2013 Trafficking in Persons Report
Tier 2 Watch List

Djibouti is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Over 80,000 men, women, and children from Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea are estimated to have passed through Djibouti as voluntary and undocumented economic migrants en route to Yemen and other locations in the Middle East. An unknown number of these migrants are subjected to conditions of forced labor and sex trafficking upon arrival in these destinations. During their time in Djibouti, which may last for extended periods, this large migrant population, including foreign street children, is vulnerable to various forms of exploitation, including human trafficking. Some Djiboutian and migrant women and girls may fall victim to domestic servitude or sex trafficking in Djibouti City, the Ethiopia-Djibouti trucking corridor, or Obock, the preferred departure point for Yemen via the Red Sea or Gulf of Aden. Some migrants intending to be smuggled may be moved or detained against their will within Djibouti. Networks, including Djiboutians and Djiboutian residents, may charge rents or kidnap and hold migrants for ransom—increasing their vulnerability to trafficking and, at times, creating situations tantamount to debt bondage; reports indicate some migrant women were subject to domestic servitude in Djibouti as a result. In addition, ransoms may be paid by traffickers based in Saudi Arabia, who reportedly intend to exploit migrants upon their arrival there. Djibouti’s older street children reportedly act at times as pimps of younger children. Members of foreign militaries stationed in Djibouti contribute to the demand for women and girls in prostitution, including possible trafficking victims. Street children, including Djiboutian children, are sometimes forced by their parents or other adult relatives to beg as an additional source of family income; children may be also recruited from foreign countries for begging in Djibouti. Children are vulnerable to forced labor as domestic servants and coerced to commit petty crimes, such as theft.

The Government of Djibouti 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 efforts to address human trafficking since the previous reporting period; therefore, Djibouti is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year. The government provided basic healthcare to undocumented migrants, but it failed to acknowledge their vulnerability to trafficking or the existence of various forms of human trafficking in the country. In their monitoring of bars and nightclubs for child prostitution, police arrested children and referred them to medical services on an ad hoc basis. The government expanded its partnership with IOM, requesting assistance in developing an anti-trafficking strategy, including the development of procedures for the identification of trafficking victims. However, unlike in previous reporting periods, the anti-trafficking working group led by the Ministry of Justice was inactive during the year and failed to complete its draft of a national action plan. Police investigated seven cases of Djiboutians exploiting or abusing children in prostitution. Outside of child prostitution, the government failed to investigate or prosecute any other trafficking offenses, including those allegedly committed by complicit officials. It made no attempt to implement the protection or prevention components of its anti-trafficking law, even within the confines of its limited resources and capacity.

Recommendations for Djibouti: Draft a national action plan to coordinate and pace government efforts; amend Law 210 to distinguish between trafficking and smuggling offenses; when implementing Law 210, identifying victims, and combating trafficking generally, ensure use of a broad definition of trafficking in persons consistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol that does not rely on evidence of movement but rather on exploitation of the victim; continue to work with judges, prosecutors, and police to clarify the difference between cases of human trafficking and alien smuggling; enforce the anti-trafficking statute through investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders, especially those responsible for child prostitution, domestic servitude, or other forced labor offenses, and provide data on convictions and sentences of trafficking offenders; institute a module on human trafficking as a standard part of the mandatory training program for new police and border guards; establish policies and procedures for government officials—including law enforcement, health, and social welfare officers—to identify proactively and interview potential trafficking victims and transfer them to care; expand mechanisms for providing protective services to victims, possibly through the forging of partnerships with NGOs or international organizations; form partnerships with local religious leaders, encouraging them to educate their congregations about trafficking; and launch a nationwide anti-trafficking awareness campaign.


The government made minimal efforts to enforce its laws against human trafficking during the reporting period. Although there is a deputy prosecutor with responsibility for overseeing all human trafficking prosecutions, the government did not successfully prosecute any trafficking offenders in 2012. This was due in part to Djibouti’s Law 210, “Regarding the Fight Against Human Trafficking,” enacted in December 2007, which prohibits both forced labor and sex trafficking but does not adequately distinguish between human trafficking and alien smuggling. Law 210 provides for the protection of victims regardless of ethnicity, gender, or nationality, and prescribes penalties of two to five years’ imprisonment, penalties which are sufficiently stringent but not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Djiboutian authorities failed to demonstrate efforts to investigate or punish domestic servitude, other forced labor, or sex trafficking offenses. The National Police reported an attempt to assist suspected victims of forced labor, though the workers chose to continue their exploitative work in hopes of affording passage to Yemen. In 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, the morality police continued their patrols of nightclubs and bars in Djibouti City to monitor for prostitution and arrested both clients and persons in prostitution, including 80 children between the ages of 10 and 17; the government failed to take any law enforcement action against the establishments in which they were found and did not screen others in this vulnerable population for trafficking victimization. Nonetheless, the government reported its investigation of seven cases of Djiboutians exploiting or abusing children in prostitution, although it provided minimal details on these cases. Following overnight detention, police officers reportedly delivered an Eritrean asylum seeker on two separate occasions to a construction site where he was forced to work all day without pay. There are unconfirmed allegations that police round-ups of non-Djiboutian residents, including asylum seekers, are semi-routine. The government failed to investigate officials allegedly complicit in trafficking or trafficking-related crimes, including border guards bribed to allow entry into Djibouti. The government did not independently train its officials to respond to trafficking crimes, though it contributed physical space for international organizations to provide training to Djiboutians on trafficking as part of migration management and border control training.


The government made minimal efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period or to ensure that victims received access to shelter or other services. With limited resources and a small pool of underfunded NGO partners, the government had little means with which to address the needs of trafficking victims during the year. Djiboutian authorities provided a baseline level of care to African migrants in crisis, including food and emergency outpatient care for dehydration, pregnancy, or injuries received while traveling; it is unclear whether trafficking victims in this population are being served. While partnership between IOM and the Government of Djibouti increased significantly during the year, the government lacked a formal system to proactively identify victims of trafficking among high-risk populations, such as undocumented immigrants and persons found in prostitution. The government regularly deported undocumented foreigners and did not consistently screen this population for indicators of human trafficking. Additionally, the government detained children in prostitution and street children, including potential trafficking victims, following sweeps to clear the streets in advance of holidays or national events. Officials referred such children to medical services on an ad hoc basis. Though the government implemented a program to grant residency status to undocumented Ethiopian migrants, a population vulnerable to trafficking in Djibouti, it did not formally offer foreign trafficking victims legal alternatives to removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.


The government made minimal efforts to prevent trafficking during the year. Its working group on trafficking, led by the Ministry of Justice, was inactive in 2012. The government failed to coordinate anti-trafficking awareness campaigns or to partner with NGOs or donors to undertake such efforts. During the reporting period, the Ministries of Justice, Interior, Foreign Affairs, and Labor worked on implementation provisions for a bilateral “Agreement to Combat Illegal Immigration and Human Trafficking,” signed between the Governments of Djibouti and Ethiopia in January 2012. The agreement established a means for legal recognition and labor protection for undocumented Ethiopians residing in Djibouti. International donors trained 300 members of the Djiboutian armed forces on avoiding high-risk sexual behavior, including by not exploiting women in prostitution. The government did not take any known measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex act or forced labor.