($3,255-$16,265) for those involving a victim 15 years old or younger. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

Insecurity across the country hindered the transition government’s collection of law enforcement statistics. The transition government did not report any trafficking investigations for the second consecutive year. For the first time in four years, the transition government reported prosecuting 31 alleged traffickers and convicting 22 traffickers for unspecified forms of trafficking in data collected from five of Burkina Faso’s 27 districts; the courts acquitted six defendants. However, the transition government did not disaggregate the data between sex and labor trafficking, and therefore it may have included other crimes, such as migrant smuggling or child labor. Courts sentenced 22 convicted traffickers to between six months’ and five years’ imprisonment; however, five of the traffickers received partially suspended sentences and 12 traffickers received fully suspended sentences, which did not serve to deter or adequately reflect the nature of the crime. Media also reported courts convicted two additional traffickers, sentencing one trafficker to four years’ imprisonment, and issuing a fully suspended sentence to the other trafficker.

The transition government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action. Media reported the transition government-supported Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland forcibly conscripted three adults. In previous reporting periods, authorities alleged some officials exerted pressure over police and the judiciary to drop labor trafficking cases, especially in the mining sector. The Ministry of Gender and Family closed its investigation of local officials involved in a humanitarian food assistance program who reportedly exploited female IDPs in sex trafficking between October 2020 and May 2021 and it did not report any accountability measures. In July 2018, a federal court in New York entered a default judgment against a former Burkina Faso diplomat who was previously assigned to Burkina Faso’s Mission to the UN. The plaintiff (the diplomat’s former domestic worker) alleged, among other things, violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and federal and state labor laws. In October 2019, the court awarded the plaintiff approximately $784,000. The judgment remains unpaid, and the transition government did not report taking any action to hold the diplomat accountable for the fourth consecutive year.

Child protection units comprising law enforcement and protection actors in offices throughout the country were in charge of identifying and supporting vulnerable children, including child trafficking victims. The transition government had law enforcement cooperation agreements with Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Togo, and Benin to combat human trafficking but did not report collaborating with any foreign counterparts on law enforcement activities. The judicial academy’s curriculum for prosecutors and judges included an anti-trafficking component. The transition government did not report providing specialized anti-trafficking training to law enforcement.

The transition government maintained mixed protection efforts. The transition government compiled and released victim identification data for 2021, the most recent year available for finalized government statistics, and reported officials identified and referred to services 1,532 trafficking victims (including 184 sex trafficking victims and 1,348 labor trafficking victims); the majority of identified victims (1,486) were children. This compared with the transition government not reporting any victims identified or referred to care the previous year. Authorities and front-line responders had victim identification and referral SOPs in some regions. In addition, the transition government had a case management guide for law enforcement and social service providers to facilitate the uniform referral of child victims of crime – including trafficking victims – to care. Officials continued to coordinate with an international organization to screen for trafficking indicators among refugees and IDPs but did not report identifying any potential victims among these populations. Weak case management and data collection hindered the transition government’s ability to track victim-related statistics.

The Ministry of Gender and Family operated 36 reception centers for child crime victims, including trafficking victims; the centers provided limited services, including psycho-social, medical, and short-term shelter support, before reintegrating or transferring children to foster families. The transition government did not report the number of trafficking victims, if any, it referred to the centers. Two of the centers in Ouagadougou operated 24-hour shelters, provided food and medical assistance, and could accommodate long-term stays for both adults and children. One of the centers provided assistance to at least 700 children during the year. The centers relied heavily on local NGOs and international organizations for support. The transition government operated four emergency integrated support centers for female victims of violence, including sex trafficking, and a victim support fund; it did not report how many victims, if any, it provided these services to during the reporting period. Shelter services for adult victims were severely limited, especially outside of the capital. Long-term care for all victims remained inadequate, and service providers lacked the funding and resources to support victim services and reintegration. The lack of support subsequently increased victims’ vulnerability to re-trafficking. The transition government worked with international organizations and foreign donors to implement its humanitarian response plan, providing shelter, food, and essential supplies to millions of vulnerable people in conflict-affected areas, including potential trafficking victims.

Access to victim services was not conditioned on cooperation with law enforcement proceedings. The 2018 penal code contained provisions to support victims’ participation in investigations and prosecutions, including allowing victims to testify in closed sessions, excusing victims from appearing at hearings, and providing victim-witness assistance by offering legal assistance and allowing social workers to accompany child victims. However, the transition government did not report utilizing these provisions during the reporting period. The law allowed victims to obtain restitution, but the transition government did not report pursuing restitution in any cases. Victims could file civil suits against the traffickers; however, no victims reportedly used this provision, and many victims were not aware of this option. Foreign victims who faced hardship or retribution in their country of origin could apply for asylum, but authorities did not report granting asylum to any victims.

