2013 Trafficking in Persons Report
Tier 2 Watch List

Burundi is a source country for children and possibly women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Children and young adults are coerced into forced labor on plantations or small farms in southern Burundi, small-scale menial labor in gold mines in Cibitoke, labor-intensive tasks such as collecting river stones for construction in Bujumbura, or informal commerce in the streets of larger cities. Some traffickers are the victims’ family members, neighbors, or friends who recruit them for forced labor under the pretext of assisting with education or employment opportunities. Some families are complicit in the exploitation of children and adults with disabilities, accepting payment from traffickers who run forced street begging operations. Children in domestic servitude in private homes or working in guest houses and other entertainment establishments are coerced—with threats of being fired—into committing sex acts for their employers or clients. Children are also fraudulently recruited for domestic work and later exploited in prostitution. A joint survey conducted by UNICEF and the Government of Burundi in September 2011 identified 92 children as victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Young women offer vulnerable girls room and board within their homes, eventually pushing some of them into prostitution to pay for living expenses; these brothels are located in poorer areas of Bujumbura, along the lake, and on trucking routes. Extended family members sometimes also financially profit from the prostitution of young relatives residing with them; mothers sometimes also initiate their daughters into the sex trade, at times through threats and bullying. Incarcerated women facilitate commercial sex between male prisoners and detained children within the Burundian prison system. Male tourists from East Africa and the Middle East, teachers, police officers, gendarme, military, and prison officials exploit Burundian girls in prostitution. Business people recruit Burundian girls for prostitution in Bujumbura, as well as in Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and the Middle East, and recruit boys and girls for various types of forced labor in southern Burundi and Tanzania.

The Government of Burundi does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts over the previous reporting period; therefore, Burundi is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year. Burundi was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. Despite the demonstration of interest by the government and the support of donor countries, there were few tangible anti-trafficking results in 2012. The Office of the First Vice President established a commission to propose future efforts to combat trafficking; however, the government has not implemented any of its suggestions. The government failed to prosecute trafficking offenses vigorously or increase its capacity to protect victims; most victim assistance continued to be provided by NGOs without government support. The lack of coordination and data collection on anti-trafficking efforts in Burundi remains a serious concern.

Recommendations for Burundi: Finalize and enact draft anti-trafficking legislation; enforce the trafficking provisions in the 2009 Criminal Code amendments through increased prosecution of trafficking offenses and conviction and punishment of trafficking offenders, including complicit officials; ensure all police, prosecutors, judges, and border guards receive anti-trafficking training, including how to refer cases for investigation; establish standardized policies and procedures for government officials to identify and interview potential trafficking victims proactively and transfer them to the care of local organizations when appropriate; continue the anti-trafficking public awareness campaign currently being undertaken by the police; establish mechanisms for increasing protective services to victims, possibly through partnerships with NGOs or international organizations; and establish broad-based institutional capacity to coordinate and guide anti-trafficking efforts by forming an inter-ministerial committee or building upon the existing technical commission.


The Government of Burundi failed to vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses in 2012. It arrested two suspected offenders during the reporting period, but did not initiate any prosecutions or achieve any trafficking convictions from prosecutions initiated during previous reporting periods. Articles 242 and 243 of Burundi’s Criminal Code prohibit some forms of human trafficking, prescribing punishments of five to 20 years’ imprisonment, but do not provide a definition of human trafficking, impeding investigators’ and prosecutors’ ability to identify and prosecute trafficking offenses. Elements of sex trafficking offenses can also be addressed using penal code articles on brothel-keeping and procuring prostitution, which prescribe penalties of one to five years’ imprisonment, and child prostitution, with prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment, but these articles do not require the use of force, fraud, or coercion. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. Forced labor is prohibited by Article 2 of the Labor Law, though the Criminal Code prescribes no explicit penalties for a violation; officials cite this as a weakness in combating trafficking crimes, especially in addressing forced child labor. The government failed to complete its draft comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation intended to rectify this and other gaps in existing laws. However, in July 2012, in partnership with UNODC, government stakeholders reviewed the draft, which now is in the office of the First Vice President for final editing; it must then be sent to the General Secretariat to be scheduled for debate in the council of ministers before being sent to parliament for debate and passage. The Children and Ethics Brigade, under the Burundian National Police, was the sole government entity that made specific anti-trafficking efforts during the year; however, the brigade lacked capacity to adequately track its caseload. Police arrested two suspected trafficking offenders during the year, a decrease from four offenders arrested in 2011. In May 2012, parents informed the police after finding their missing daughter in prostitution at a bar. The police arrested the establishment’s owner, but he was released because of conflicting understandings of trafficking crimes between the police and magistrate. The status of a second case involving the arrest of a Burundian man for facilitating the prostitution of five girls is unknown. For the second consecutive year, the government failed to train any of its officials, including law enforcement personnel, on relevant legislation and indicators for victim identification. Officials’ lack of investigative skills and trafficking awareness reportedly continued to hinder investigations and prosecutions. Police repeatedly apprehended suspects involved in the commercial sexual exploitation of children but released them shortly thereafter without prosecution, at times because of corruption of police and judicial officials. As in previous years, the government failed to prosecute or convict any public officials suspected of complicity in human trafficking crimes, including a diplomat, teachers, police officers, military, gendarme, and prison officials. For example, in February 2013, a police officer was suspected of trafficking young girls into prostitution in Cibitoke; the assistant prosecutor of the province investigated the case. Government officials took no action to stop child prostitution occurring within the Burundian prison system.


