Sudan is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Internal trafficking occurs within Sudanese territory, including in areas outside of the government’s control. Sudanese women and girls, particularly those from rural areas or those who are internally displaced, are vulnerable to forced labor as domestic workers in homes throughout the country; most are believed to be working without contracts or government-enforced labor protections. Some of these women and girls are sexually abused by male members of the household or forced to engage in commercial sex acts. Thousands of Dinka women and children, and a lesser number of children from the Nuba tribe, were abducted and subsequently enslaved by members of the Missiriya and Rizeigat tribes during the civil war that spanned from 1983 until 2005; some of those enslaved remain with their captors. Sudanese girls engage in prostitution within the country, including in restaurants and brothels, at times with the assistance of third parties. There are reports of organized child street begging in Khartoum and other large cities.
Sudanese women and girls are subjected to domestic servitude in Middle Eastern countries such as Bahrain, Egypt, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia and to sex trafficking in European countries. Some Sudanese men who voluntarily migrate to the Middle East as low-skilled laborers face conditions indicative of forced labor. Sudanese men who migrate illegally to Libya have been rounded up, detained in prison facilities often outside of state control, and exploited as forced laborers. Sudanese children in Saudi Arabia are used by criminal gangs for forced begging and street vending. Sudanese and Eritrean nationals are brutalized by smugglers from the Rashaida tribe in the Sinai, including by being whipped, beaten, deprived of food, raped, chained together, and forced to do domestic or manual labor at smugglers’ homes; some of these individuals were not willing migrants but were abducted from Sudan-based refugee camps or at border crossings.
Sudan is also a transit and destination country for Ethiopian and Eritrean women, including undocumented immigrants and refugees, who are subjected to domestic servitude in Sudan and the Middle East. Foreign domestic workers recruited by Khartoum-based employment agencies are exposed to exploitative practices, such as nonpayment of salaries and physical abuse. Ethiopian, Eritrean, Somali, and possibly Thai women are subjected to forced prostitution in Sudan; agents recruit young women from Ethiopia’s Oromia region with promises of high-paying employment as domestic workers, only to force them into prostitution in brothels in Khartoum.
During the reporting period, Sudanese children in Darfur were forcibly recruited as child soldiers, at times through abduction, and used by armed groups such as the Liberation and Justice Movement, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), various factions of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), and government-supported Janjaweed militia. Government security forces, including the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Central Reserve Police (CRP), also recruited and used child soldiers; the SAF, for instance, reportedly recruited children as young as 13 years old from the Sakaly Camp for internally displaced persons in Nyala. Children were verified as being associated with the government-aligned Popular Defense Forces (PDFs) during the year in both Darfur and the “Two Areas” (South Kordofan and Blue Nile), as well as with pro-government militias. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) forcibly recruited and used child soldiers in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states; in the Abyei Administration Area, at least 48 children were forcibly recruited by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-South during the year.
The Government of Sudan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. While the government took some initial steps—prosecuting suspected traffickers, drafting anti-trafficking legislation, convening its first workshop to discuss human trafficking, and demobilizing and reintegrating child soldiers—its efforts to combat human trafficking through law enforcement, protection, or prevention measures were undertaken in an ad hoc fashion rather than as the result of strategic planning. It did not officially identify trafficking victims or make public data regarding its efforts to combat human trafficking. Its armed forces and proxy militias are reported to have unlawfully recruited and used child soldiers during the reporting period, and it did not take action to conclude a proposed action plan with the UN to address the problem.
Recommendations for Sudan: Enact a comprehensive law to define and address human trafficking crimes and harmonize existing statutes; increase efforts to investigate suspected human trafficking cases, prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; launch a public awareness campaign to educate government officials and the general public on the nature and dangers of human trafficking; institute regular training for Sudanese diplomats posted overseas, as well as officials who validate migrant workers’ employment contracts or regulate employment agencies, to enable proactive identification and provision of services to trafficked migrant workers; establish an official process for law enforcement officials to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups and refer them for assistance; allow unimpeded access to military barracks for monitoring missions to identify and remove any child soldiers; demobilize all remaining child soldiers from the ranks of aligned militias; amend the Law of 1955 Regarding Domestic Servants to provide additional rights and protections for domestic workers, such as mandatory written employment contracts and a limit on the number of hours worked each day; develop, publicize, and enforce a clear, easily-navigable process for employers to officially register their domestic workers and employment contracts, as required by the Law of 1955 Regarding Domestic Servants, as well as to regularize undocumented foreign domestic workers; take steps to identify and provide protective services to all types of trafficking victims found within the country, particularly those exploited in domestic servitude or commercial sexual exploitation; make a much stronger effort through a comprehensive policy approach that involves all vested parties to identify, retrieve, and reintegrate abductees who remain in situations of enslavement; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The government’s anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts appeared to have increased nominally during the reporting period, but it did not make information on such efforts available for inclusion in this report. The Criminal Act of 1991 does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, though Articles 156 and 163 prohibit inducing or abducting someone to engage in prostitution (“seduction”) and forced labor, respectively. Prescribed penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment for “seduction” are sufficiently stringent, but not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Prescribed penalties for forced labor of up to one years’ imprisonment or a fine are not sufficiently stringent. No trafficking offender has ever been prosecuted under these articles, and it was unclear whether the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) or police forces from the Ministry of Interior—the entities responsible for investigating cases of human trafficking—did so during the reporting period. The Child Act of 2008, enacted in January 2010, prohibits but does not prescribe punishments for forced child labor, child prostitution, sex trafficking, and the recruitment of children under the age of 18 into armed forces or groups; while the act includes provisions for the rehabilitation and reintegration of child victims, no government entity has been assigned responsibility for implementation. Some states, such as South Kordofan, have since enacted their own child acts based on the national law. The Sudan Armed Forces Act of 2007 prohibits members of the armed forces from recruiting children younger than 18, enslaving civilians, or coercing civilians into prostitution; the government has never used this statute. The Law of 1955 Regarding Domestic Servants outlines a process for employing and registering domestic workers and provides limited labor rights and protections for them; however, officially registering domestic workers as required by the law entails a complicated process with bureaucratic impediments, including high fees and officials’ expectation of receiving bribes, and accordingly few if any domestic workers are registered and protected under the law.