Due to the lack of uniform victim identification procedures, officials likely detained unidentified victims. The transition government and an international organization signed a protocol on the treatment of children detained by security forces for alleged association with armed groups; the protocol stipulated defense forces must transfer the children to social services or to the specialized juvenile justice courts within three days of identification. Authorities began implementing the protocol and reportedly transferred 149 children to protection actors. However, the protocol did not apply to children previously detained. As a result, the transition government continued inappropriately detaining at least 15 children as young as 14 years old for alleged association with violent extremist groups, including potential trafficking victims. Authorities held the children in a high-security prison separately from adult detainees and allowed international organizations and NGOs access to provide specialized care, including legal services. In many cases, authorities held detainees, including children allegedly associated with violent extremist groups, without charge or trial for longer periods than the maximum sentence for the alleged offense; authorities have detained some boys since 2018. Detainees, including children allegedly associated with violent extremist groups, faced harsh conditions, including inadequate food and water, and poor ventilation, lighting, and medical care. Some officials stated the handover protocol was not legally mandated and therefore did not prevent the government from prosecuting children for terrorism under the criminal code.

The transition government modestly increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The Ministry of Gender and Family nominally led the transition government’s national anti-trafficking coordination committee, but the committee did not meet or conduct capacity building activities for the third consecutive year. The transition government, in coordination with an international organization and foreign donor, drafted and validated a new 2023-2025 anti-trafficking NAP and allocated resources to its implementation. The transition government’s national coordination committee on the worst forms of child labor, including child trafficking, continued to implement its 2019-2023 national strategy and 2022-2023 operational action plan.

The transition government made limited efforts to raise awareness of human trafficking. Some regional and provincial sub-committees coordinated local efforts and held public awareness campaigns. However, the sub-committees also lacked resources and funding for day-to-day operations. The transition government did not report continuing its program with Quranic teachers to promote child protection and prevent forced begging. The Ministry of Gender and Family operated a hotline to report child abuse and GBV, including potential trafficking cases, but did not report identifying any trafficking victims from hotline calls.

The transition government did not report any policies to regulate labor recruitment or prevent the fraudulent recruitment and exploitation of Burkinabe nationals abroad. The transition government conducted labor inspections but could not access all regions of the country due to insecurity; the transition government did not report how many potential trafficking victims, if any, it identified during the inspections. The Ministry of Labor created a new mobile application to help inspectors screen for and collect data on child labor, including cases of child trafficking; the application was not yet operational at the end of the reporting period. The transition government continued working with an international organization to issue thousands of birth certificates and national identity documents to vulnerable populations, including IDPs. The transition government did not report any efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The transition government did not report providing any anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel. The transition government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to its troops prior to their deployment as peacekeepers. Although not explicitly reported as human trafficking, there were two open cases of alleged sexual exploitation with trafficking indicators by Burkinabe peacekeepers deployed to the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2021. UN-led investigations into these open cases remained pending, and the transition government had not yet reported the accountability measures taken, if any, by the end of the reporting period.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Burkina Faso, and traffickers exploit victims from Burkina Faso abroad. Traffickers exploit Burkinabe children and children from other West African countries in forced labor in agriculture, artisanal gold panning and washing, street vending, and domestic servitude. An international organization estimates between 200,000-300,000 children work in artisanal mining sites, some of whom may be trafficking victims. Traffickers exploit girls in sex trafficking in Ouagadougou and in mining towns. Unscrupulous Quranic teachers force or coerce talibes to beg in Quranic schools, sometimes with parents’ knowledge. Traffickers transport Burkinabe children – including children who experienced homelessness – to Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal, and Niger for forced labor in artisanal mining, forced begging, and cocoa production, as well as sex trafficking. Children are required to have birth certificates to access primary education; an estimated 20 percent of children do not have birth certificates and cannot go to school, increasing their vulnerability to trafficking. Seven out of 10 IDPs also lack government documentation.

There were an estimated two million IDPs in Burkina Faso. Forcibly displaced persons migrating from rural areas to urban centers are vulnerable to forced labor and sex trafficking. Violent extremist groups exploit women and children, including IDPs, in forced labor and sex trafficking, and reportedly coerce individuals to carry out attacks and otherwise act as accomplices. Violent extremist groups continue to recruit and use child soldiers, and observers reported instances of child soldier recruitment are increasing. School closures and regional and economic instability increase children’s vulnerability to trafficking and recruitment by armed groups. Armed groups leverage economic vulnerability to recruit children, sometimes with familial support, by promising large sums of money and gifting motorcycles. Armed groups also target talibes due to the boys’ lack of economic alternatives.

Traffickers recruit women for ostensibly legitimate employment in the Middle East and – to a lesser extent – Europe, and subsequently exploit them in sex trafficking and domestic servitude. Traffickers fraudulently recruit women from other West African countries for employment and subsequently exploit them in forced labor in restaurants or domestic servitude. Traffickers fraudulently recruit Nigerian women and girls for employment in shops and salons, and instead exploit them in sex trafficking in mining regions, often through the use of debt bondage. Cuban overseas workers, including medical professionals, working in Burkina Faso may have been forced to work by the Cuban government.

U.S. Department of State

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