FGS and FMS authorities sustained minimal efforts to combat trafficking. The FGS continued to lack a comprehensive legal framework to address human trafficking. The pre-1991 penal code – applicable at the federal and regional levels – criminalized labor trafficking and some forms of sex trafficking. Article 455 criminalized slavery, prescribing penalties of five to 20 years’ imprisonment. Article 464 criminalized forced labor, prescribing penalties of six months to five years’ imprisonment. Article 457 criminalized the transferring, disposing, taking possession, or holding of a person and prescribed penalties of three to 12 years’ imprisonment. All these penalties were sufficiently stringent. Article 408(1) criminalized “compelled prostitution” of a person through violence or threats, prescribing penalties of two to six years’ imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent but not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The provisional constitution prohibited slavery, servitude, trafficking, and forced labor under article 14. Article 29(6) under the provisional constitution prohibited the use of children in armed conflict. The Puntland FMS 2017 human trafficking legal framework prohibited trafficking in persons; however, international organizations continued to report authorities did not implement the law.
Similar to previous years, neither the FGS nor the FMS collected comprehensive statistics on law enforcement efforts related to trafficking. The FGS Office of the Attorney General (OAG) reported 23 trafficking investigations, compared with 30 trafficking investigations in 2021. Of the 23 investigations, 12 involved labor trafficking, including two travel agency owners allegedly facilitating trafficking crimes; the government did not report any other case details. The government reported six investigations remained ongoing from the previous reporting period. The OAG reported prosecuting seven alleged traffickers under trafficking-related laws of the penal code (articles 455-457), compared with 30 trafficking-related prosecutions in 2021. Courts convicted six traffickers, the same number reported in 2021, and acquitted one trafficker for unspecified reasons. The government did not provide sentencing data. Officials’ propensity to conflate human trafficking and migrant smuggling and focus on transnational trafficking made it probable some reported cases involved individuals with irregular migration status and other crimes not involving exploitation through forced labor or sex trafficking. The government reported continuing informal cooperation with officials in Libya, South Sudan, and Sudan on migration issues, which may have included potential trafficking crimes; however, the government did not report taking any specific anti-trafficking law enforcement actions as a result of international cooperation. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses, including military officials for the forced recruitment or use of child soldiers; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year.
Law enforcement, prosecutorial personnel, and courts remained understaffed and undertrained and lacked capacity to effectively enforce anti-trafficking laws. The Somali Police Force (SPF) Criminal Investigations Department maintained specialized anti-trafficking and migrant smuggling units in Mogadishu and Puntland mandated to investigate potential cases of trafficking. The SPF, in partnership with foreign donors, established an additional specialized unit in South-West State. In 2022, the OAG established the Human Trafficking and Immigration Crimes Unit, mandated to investigate and initiate the prosecution of crimes related to human trafficking and immigration violations. In collaboration with the government, foreign donors and international organizations expanded training for officials – including police, prosecutors, judges, and immigration officials – across the country on investigating and prosecuting human trafficking crimes, international cooperation in trafficking cases, and the distinction between migrant smuggling and human trafficking.
Similar to previous years, the government did not systematically gather or report statistics for trafficking victims, and reporting remained largely anecdotal. The government reported identifying and referring 50 trafficking victims to services, compared with identifying and referring 45 victims to services in 2021. Of the 50 victims identified, traffickers exploited 12 in labor trafficking and the type of trafficking for 38 victims was unspecified; 41 victims were adults and nine were children. The government did not have standard operating procedures to identify or refer trafficking victims to services, and all levels of government relied fully on international organizations and NGOs to provide victim services. The FGS did not possess sufficient financial resources to provide direct services or auxiliary support to organizations assisting victims and vulnerable populations.
