The government increased efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. The government reported identifying 39 victims (including 20 forced labor and 19 sex trafficking victims from The Gambia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone); however, this likely included multiple years of data. This compared with eight victims identified in the previous reporting period. The government referred 18 victims to shelter services; it did not report what services, if any, it provided to the remaining 21 victims. An international organization reported identifying an additional four victims, including one labor trafficking and three sex trafficking victims.
The government continued implementing its NRM and SOPs on victim identification and referral to care. Under NRM provisions, front-line officials referred trafficking cases to NAATIP and the Department of Social Welfare, which assigned a case manager and worked with partner service providers in the referral directory to conduct an assessment and develop an individual case plan. NAATIP trained law enforcement, social workers, transportation personnel, and civil society on the NRM and SOPs. However, observers reported there was limited coordination on victim identification and referral among law enforcement, prosecutors, and social service providers.
The government operated one short-term shelter for vulnerable persons, including both Gambian and foreign national trafficking victims, vulnerable children, the elderly, and domestic violence victims. The shelter generally had a 50-person capacity and offered basic services, including medical care and limited counseling. Although the government reported adult victims could enter and leave the shelter freely, in practice, officials restricted victims’ movement outside of the shelter, and shelter conditions may have resulted in victims feeling as though they were detained. Observers reported shelter staff lacked training on trauma-informed care and the shelter lacked key services, including vocational training, extra-curricular activities, and onsite psychologists. The government allocated 509,000 dalasi ($8,345) to victim protection and assistance in 2022, compared with allocating 600,000 dalasi ($9,835) in 2021. The 2007 anti-trafficking law called for creation of a victim assistance fund; however, the fund was not operational and observers reported victim protection funding was insufficient. The government and civil society jointly operated daytime centers providing services, including psycho-social, food, and medical assistance, to trafficking victims and vulnerable children. Shelter services were concentrated around the capital, and some victims in rural areas lacked access to assistance. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution; however, the 2007 anti-trafficking law allowed foreign victims to obtain temporary residence visas during legal proceedings. The government provided some assistance to NGOs to repatriate Gambians exploited abroad and foreign victims exploited in The Gambia.
Authorities did not condition access to victim services on cooperation with law enforcement proceedings. The government offered some victim-witness assistance to support participation in investigations and prosecutions, including legal aid, psychological services, transportation, and the option to provide testimony via video or written statements. The government did not report how many victims, if any, it provided such assistance to, and some victims were reluctant to cooperate in investigations due to fear of retaliation by traffickers. The law allowed victims to obtain restitution, but courts did not award restitution to any victims. Victims could file civil suits against traffickers; however, no victims reportedly did and many victims were not aware of this option. Due to inconsistent application of victim identification procedures, some victims may have remained unidentified in the law enforcement system. Authorities used provisions in the NRM to screen vulnerable populations, including individuals in commercial sex, for trafficking indicators. However, the screening mechanisms did not include LGBTQI+ persons among vulnerable populations; due to social stigmatization and lack of screening, LGBTQI+ persons remained vulnerable to trafficking.