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The Government of Cabo Verde 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, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Cabo Verde remained on Tier 2. These efforts included increasing trafficking investigations and identifying more victims. The government began implementing SOPs for victim identification and referral to services. The Observatory for Monitoring and Rapid Identification of Situations of Trafficking in Persons (the Observatory) drafted a new NAP, pending final adoption, and convened regularly. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Government agencies charged with combating trafficking continued to lack sufficient resources and training, and overall victim identification and protection efforts remained inadequate. Some observers alleged official corruption, complicity, and interference in a specific trafficking case. Officials conflated trafficking with other crimes and some prosecutors and judges continued to rely on more familiar legislation rather than using the anti-trafficking penal code provisions to prosecute and convict traffickers.

  • Fully implement and train law enforcement, labor inspectors, child protection actors, and other officials on the trafficking in persons manual SOPs to proactively identify trafficking victims, including among vulnerable populations such as children referred to Institute for Children and Adolescents (ICCA) and women referred to Institute for Gender Equality and Equity (ICIEG) shelters; child laborers and children experiencing homelessness; individuals in commercial sex; and migrant and overseas workers (including People’s Republic of China [PRC], Cuban, and ECOWAS nationals); refer trafficking victims to care.
  • Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms; ensure all trafficking cases are prosecuted through the judicial system, without political interference, rather than resolved through non-judicial means.
  • Train law enforcement and judicial officials on investigating and prosecuting cases using the anti-trafficking provision of the penal code, Article 271-A, and specialized investigative and prosecutorial techniques; consider designating specially trained law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and magistrates in charge of investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases.
  • Provide training to investigators and prosecutors on trafficking investigations and prosecutions, including evidence collection and victim-centered interview techniques.
  • Increase nationwide trafficking data collection on law enforcement and victim identification efforts and develop a system to compile and share data among agencies.
  • Continue strengthening the Observatory’s capacity to coordinate the government’s anti-trafficking response.
  • Finalize a new anti-trafficking NAP and allocate resources to its implementation.
  • Increase efforts to raise public awareness of human trafficking.

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Article 271-A of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of four to 10 years’ imprisonment; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

The government’s capacity to collect anti-trafficking statistics and comprehensively report on law enforcement actions was limited. Police and prosecutors initiated four investigations, continued six investigations from previous reporting periods, and closed six others due to a lack of evidence. This compared with initiating one investigation and continuing eight investigations during the previous reporting period. The government prosecuted and convicted one sex trafficker under penal code provisions on “pimping,” sentencing him to ten years’ imprisonment, and ordered him to pay an unreported amount in restitution. A court acquitted three defendants of labor trafficking and employment of undocumented foreign workers in a case which had been pending since 2019. According to observers, there were significant delays in hearing this case and officials did not provide sufficient victim witness-assistance or protection against reprisal for testifying. This compared with prosecuting and convicting one sex trafficker during the previous reporting period. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees for complicity in human trafficking crimes; however, observers reported official corruption and complicity inhibited or interfered with investigation, law enforcement action, and prosecution in a specific trafficking case. Some observers alleged border police (DEF) solicited bribes to obtain residency documents or illegally facilitated migrants’ entry into the country. Civil society contacts asserted that a reduction in the amount of documentation required of migrants to enter the country had diminished opportunities for corruption. Judges sometimes did not place alleged traffickers in preventative custody during investigations or prosecutions, potentially allowing them the opportunity to interfere in investigations or court proceedings, intimidate witnesses, or leave the country in the event the judge did not prohibit departure.

Inadequate anti-trafficking training, including of police and prosecutors responsible for handling trafficking cases, insufficient resources, and significant and persistent court case backlogs resulted in weak and inconsistent efforts to identify, investigate, and prosecute trafficking cases. Officials conflated human trafficking with other crimes, such as sexual abuse and exploitation or “pimping.” The government provided human rights training for new National Police (PN) officers, which included a component on human trafficking. The government also provided anti-trafficking training to DEF officers. However, it did not provide any specialized training to justice system officials, and some judges continued to rely on more familiar laws pre-dating anti-trafficking penal code provisions to process trafficking cases. Stakeholders reported law enforcement needed specialized training on investigative procedures, evidence collection, and interviewing potential victims. Judicial Police (PJ) presence was limited to the four islands with international airports and the most significant tourism activity, affecting the government’s ability to identify trafficking victims, investigate crimes, and collect comprehensive data. Despite improvements, information sharing between agencies remained inadequate; officials reported a need for additional coordination between the PJ, PN, and prosecutors, as well as between law enforcement and protection actors. Government social service providers often resolved intra-familial abuse and child labor cases, which could include child sex and labor trafficking, through non-judicial means.

The government modestly increased protection efforts. The government identified five trafficking victims (including four sex trafficking victims and one labor trafficking victim) and referred at least two of the victims to care. This compared with identifying and referring one labor trafficking victim to care during the previous reporting period. The government began implementing SOPs for trafficking victim identification and referral to services in partnership with an international organization; in at least one case, officials used the procedures to refer a victim to services. However, stakeholders reported the burden usually fell on victims to self-identify. Government social service providers did not screen individuals referred to shelters for indicators of trafficking. Government and civil society contacts assessed underreporting and conflation of human trafficking with other crimes hindered victim identification efforts. The government’s ability to track victim-related statistics continued to be limited.

