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The Government of Guinea-Bissau does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Guinea-Bissau remained on Tier 3. Despite the lack of significant efforts, the government took some steps to address trafficking, including implementing NRM procedures to refer child trafficking victims to civil society organizations for care, providing anti-trafficking training to border officials, and conducting a public awareness-raising radio campaign. However, the government did not prosecute any alleged traffickers for the fourth consecutive year, and it has never convicted a trafficker under its anti-trafficking law. Victim identification and services remained inadequate. The inter-ministerial committee did not conduct any anti-trafficking activities. The government continued to lack resources and political will to comprehensively combat human trafficking.

  • Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including corrupt Quranic teachers who exploit boys in forced begging and complicit officials, and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • Cease using extra-judicial or administrative remedies to resolve human trafficking cases.
  • Finalize and implement standard procedures to systematically identify trafficking victims, including among vulnerable populations such as children exploited in forced begging, child laborers, domestic workers, individuals in commercial sex, and Cuban overseas workers.
  • Train the national guard, judicial police, and local police on identifying trafficking crimes and procedures for referring cases to the judicial police for criminal investigation.
  • Provide resources to the judicial police to expand its area of operation, including in Bijagos.
  • Fully implement the NRM by training law enforcement, judicial officials, social workers, and civil society on the procedures to refer all identified trafficking victims to care.
  • Allocate financial or in-kind resources for the anti-trafficking inter-ministerial committee, convene regular meetings, and strengthen its authority to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts across government agencies.
  • In collaboration with civil society, increase the quantity and quality of services available to all trafficking victims, including adults.
  • Strengthen cooperation with the Government of Senegal to repatriate and reintegrate trafficking victims, especially child forced begging victims, and investigate trafficking networks.
  • Develop and finalize a NAP to combat trafficking and allocate resources to its implementation.
  • Significantly increase efforts to raise public awareness of human trafficking, especially forced begging and child sex trafficking.

The government maintained minimal law enforcement efforts. Public Law 12/2011 criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of three to 15 years’ imprisonment and the confiscation of any proceeds from the crime. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

The government reported investigating three child labor trafficking cases, compared with investigating an unknown number of potential trafficking cases involving 92 potential forced begging victims during the previous reporting period. Law enforcement referred all three cases for prosecution. While the government did not report any prosecutions for the fourth consecutive year, it did initiate preliminary procedures to prosecute two alleged traffickers. The government has never convicted a trafficker under the anti-trafficking law. The president directed law enforcement authorities to hold perpetrators of child forced begging accountable. Despite the prevalence of Bissau-Guinean boys exploited in Senegal and other neighboring countries for forced begging, the government did not cooperate with foreign counterparts on law enforcement investigations. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking crimes; however, official corruption and complicity in trafficking crimes remained concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. The judicial system lacked sufficient personnel and resources to function effectively, and corruption remained pervasive. Observers alleged government officials interfered in investigations and derailed prosecutions of politically-connected traffickers in exchange for bribes. The government did not demonstrate high-level political will to address human trafficking.

The judicial police had a specialized unit to investigate trafficking cases; however, it had limited coverage outside the capital and did not have a dedicated budget. The national guard patrolled Guinea-Bissau’s borders and had a unit dedicated to investigating crimes involving women and children, including trafficking; however, it did not have a dedicated budget. The national guard and local police in rural areas lacked training to investigate human trafficking crimes and did not consistently refer potential trafficking cases to the judicial police for investigation. The national guard trained some border officials on identifying human trafficking cases, compared with no trainings held during the previous three years. Some law enforcement and judicial officials remained unaware of the 2011 anti-trafficking law. Police and judges often settled trafficking cases through informal resolution mechanisms rather than the formal justice system.

The government decreased already insufficient protection efforts. The government reported identifying and referring to services at least 57 forced child labor victims, compared with identifying and referring 92 child forced begging victims and 33 potential child trafficking victims during the previous reporting period. The national guard reported intercepting 300 children at the border, which it believed included some trafficking victims. The government did not have formal procedures to identify trafficking victims but continued implementing its NRM and referred vulnerable children, including potential trafficking victims, to NGOs for care. High illiteracy rates, including among security services, hampered the government’s ability to finalize and implement written victim identification procedures; draft victim identification procedures, compiled in previous reporting periods with the assistance of an international organization, remained unfinished. One NGO reported the government referred 135 children to its shelter, including victims of sexual exploitation and abuse, child labor, forced marriage, and migrants, which may have included potential trafficking victims. An international organization repatriated 164 Bissau-Guinean boys exploited in begging in Senegal without government support. Protection actors reported some families returned their children to traffickers after they were removed from situations of forced begging and repatriated.

