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The Government of Equatorial Guinea does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity, and is not making significant efforts to do so; therefore Equatorial Guinea was downgraded to Tier 3. Despite the lack of significant efforts, the government took some steps to address trafficking, including training law enforcement officials on trafficking. However, the government did not prosecute any traffickers and has never convicted a trafficker under its 2004 anti-trafficking law. The government did not identify any trafficking victims for the second consecutive year and did not make any efforts to proactively identify victims among vulnerable populations. The government’s anti-trafficking law did not criminalize all forms of trafficking. Allegations that senior government officials were complicit in trafficking crimes continued to hinder the government’s overall efforts to combat human trafficking. Authorities did not screen vulnerable populations for trafficking.

  • Prioritize the proactive identification of victims of trafficking – separate from fraudulent adoptions or other forms of abuse – including by screening vulnerable communities such as child laborers in markets; women in commercial sex; domestic and construction workers; undocumented immigrants; and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) national workers; and Cuban overseas workers, including medical professionals.
  • Significantly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes and convict traffickers, including complicit officials.
  • Increase funding for victim services and coordinate with civil society as well as NGOs to provide shelter for all identified trafficking victims.
  • Amend the penal code to remove the requirement of a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion in child sex trafficking cases.
  • Implement the 2022-2024 anti-trafficking National Action Plan (NAP) to enhance governmental coordination on anti-trafficking efforts and allocate dedicated resources to its implementation.
  • Continue to expand training for law enforcement and judicial officials to increase their capacity to investigate, prosecute, and – following a fair and transparent trial – convict traffickers.
  • Continue to train social workers, law enforcement, labor inspectors, and immigration officials on trafficking indicators.
  • Continue to include local officials in the nation-wide anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns to educate more individuals on trafficking indicators.
  • Re-establish the government’s web-based reporting platform and hotline for the public to report potential trafficking cases.
  • Screen all individuals in immigration detention or custody for indicators of human trafficking.
  • Provide legal pathways for undocumented migrants to obtain a residency permit.
  • Allow registration of anti-trafficking NGOs and enable their full and independent operation.
  • Regularly cooperate and communicate with law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and community advisors on victim identification and referral procedures among vulnerable populations to ensure better coordination with the anti-trafficking Interagency Coordinating Committee (TICC), NGOs and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

The government made inadequate anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts.  The 2004 Law on the Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons, as amended, criminalized some forms of sex trafficking and all forms of labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of at least 50 million Central African francs (CFA) ($81,460) for offenses involving adult victims; an additional five years would be added to the principle penalty for those involving child victims.  These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape.  Inconsistent with the international law definition, Equatorial Guinea’s legal framework required a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense, and therefore, it did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking.  Additionally, the law defined trafficking broadly to include illegal adoption without the purpose of exploitation.

The government did not make comprehensive law enforcement statistics easily accessible and had limited information management and data collection capabilities.  The government reportedly initiated investigations of 40 cases involving an unknown number of suspects; all 40 cases involved suspects identified in previous reporting periods.  This compared with the government investigating three suspects in an unknown number of cases in the previous reporting period.  The government has not prosecuted any suspected traffickers since 2019 and has never convicted a trafficker under its 2004 trafficking law.  The government did not report cooperating with foreign government counterparts on any law enforcement activities.

The government has not initiated prosecutions of any traffickers since 2019; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement and investigative efforts.  Multiple credible sources alleged senior officials were involved in human trafficking crimes, particularly by exploiting women and girls in domestic servitude in their own households or in sex trafficking.

Lower-level officials reportedly took bribes from foreign nationals who overstayed their visas, and judges were also accused of taking bribes and accepting other goods in exchange for favorable rulings.  Sources alleged members of the Equatoguinean military used fake family ties to falsify identity documents to facilitate a sex trafficking ring in Menorca, Spain involving women and girls.

The government organized training in Bata on human trafficking, investigative techniques, and victim identification for border agents and military personnel stationed in Equatorial Guinea’s continental region.  Despite continued training and awareness raising efforts by the government, many government officials lacked understanding of human trafficking, hindering the government’s ability to identify victims and address the crime.

The government made negligible efforts to protect victims. The government did not report identifying any trafficking victims for the second consecutive year. One NGO identified 250 potential trafficking victims and reintegrated nine Equatoguinean trafficking victims to their local communities. The government previously reported it had finalized two new standard operating procedures (SOPs) for victim protection and care – one for government agencies and the other for consular officers to use abroad; however, the SOPs remained pending final approval by the end of the reporting period. The government did not report providing services or referrals to any trafficking victims. Officials could designate government housing as temporary shelters for victims of trafficking and domestic violence, although authorities did not report providing such services to any trafficking victims. The government did not report funding allocated for anti-trafficking efforts to provide services and raise awareness compared with 75 million CFA ($122,190) in the previous reporting period. The government did not have victim-witness assistance procedures to support victim participation in the criminal justice process. The government had no formal policies to provide foreign trafficking victims legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they might face retribution or hardship. Due to a lack of widely used formal victim identification procedures, authorities may have deported or arrested some unidentified trafficking victims.

The government maintained limited efforts to prevent trafficking. The TICC, which included representatives from the Office of the Third Vice Prime Minister in charge of Human Rights, multiple ministries, and two NGOs, convened six times during the reporting period. The government maintained its 2022-2024 NAP, which built on key anti-trafficking priority recommendations highlighted in the previous reporting period. Authorities included activities in the updated NAP to combat emerging trends in online sexual exploitation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Diaspora did not provide any updates on the draft roadmap document to address anti-trafficking gaps highlighted in previous reporting periods. The Ministry of Interior and Local Corporations, in collaboration with a local NGO and international organizations, continued to host seminars for local authorities and community leaders on the identification of human trafficking and child labor in urban districts in Malabo and Bata, reportedly training 46 local leaders and health workers, a significant decrease compared with training 810 local leaders in the previous reporting period. As previously reported, the government partnered with the same NGO to hold additional seminars to raise awareness of human rights issues, including trafficking, for 20 health care workers. Observers reported a public service announcement on human trafficking created by the Ministry of National Security in 2020 continued to air on national TV stations. The Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security’s web-based reporting platform and hotline were no longer operational for individuals to anonymously report potential trafficking cases; no other hotline was available for trafficking-related calls.

The Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security continued to implement regulations requiring all companies to sign formal labor contracts with their employees; however, observers reported limited enforcement by the government. Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security officials conducted inspections; however, the government did not report identifying any trafficking victims during these inspections. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for diplomats; new training materials for diplomats drafted in the prior reporting period remained pending.

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.

U.S. Department of State

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