Guinea-Bissau is a country of origin and destination for children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The scope of the problem of trafficking in adults for forced labor or forced prostitution is unknown. Some unscrupulous religious teachers, known as marabouts, or their intermediaries, recruit boys under the pretense of offering them a Koranic education, but subsequently transport them to Senegal or, to a lesser extent, Mali or Guinea, where they are forced to beg for money. Young boys are increasingly sent to cities within Guinea-Bissau for the same purpose. The principal trafficking offenders are men from the regions of Bafata and Gabu—often former students of the marabouts, known as talibes—who are generally well-known within the communities in which they operate. Boys reportedly were transported to southern Senegal for forced manual and agricultural labor, girls were forced into domestic service in Bissau, the capital, and both boys and girls were forced to work as street vendors in Bissau-Guinean and Senegalese cities. Bissau-Guinean girls are subjected to domestic servitude in Guinea and Senegal, while a smaller number are subjected to child prostitution in the same countries, including for exploitation by international sex tourists. During the reporting period, three Sierra Leoneans, including one adult and two children, were identified as victims of forced begging in Guinea-Bissau.
The transitional Government of Guinea-Bissau does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. In April 2012, the country underwent an unconstitutional change in government. As a result, the government’s anti-trafficking efforts have stalled and it is unknown whether the new government will maintain the previous administration’s commitments to combating trafficking in persons. Despite enacting an anti-trafficking law and finalizing and adopting a national action plan in 2011, the transitional government failed to demonstrate any notable anti-trafficking efforts during the reporting period. It did not take law enforcement action against suspected trafficking crimes, provide adequate protection to identified trafficking victims, conduct any tangible prevention activities in 2012, or make progress on the implementation of its national action plan.
Recommendations for Guinea-Bissau: Train law enforcement officials and magistrates to use the new anti-trafficking law to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses; vigorously prosecute and convict trafficking offenders, including unscrupulous marabouts who use talibes for forced begging; undertake increased efforts to coordinate with NGOs to provide services to trafficking victims, including allocating increased resources to support NGO-run shelters; increase partnership and coordination with local NGOs to advance anti-trafficking efforts; convene regular meetings of the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Trafficking and allocate specific funds for the implementation of the national action plan, including a public awareness campaign warning families about the dangers of trafficking.
The transitional government failed to demonstrate any notable law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Public Law 12/2011 prohibits all forms of human trafficking and prescribes penalties of three to 15 years’ imprisonment and the confiscation of any proceeds from the crime. The 2009 Child Code prohibits all forms of child trafficking and prescribes penalties of three to 10 years’ imprisonment and the confiscation of any proceeds from the crime. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, neither these laws nor other existing laws were used to prosecute trafficking cases during the reporting period.
The authorities did not conduct any investigations or prosecutions of trafficking offenses during the reporting period. Guinea-Bissau’s judicial system lacks sufficient human and physical capital to function properly and corruption remains pervasive. The transitional government did not provide any specialized training to law enforcement officials on investigating or prosecuting trafficking crimes. It did not report any investigations or prosecutions of government employees for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during the reporting period; however, observers report that police and border guards may accept bribes from trafficking offenders and politicians refrain from addressing the issue of trafficking among religious leaders in order to avoid losing influential political support from the Muslim community.
The transitional government demonstrated overall inadequate efforts to identify and protect victims during the year, though it provided modest financial assistance to one NGO that cared for trafficking victims. It did not make systematic efforts to identify victims proactively and refer them to NGOs or international organizations for assistance. Although the transitional government did not provide any statistics on the number of victims identified during the reporting period, NGOs reported that 282 victims were identified in 2012. Of these victims, 45 victims were repatriated to Guinea-Bissau from Senegal; the Bissau-Guinean embassy in Dakar worked with the Government of Senegal to return these victims to Guinea-Bissau, though the transitional government did not provide any assistance to the victims after they arrived in the country. During the last year, the central government contributed the equivalent of approximately $10,000 to an NGO that operated two multi-purpose shelters that provided care for an unknown number of victims; these facilities were severely underfunded and understaffed. NGOs also helped three Sierra Leonean victims—one adult and two children—of forced begging return home; the transitional government was not involved in this effort. Child victims were not encouraged to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenses. While no such prosecutions were undertaken during the reporting period, the government reported that it encouraged adult family members and neighbors to participate in legal proceedings against suspected child traffickers, although no such prosecutions were undertaken during the reporting period. There was no evidence that the transitional government detained, fined, or jailed trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a result of their being trafficked.
The transitional government did not make any tangible efforts to prevent trafficking in persons during the reporting period. There is no evidence that the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee, which coordinates the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, continues to exist or that the government has taken any steps to implement that national action plan adopted by the previous government in 2011. This plan also obligates the government to contribute to anti-trafficking efforts from its general funds each year; however, with the exception of the equivalent of approximately $10,000 allocated to the aforementioned NGO, no additional funds were dedicated to anti-trafficking efforts in 2012. The transitional government took no discernible measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor during the year.