In July 2012, the Minister of Justice submitted draft anti-trafficking legislation, proposed by the legal division of the Secretariat of the Sudanese Working Abroad, to the council of ministers, where it remained under review at the close of the reporting period. The Informatics and Organized Crimes Bureau of the Sudan Police Force investigates and refers trafficking crimes for prosecution on the federal level; the government did not, however, report the number of investigations or prosecutions it undertook on the federal level or under which laws offenders were prosecuted. During the year, Kassala State prosecutors initiated prosecutions in 12 cases reported to be human trafficking, six of which resulted in the conviction of 23 perpetrators; the details of these cases and whether they constituted human trafficking rather than other related crimes such as smuggling, kidnapping, or extortion remains unknown. The government did not report investigating or prosecuting public officials allegedly complicit in human trafficking, despite reports that Sudanese police sold Eritreans to the Rashaida along the border with Eritrea. The government failed to provide specialized anti-trafficking training to police, military, prosecutorial, or judicial personnel.
The government demonstrated modest efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the past year. Nongovernmental entities reported that police, military intelligence, and the NISS released or rescued 195 victims of trafficking in 2012; however, due to the legal regime in Sudan, it is unclear whether they were victims of trafficking as opposed to smuggling, kidnapping, or extortion. The government did not report identification of any victims of trafficking or maintenance of records regarding efforts to provide protective services to such persons. Sudan has few care facilities accessible to trafficking victims. The Ministry of Welfare and Social Insurance remained responsible for providing legal protection, housing, shelter, and medical and psycho-social support to women and children vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation and other forms of trafficking within Sudan, and the ministry provided limited medical and psycho-social care to an unknown number of potential trafficking victims in several states in 2012. Fifteen child and family protection units in the police force, including four in Khartoum, continued to be staffed by social workers who offered legal aid and psycho-social support to victims of abuse and sexual violence. Such units do not yet exist in all states and the capacity of these entities and the services they provided varied from state to state; it is unclear whether any trafficking victims received care through these entities. Police referred street children in abusive situations to orphanages on a case-by-case basis and remanded individuals who may have been trafficked to the care of community leaders.
The SAF’s child protection unit is charged with monitoring child soldiering and conducting training for military personnel on laws protecting children but lacks a formal mandate to enforce such laws. It is unknown whether or to what extent the SAF demobilized children from the PDFs or other associated militias during the year. In 2012, officials at the SAF barracks in Talodi and Abugibaiha transferred 18 boys who had fled from SPLM-N training camps to the Ministry of Social Development for reintegration. In January 2013, the Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission registered for rehabilitation and reintegration of more than 70 former child soldiers in South Darfur who had been released from the SLA/Historical Leadership in 2011. The National Council for Child Welfare reported that it provided training to the SAF, PDFs, and the CRP about the importance of not recruiting children. During the year, the UN country task force on monitoring and reporting grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict reported that 65 PDFs officers participated in training on child protection in Dilling and Kadugli.
Although the Ministry of Labor’s Secretariat of Sudanese Working Abroad—the body responsible for collecting fees and taxes from Sudanese migrant workers before their departure and protecting their rights and interests while abroad—reportedly has an anti-trafficking section to repatriate abused workers from the Middle East, the Government of Sudan failed to authorize separate meetings with this body for the purpose of providing information on its anti-trafficking efforts for this report. It is thus unknown what efforts, if any, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or any of Sudan’s diplomatic missions made to address the significant problem of labor exploitation of Sudanese nationals working abroad.
The government did not employ a system for proactively identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations or a referral process for transferring victims to organizations providing care. It did not encourage victims’ assistance in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes or provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they would face hardship or retribution. No reliable data exist regarding the detention or punishment of trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked. Authorities in Kassala and Gedaref deported an unknown number of suspected traffickers and potential trafficking victims to Eritrea and Ethiopia during the reporting period. It is unknown whether the government made any efforts to address the labor exploitation of foreign migrants working in or forced into prostitution in Sudan. The government made no efforts to assist victims of abduction and enslavement that occurred during the twenty-two year civil war or to facilitate their safe return to their families.
The government demonstrated modest efforts during the reporting period to prevent trafficking. In September 2012, the High Advisory Council for Human Rights conducted a workshop on human trafficking and made recommendations that the government pass the proposed anti-trafficking law, sign and ratify all regional and international trafficking in persons-related conventions, and better coordinate efforts between government entities, including the establishment of a technical committee to implement the anti-trafficking law. In April 2012, the Governments of Sudan and Libya finalized an agreement on labor migration in which Sudan agreed to provide qualified laborers and Libya agreed to legalize the status of Sudanese workers. The NISS reportedly held discussions with Rashaida leaders in 2012 during which it encouraged the tribe to cease its involvement in human trafficking and other crimes; in response to the continuation of such crimes, the government increased the number of police deployed to Shagarab III refugee camp by 10 officers. During the reporting period, the Ministry of Labor established the Department of Inspection and Public Legislation, which reportedly began work to amend the Labor Law of 1998 to make it compliant with international standards. Although, after two years of review, the Ministry of Defense approved a joint action plan with the UN to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers, the Ministry of Interior did not follow suit, and the plan remains unsigned. The government did not take any known measures during the reporting period to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Sudan is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.