As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Equatorial Guinea, and traffickers exploit victims from Equatorial Guinea abroad. Despite continued education and awareness raising efforts by the government, many civil society members and government officials still lack an understanding of human trafficking, hindering the country’s ability to identify victims and address the crime. Observers reported traffickers are adjusting their tactics to increasingly use online platforms to recruit and exploit victims. Observers reported Equatoguineans exploit the majority of trafficking victims in domestic servitude and sex trafficking in the cities of Malabo, Bata, Mongomo, and Ebebiyin, where relative wealth and security attracts Central and West African migrant workers.
Equatoguinean traffickers exploit local and foreign women in sex trafficking in these cities, with the Malabo neighborhoods of Banapa, Paraiso, and the city center as primary areas of concern. NGOs reported women and girls, especially LGBTQI+ persons, were particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Additionally, in some instances, the practice of “bride price,” where a man gives a certain amount of money to marry, is misused and may increase vulnerabilities to trafficking. Foreign national men were susceptible to deceptive employment offers and forced labor in construction, agriculture, domestic work (informal security guards), and other jobs with limited formal training.
Observers noted the sustained economic downturn due to decreasing oil prices and oil production – exacerbated by the global economic contraction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – resulted in Equatoguineans in urban centers replacing some foreign domestic workers with children from rural areas in Equatorial Guinea, whom they exploited in forced labor. Some business owners involved in the hospitality and restaurant sectors exploit hotel and bar workers in forced labor and sex trafficking within the country’s urban centers. Observers report LGBTQI+ youth are often left homeless and stigmatized by their families and society, increasing their vulnerability to trafficking. Traffickers fraudulently recruit Equatoguinean and foreign national children to attend school or learn a trade and instead exploit them in domestic servitude. Young men and girls participating in employment mentorship programs are vulnerable to trafficking due a lack of formal contracts. Equatoguinean and foreign business owners reportedly exploit children from nearby countries – primarily Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Cameroon – in forced labor as domestic workers, market laborers, and street vendors. Observers reported Equatoguinean traffickers – some of whom may be associated with the country’s elites – may exploit women from Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Ethiopia, and the PRC in sex trafficking at nightclubs, bars, and brothels in the country. Traffickers may exploit Equatoguineans in sex trafficking in Spain. Sources alleged members of the Equatoguinean military falsified identity documents to facilitate a sex trafficking ring in Menorca, Spain involving women and girls.
Some business owners recruit women from Benin, Cameroon, Ethiopia, other African countries, and Latin America for work in Equatorial Guinea and exploit them in forced labor in markets and hair salons or in sex trafficking. Sources reported the lack of birth certificates and legal documents to establish proof of individuals’ age, particularly children and women, make them vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking. Authorities reported some Equatoguineans hire domestic workers from Paraguay and other South American countries to exploit them in domestic servitude. PRC national-owned firms recruit PRC nationals to migrate to Equatorial Guinea for work; some of these businesses then confiscate workers’ passports, which increases their vulnerability to forced labor or sex trafficking.
Observers noted the government contracted highly-skilled professionals such as Cuban doctors and teachers to work in its public schools and hospitals. Some Cuban doctors arrived independently and established their own clinics. A small number of PRC nationals may have been forced to work on government-funded projects. Companies in the construction sector, among others, also sometimes held the passports of foreign workers, increasing their vulnerability to forced labor. Observers reported some corrupt and complicit government workers – including senior officials – participated in trafficking-related crimes. Authorities asserted some foreign diplomats accredited to Malabo may be directly involved in child trafficking and smuggling. Sources also reported government officials are keen on using foreigners as scapegoats for human trafficking crimes committed in Equatorial Guinea.