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.