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The Government of the Republic of the Congo does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.  These efforts included training law enforcement officials on the anti-trafficking law and issuing six ministerial decrees to increase protection of Indigenous populations and reduce vulnerabilities to trafficking.  However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity.  The government did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any traffickers.  It did not proactively screen for trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and did not report identifying any victims for the third consecutive year.  The government did not take any proactive measures to address alleged official complicity in trafficking crimes.  The government continued to lack a formalized national anti-trafficking task force, hindering overall efforts.  Therefore the Republic of the Congo was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.

  • Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute alleged traffickers, including officials allegedly complicit in trafficking, and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • Train officials on implementing regulations to proactively identify trafficking victims, including by screening for trafficking indicators, especially among vulnerable populations, including child laborers, women and girls exploited in sex trafficking, unaccompanied children, Indigenous populations, refugees, and migrants.
  • Formally establish the inter-ministerial anti-trafficking task force and designate an agency to lead the government’s anti-trafficking efforts.
  • Finalize, approve, and fully implement the 2022-2023 NAP.
  • Take steps to eliminate recruitment or placement fees charged to workers by foreign labor recruiters and ensure any recruitment fees are paid by employers.
  • While respecting due process, expedite hearings and consider prosecuting trafficking cases in the low court while maintaining stringent sentencing according to the country’s anti-trafficking law.
  • Increase anti-trafficking training for law enforcement officials, labor inspectors, immigration officials, and social workers, including the difference between human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
  • Increase law enforcement and first responders’ capacity to collect data on trafficking cases.
  • Further expand anti-trafficking efforts to identify victims and prosecute traffickers beyond Pointe-Noire and Brazzaville.
  • Ensure victims are not inappropriately penalized solely for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
  • Implement and consistently enforce strong regulations and oversight of labor recruitment companies, including training labor inspectors to identify and report trafficking crimes and holding fraudulent labor recruiters criminally accountable.
  • Accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

The government decreased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts.  The 2019 Combating Trafficking in Persons Law criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking.  The related provisions in Congolese criminal law prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with the penalties prescribed for other grave crimes, such as kidnapping.

The government did not report any trafficking investigations, prosecutions, or convictions.  This compared with five investigations, one prosecution, and one conviction in the previous reporting period.  The government did not provide an update on four cases of alleged forced labor in Betou, in the north of the country, which resulted in the arrest of one individual in the previous reporting period.  Observers reported law enforcement officials did not investigate potential cases with trafficking indicators because of alleged conflation of human trafficking with other crimes.

The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking crimes; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action. Authorities continued an investigation into a 2020 allegation of judicial corruption in a trafficking case but did not provide any update on the case.  Observers reported the court system remained dysfunctional, and many criminal cases continued to languish because of significant backlogs in the high court as a result of irregular court sessions, lack of centralized record keeping, and limited legal statistics.  The government provided anti-trafficking training to new police officers at the police academy.  The government did not report collaborating with foreign governments on any law enforcement efforts.

The government maintained negligible protection efforts.  For the third consecutive year, officials did not report identifying any victims.  The government had capacity to provide comprehensive care services, in collaboration with international organizations and NGOs, for trafficking victims, including temporary shelter, medical and psycho-social care, basic necessities, and education; however, the government did not report providing any services to trafficking victims.  NGOs reportedly identified West African children exploited in domestic servitude or street vending by families in Pointe-Noire and Brazzaville; however, the government did not report whether any of the victims received assistance or were referred to services.

The government’s implementing regulations for the anti-trafficking law provided formal written procedures for proactive victim identification, although officials did not report using these procedures to identify any victims.  The government also had a formal process to refer victims to government or NGO services, but it did not report doing so.  The government had capacity to offer financial and legal assistance to trafficking victims, including by providing lawyers and referrals to services, but did not report doing so during the reporting period.  A government-run center in Brazzaville could provide victims with basic necessities, education, and psycho-social counseling; however, authorities did not report assisting any trafficking victims at this shelter.  The government reported having a dedicated budget to assist victims of crime, including trafficking victims.