Government-funded agencies provided emergency services, shelter, and psycho-social care to at-risk populations and female and child victims of crime, including potential trafficking victims. Law enforcement and first responders could refer child victims to ICCA, adult female victims to ICIEG or NGOs, and foreign victims to the High Authority for Migration (AAI) or an international organization. ICCA operated a national network to assist child victims of crime, including with referral to care and legal support, and operated centers on eight of Cabo Verde’s nine inhabited islands; two centers located on the islands of Santiago and Sao Vicente provided 24-hour emergency care. ICIEG operated five women’s shelters on four islands. AAI operated three centers on three islands providing daytime social services to migrants.

Access to victim services was not conditioned on cooperation with law enforcement proceedings. The government provided victim-witness assistance to support victim participation in the criminal justice process, but authorities noted it was difficult to provide meaningful assistance to victims due to the small population and close-knit community. Law enforcement interviewed child trafficking victims in collaboration with psychologists and the child’s parents, as appropriate. Adult and child victims could provide written or video testimony; the government did not report how many victims, if any, provided testimony or utilized this option. The government continued to support an NGO project seeking to enhance the justice system’s capacity to support child victims of sexual abuse, including trafficking; as part of this project, the NGO, with government support, equipped three dedicated hearing rooms to record child victims’ testimony using trauma-informed procedures for use in court cases. Cabo Verdean law provided legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. The law provided for restitution, and in one case noted above, the court awarded a victim an unreported amount in restitution. The government did not report if the restitution was paid by the end of the reporting period. In addition, victims could file civil suits against traffickers, but no victims reportedly did so, in part due to lack of awareness of this option. Due to inconsistent application of victim identification procedures and limited screening of vulnerable populations, including individuals in commercial sex and migrants, some victims may have remained unidentified within the law enforcement system.

The government increased prevention efforts. The Observatory, led by the Ministry of Justice, coordinated the government’s efforts to combat human trafficking and included officials from the PN, PJ, ICCA, ICIEG, Ministry of Family, Inclusion, and Social Development, other government institutions, and civil society organizations. The Observatory met six times in 2022, compared with meeting once in 2021. The government drafted a new anti-trafficking NAP, which was pending adoption at the end of the reporting period. The government allocated 7 million escudos ($68,000) for anti-trafficking activities, the same amount allocated the previous year. Observers reported a need for greater trust building, ownership, and coordination among Observatory members. The government made limited efforts to raise public awareness of trafficking. AAI led community workshops on migrants’ rights on Sal island, including a joint AAI-DEF workshop focused on labor rights. AAI, in partnership with the National Institute of Statics (INE), also conducted a nationwide survey to collect data on immigrants’ experiences in Cabo Verde; among other topics, the questionnaire assessed migrants’ vulnerability and working conditions and collected responses from over 2,000 randomly selected households representing over 61 nationalities. The study found 37 percent of respondents over the age of 15 worked in the informal sector and lacked social protection. As part of this initiative, AAI conducted significant awareness raising campaigns in collaboration with immigrant community associations to encourage participation. ICCA, also in collaboration with INE, launched a research survey on children’s rights, including a component on child labor.

Although not trained on human trafficking, the labor inspectorate (IGT) screened for labor violations and referred potential criminal cases to PJ and cases involving children to ICCA. IGT did not report identifying any trafficking or child labor cases. Twenty labor inspectors monitored all nine inhabited islands. Officials reported migrant workers and children working in the informal sector were especially vulnerable to trafficking; however, inspectors did not have the mandate or capacity to inspect the informal sector. ICCA operated a hotline linked to the PN hotline to report violence against children, including trafficking. The government did not report training hotline workers to differentiate trafficking from similar crimes, and ICCA did not report identifying any trafficking victims from hotline calls. The government made some efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts that equated to child sex trafficking, but it did not make efforts to reduce demand for other forms of commercial sex. ICCA and an international organization supported an Ethics Code of Conduct for Tourism, which included provisions to counter child sex tourism, but did not report conducting any activities under the code during the reporting period. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Cabo Verde, and, to a lesser extent, traffickers exploit victims from Cabo Verde abroad. Traffickers exploit Cabo Verdean and foreign national girls, and to a lesser extent boys, in sex trafficking. According to a study by an NGO, in some cases, parents encourage girls as young as 14 years old to engage in commercial sex with older Cabo Verdean men or tourists for financial gain or marriage; traffickers use this as an opportunity to exploit girls in child sex trafficking. Hotel employees and taxi drivers facilitate tourists’ participation in commercial sex and encourage demand for it. Some female sex tourists encourage Cabo Verdean men to emigrate and subsequently exploit them in debt bondage. Cabo Verdean children engaged in begging, domestic work, street vending, car washing, construction, garbage picking, fishing, and agriculture are vulnerable to trafficking; children used in illicit activities, including drug trafficking, are also vulnerable to human trafficking. Traffickers, often distant relatives, exploit children in labor trafficking in agriculture and domestic servitude through informal foster care. Children living in impoverished neighborhoods with little state presence are also vulnerable to trafficking, especially sex trafficking.

Organized trafficking networks exploit West African women, including from Nigeria and Senegal, in sex trafficking. Traffickers exploit West African migrants in labor trafficking, including in the hotel industry, construction, agriculture, domestic servitude, private security, clubs, and restaurants. West African migrants transit the archipelago en route to exploitative situations in Europe. Cuban overseas workers, including medical professionals, working in Cabo Verde may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. Organized networks of People’s Republic of China (PRC)-national owned shops operating in Cabo Verde exploit PRC national workers in labor trafficking. Traffickers may force Cabo Verdean and Brazilian women to transport drugs between the two countries. In previous reporting periods, observers reported Nigerian criminal syndicates exploited Cabo Verdean women in sex trafficking in Brazil.

U.S. Department of State

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