An international organization continued to operate migration response centers (MRCs) in Bosasso and provided services for transiting migrants, including potential trafficking victims. An international organization discontinued support to the MRC in Mogadishu during the reporting period due to lack of funding; the government continued to minimally support the MRC, though services available were limited. The Bosasso MRC offered services such as medical care, psycho-social support, and shelter, and operated a hotline. In 2022, an international organization registered 1,811 vulnerable migrants in Bosasso; the organization screened all registered migrants for trafficking indicators and reported identifying many individuals as potential trafficking victims. Victim support varied significantly across the country, and specialized care was sporadic due to limited availability of services in country; victims in areas not serviced by the MRC had irregular access to protective services. Due to a lack of formal identification procedures, authorities likely arrested, detained, or deported some unidentified trafficking victims, particularly for immigration violations; however, the government reportedly screened some detained individuals for trafficking indicators at ports of entry, particularly in Mogadishu. The government did not have a legal alternative to the removal of foreign trafficking victims from Somalia to countries where they may face hardship or retribution, nor did it provide government benefits or services to foreign victims.
A lack of technical expertise and limited capacity continued to hinder the government’s overall efforts to develop and coordinate an effective anti-trafficking policy. The government did not have a designated lead anti-trafficking official, agency, or national coordinating body and remained without a NAP to combat human trafficking. For the third consecutive reporting period, the FGS did not report conducting anti-trafficking awareness activities. The OAG established a general hotline in 2022 to report all crimes, including human trafficking; however, no data was available. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs employed 35 labor inspectors to enforce labor laws; however, they remained without operational resources and did not receive training on relevant trafficking laws to identify potential trafficking crimes. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel, nor did it make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Somalia was not a party to the UN TIP Protocol.
The dire security situation and restrictions on movement of humanitarian and human rights actors continued to hamper comprehensive efforts to address the unlawful recruitment or use of child soldiers. Al-Shabaab continued to commit the vast majority of violations, although reports continued the Somali federal defense and police forces – which included the Somali National Army (SNA) and the SPF – Jubaland forces, Puntland forces and police, Galmudug forces and police, and the National Intelligence and Security Agency unlawfully recruited and used child soldiers, many between 10 and 17 years old. State and non-state actors unlawfully recruited or used children in various roles, including as combatants, security escorts, checkpoint guards, messengers, and cleaners; however, perpetrators used the majority of children for unknown purposes.
The government continued to implement the 2012 action plan to end the unlawful recruitment or use of children by the SNA; however, the FGS exercised inconsistent command and control of SNA forces. The Ministry of Defense continued to oversee a national children and armed conflict working group composed of representatives from the FGS, FMS, and international organizations. The national working group met quarterly to discuss internal organization structures and procedures to strengthen efforts to prevent the unlawful recruitment or use of child soldiers. The government regularly convened regional working groups but did not report any actions taken by these groups. The Ministry of Defense’s Child Protection Unit (CPU), in partnership with international organizations and foreign donors, screened 4,769 SNA personnel at five military bases, compared with screening 3,296 personnel in the previous reporting period. The CPU identified and referred to care five child soldiers among those ranks, compared with one child soldier identified in the previous reporting period. Most Somalis lacked birth certificates, and in the absence of established birth registration systems or standardized methods for recruitment, verifying claims of unlawful recruitment or use of children remained difficult. In 2018, the FGS undertook a process of biometric registration of SNA soldiers to validate their identities, force numbers, locales, electronic payment accounts, and registered weapons to increase transparency and accountability in the security sector and curb the unlawful recruitment or use of child soldiers in the SNA. The government did not report implementing this biometric registration mechanism for the fourth consecutive reporting period, though some SNA units have reportedly enrolled in the system. In collaboration with an international organization and foreign donors, the CPU continued to conduct training and awareness campaigns targeted toward hundreds of military and community leaders to prevent the unlawful recruitment or use of child soldiers. International organizations and NGOs continued to report some government forces arrested and detained children for their actual or alleged association with al-Shabaab and did not apply juvenile justice standards or adhere to international obligations, undermining government commitments and efforts to treat child soldiers as victims.