In past reporting periods, law enforcement generally assisted in removing victims from NGO-identified exploitative situations if the NGO could provide funding for transportation.  The government largely relied on NGOs and international organizations to assist with the identification, referral, and provision of services for trafficking victims.  The government did not adequately fund these NGOs and relied heavily on their victim assistance programs and services.  The government published six ministerial decrees to increase protections for Indigenous populations, which included populations vulnerable to trafficking.  The government could offer some victim-witness assistance to victims participating in investigations and prosecutions, including police accompaniment during trials, and had some procedures to protect victims’ confidentiality.

Due to inconsistent use of formal identification procedures and lack of screening by law enforcement, authorities may have detained or arrested some unidentified trafficking victims, including individuals involved in commercial sex.  The government provided the same availability of services to national and foreign victims and could provide temporary residency status to foreign trafficking victims during judicial proceedings; however, Congolese law did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of trafficking victims to countries where they would face retribution or hardship. Authorities provided foreign adult trafficking victims a choice between repatriation to their country of origin or reintegration into the local community.  Congolese law allowed victims to request restitution in trafficking cases.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking.  The government’s federal inter-ministerial committee convened four times.  The government, however, continued to remain without a national entity to lead the government’s efforts, and a ministerial decree to formalize the task force remained pending by the end of the reporting period, hindering the overall effectiveness of the country’s anti-trafficking response.  The government’s 2022-2023 NAP remained pending formal approval from the Prime Minister’s Office by the end of the reporting period.  Despite the lack of a finalized NAP, the Ministry of Justice had a 2022-2025 Action Plan for Indigenous People that included labor issues, and the Ministry of Social Affairs had a 2021-2023 Plan for Trafficking in Persons.  The government reported it updated and disseminated its 2022-2026 action plan on child protection, which included child trafficking.  Officials held seven public awareness campaigns on the risks of human trafficking.  The government continued to operate a hotline for victims of crime, including trafficking; however, officials did not report whether it received any calls related to human trafficking.

The government did not have effective laws or policies regulating labor recruiters.  Labor inspectors overseeing working conditions in the country conducted irregular inspections and observers reported most inspections occurred only at urban worksites.  The government did not report training labor inspectors on human trafficking or reporting any potential trafficking crimes to law enforcement.  The government, in partnership with an international organization, published a child labor study in June 2022.  The Republic of the Congo was not party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.  The government coordinated with the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Benin to strengthen screening and identification of vulnerable unaccompanied children.  The government provided official documentation to 100 Indigenous persons who were without documentation and at risk of trafficking.  The government did not report efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.  The government provided anti-trafficking training to its diplomats.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in the Republic of the Congo, and traffickers exploit victims from the Republic of the Congo abroad.  Forced labor involving adults and children continues to be the primary type of trafficking, predominately in the agricultural sector.  Most trafficking victims originate from Benin and the DRC, and to a lesser extent from Gabon and other neighboring countries.  Traffickers exploit children, primarily from West Africa, in domestic servitude in the cities of Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, Ouesso, and Dolisie.

Congolese authorities and civil society representatives report fraudulent employment agents located in Benin, the Central African Republic, the DRC, and Gabon recruit victims into exploitative conditions in the Republic of the Congo.  Foreign business owners and Congolese exploit most foreign victims in forced labor in domestic service, market vending, and the fishing sector.  Some hotel owners and other criminal actors exploit adults and children in sex trafficking, with the most common victims being from the DRC.  Parents in foreign countries, mostly West African countries, sometimes send their children to the Republic of the Congo with the expectation that the child will send remittances or receive an education, but instead traffickers exploit the children in sex trafficking or forced labor.

Internal trafficking primarily involves recruitment from remote rural areas for exploitation in cities.  Certain communities, including refugees and Indigenous populations, are particularly vulnerable to trafficking.  Individuals in the fishing industry and market shop owners were the primary exploiters of victims within the country.  Traffickers, including members of the majority Bantu community, exploit some members of Indigenous populations in forced labor in the agricultural sector, with Indigenous populations comprising the majority of internal trafficking victims; reports suggest that some servitude involving Congolese might be hereditary.

U.S. Department of State

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