The National Institute for Women and Children (IMC) under the Ministry of Family Affairs was responsible for victim services and coordination of services among various entities; however, it lacked sufficient funding and resources. The government relied on international organizations and local NGOs to provide nearly all victim services, including reintegration support, shelter, medical services, and legal assistance; these NGOs subsequently relied on international donors for funding. The government did not provide financial or in-kind support to NGOs assisting trafficking victims for the fourth consecutive year. Three NGO shelters were accessible to child trafficking victims but were severely overcrowded and underfunded; one shelter provided specific services to trafficking victims. Children typically received short-term housing, followed by reintegration support. Adult trafficking victims could access NGO-operated shelters for vulnerable individuals, but neither the government nor civil society reported identifying or referring any adult victims to care. Foreign national victims had access to the same services as Bissau-Guinean victims. The government reported Bissau-Guinean and Senegalese border officials routinely cooperated to repatriate Bissau-Guinean child trafficking victims intercepted at the border, but it did not report the number of children repatriated.

The government did not have victim-witness assistance procedures to support victim participation in the criminal justice process. Victims could not obtain restitution or file civil suits against their traffickers. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. Due to a lack of formal identification procedures, authorities may have detained some unidentified trafficking victims.

The government decreased efforts to prevent trafficking. The inter-ministerial committee, led by the IMC and including government agencies, NGOs, and religious groups, did not meet during the reporting period, compared with convening regular meetings during the previous reporting period. The committee lacked funding for anti-trafficking activities, which weakened its effectiveness and ability to coordinate national anti-trafficking efforts. The government did not have an active NAP to address human trafficking. The national guard, in collaboration with a foreign donor, conducted four national radio presentations to raise public awareness of human trafficking; this compared with no public awareness campaigns held during the previous two years. The government operated a hotline for crime victims, including human trafficking; NGOs reported officials referred an unknown number of trafficking victims for care as a result of hotline calls.

The labor inspectorate, housed within the Ministry of Labor, Civil Service and Public Administration, lacked funding, resources, and training to investigate labor trafficking cases nationwide. The government did not inspect any local daaras (Quranic schools) for indicators of forced begging. Amendments to the labor code that would extend labor protections to domestic workers remained pending in the national assembly since 2015. The government did not prohibit worker-paid recruitment fees, which increased labor migrants’ vulnerability to trafficking. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, such as through public awareness campaigns. The IMC and the Ministry of Tourism had a code of conduct against sexual exploitation in the tourism sector in the Bijagos islands, Bubaque, Sao Domingos, and Bissau. The code included provisions for raising public awareness of child sex trafficking and increasing awareness of hotel workers and tourism labor inspectors to combat these crimes; however, the government did not report conducting any implementation activities. 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 Guinea-Bissau, and traffickers exploit victims from Guinea-Bissau abroad. Child forced begging is the most prevalent form of human trafficking. Some corrupt Quranic teachers exploit their students in forced begging and do not provide an education. The traffickers are principally men from the Bafata and Gabu regions – often former students or men who claim to be working for a Quranic teacher – and are generally well-known within the communities in which they operate. Corrupt Quranic teachers exploit Guinea-Bissau’s weak institutions and porous borders to transport large numbers of Bissau-Guinean boys to Senegal – and to a lesser extent Mali, Guinea, and The Gambia – for forced begging in exploitative daaras. Corrupt Quranic teachers also force Bissau-Guinean, Guinean, Gambian, and Sierra Leonean boys to beg in Bissau. In some cases, due to lack of economic alternatives, families willingly send their children to Senegal knowing they will be forced to beg. Officials report the free movement of ECOWAS citizens makes it easier for traffickers to cross West African borders. According to an international organization, Guinea-Bissau’s birth registration rate is less than 25 percent, increasing vulnerability to trafficking, especially among children.

Traffickers exploit Bissau-Guinean boys in forced labor in street vending and in the agricultural and mining sectors in Senegal, especially around the southern cities of Kolda and Ziguinchor. Traffickers force West African boys to harvest cashews during Guinea-Bissau’s annual harvest, and some boys recruited for work in the harvest are then forced to beg. Children placed in apprenticeships by their families in fishing, construction, and mechanical shops are vulnerable to labor trafficking. Traffickers exploit Bissau-Guinean girls in sex trafficking and forced labor in street vending and domestic work in Guinea, The Gambia, and Senegal. Senegalese trafficking networks recruit Bissau-Guinean girls for modeling jobs or traveling football clubs and exploit them in sex trafficking. Traffickers fraudulently recruit and exploit Bissau-Guinean women in domestic servitude in Guinea-Bissau and abroad. Traffickers exploit Bissau-Guinean girls in domestic servitude and in sex trafficking in bars, nightclubs, and hotels in Bissau. Women in commercial sex and children in the Bijagos, an archipelago largely devoid of government and law enforcement presence, are vulnerable to sex trafficking. Cuban nationals working in Guinea-Bissau may have been forced to work by the Cuban government.

U.S. Department of State

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