The government made minimal efforts to protect victims during the reporting period. Care centers in Burundi are operated by NGOs, religious organizations, and women’s or children’s associations largely funded by UN agencies; none are specifically focused on providing assistance to trafficking victims. NGOs reported the identification and referral of an unknown number of trafficking victims by communal leaders and border police following their anti-trafficking training of these officials; however, the government did not independently provide information on its victim identification or referral efforts or adequate support to the services these organizations provide. The Ministry of National Solidarity provided funding to some local NGOs to assist victims of gender-based violence and trafficking, while the Ministry of Health provided vouchers for hospital care to an unspecified number of trafficking victims. In addition, in 2012, the government established a center to assist victims of crime where they receive basic counseling and medical services; the government provided the equivalent of approximately $102,000, in addition to support from UNICEF, UNDP, the UN Population Fund, the UN Development Fund for Women, and the World Food Program. The Ministry of National Solidarity also continued to establish new, and increase the capacity of existing, commune-level centers for family development (CDF) that address human rights and gender-based violence issues; in the previous reporting period, a CDF assisted an NGO in the reintegration of one trafficking victim. The government operated two centers, in Kigobe and Buyenzi communes, to assist street children, including an unknown number of victims of forced child labor identified, and provided counseling through the centers during the year. In 2012, the government, in partnership with UNICEF, opened a one-stop center in Gitega—staffed by Burundian government employees—to assist victims of gender-based violence in reporting cases and receiving immediate care, including psycho-social support; though the center could assist trafficking victims, it is unclear if it did so during the year.

The government has not yet finalized a system to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations or to refer victims to service-providing organizations; however, in 2012, the government, in partnership with an NGO, began development of such procedures. Without standardized procedures for identifying trafficking victims, some may have been penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. The Children and Ethics Brigade did not attempt to identify trafficking victims among women in prostitution who were arrested, jailed, or fined. However, police provided limited shelter and food to child trafficking victims in temporary custody, keeping them in a holding area separate from adult detainees while authorities attempted to locate their families. In some instances, the brigade and its provincial focal points provided counseling to children in prostitution and mediated between these victims and their parents immediately thereafter, though without referral for additional services. The government did not encourage victims to assist in the investigation or prosecution of trafficking cases during the year. Burundian law does not provide foreign trafficking victims with legal alternatives to their removal to a country where they may face hardship or retribution.


The government maintained its modest efforts to prevent trafficking during the year, though it remained without a national committee to coordinate an action plan to guide its anti-trafficking efforts. In 2012, the Children and Ethics Brigade continued its national awareness-raising campaign throughout the country to educate officials and local populations about the dangers of human trafficking, and encourage citizens to report trafficking cases to local authorities. In 2012, the brigade gave sensitization workshops for provincial civil servants, civil society, and police officers in the provinces of Makamba, Rutana, Karuzi, Cankuzo, Muyinga, Kayanza, Bubanza, and Cibitoke. In addition, sensitization campaigns also targeted 15 secondary schools. The Office of the First Vice President established a technical commission to complete an assessment of the government’s current anti-trafficking efforts and propose future action items; however, the government failed to act on the commission’s suggestions as elaborated in a November 2012 report. Coordination across government ministries to combat trafficking remained poor, and relevant agencies and police units are largely unaware of the problem, which severely hindered progress. With donor funding, an NGO-led joint taskforce on human trafficking, including representation from the National Police and the Ministries of Justice and National Solidarity, continued to meet every three months to share information; however, the government did not take an active role or assume leadership of the taskforce. In 2012, the Ministry of Labor’s 15 inspectors conducted no child labor inspections. During the year, the National Multi-Sectoral Committee for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor educated local officials in several provinces about child labor laws and the worst forms of child labor. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or child sex tourism during the reporting period. The government, in partnership with a foreign donor, provided Burundian troops with anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.