2013 Trafficking in Persons Report
Special Case

Somalia remains a Special Case for the eleventh consecutive year. During the reporting period, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its successor as of August 2012, the Federal Government of Somalia, controlled Somalia’s capital city Mogadishu, but had limited influence outside of Mogadishu. The self-declared independent Republic of Somaliland and Puntland State were in control of security and law enforcement in their respective regions. The new Somali federal government focused on capacity-building and securing Mogadishu and government facilities from attacks by the terrorist organization al-Shabaab. The government has minimal capacity to investigate and prosecute most crime, including human trafficking. Justice was primarily provided through military courts. Civilian courts were limited in number and capacity but functioned during the year. The respective authorities operating in Somalia’s three regions struggled to address human trafficking, demonstrating weak efforts in prosecution, protection, and prevention in all regions.

Scope and Magnitude: Somalia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Information regarding trafficking in Somalia remains extremely difficult to obtain or verify. Victims are primarily trafficked within the country from Somalia’s southern and central regions to the regions of Puntland and Somaliland in the north. In Somaliland, women act as recruiters and intermediaries to take victims to Puntland State, Djibouti, and Ethiopia for the purposes of domestic servitude or sex trafficking. Somali women and girls may be subjected to sex trafficking in Garowe, Las Anod (Sool region), and pirate towns such as Harardheere; girls are reportedly taken from coastal regions, particularly Bossaso, and placed in pirates’ homes to be exploited in domestic and sexual servitude. Pirates also use children aged 15 to 17 to carry out their illegal activities. However, pirate groups continued to decline in numbers and influence in 2012 as international efforts to combat piracy gained steam, reducing the number of successful attacks. In Somali society, certain groups are traditionally viewed as inferior and are marginalized; Somali Bantus and Midgaan are sometimes kept in servitude by more powerful Somali clan members as domestic workers, farm laborers, and herders. Due to poverty and an inability to provide care for all family members, some Somalis willingly surrender custody of their children to people with whom they share familial ties and clan linkages; some of these children may become victims of forced labor or sex trafficking. Most child laborers work within their own households or family businesses. Somalia remains a predominantly pastoral and nomadic society, with low rates of education. Children may be forced into labor in agriculture, herding livestock, crushing stones, or in the construction industry.

“Gatekeepers” in control of some internally displaced persons (IDP) camps reportedly forced girls and women to provide sex acts in exchange for food and services available within the camps. At times, they charge rent or fees for otherwise free basic services and sell the area they control within a camp to other “gatekeepers,” establishing a cycle of debt for IDPs that makes them vulnerable to inherited bondage. Additionally, displaced persons in camps or congregated along coastal areas hoping to be smuggled to nearby African countries, Europe, or the Middle East remain particularly vulnerable to trafficking. There were reports of traffickers preying on young women and children, mostly IDPs from southern and central Somalia, at marketplaces and in the streets, falsely promising them lucrative jobs outside Somalia.

Given Somalia’s long coastline, reports of human smuggling are geographically widespread in Somalia, and evidence suggests that traffickers use the same networks and methods as those used by smugglers. Dubious employment agencies facilitate human trafficking by targeting individuals desiring to migrate to the Gulf states for employment. Somali women are smuggled, sometimes via Djibouti, to destinations in the Middle East, including Yemen and Syria, as well as to Sudan, Kenya, and South Africa, where they are frequently subjected to conditions of domestic servitude or forced prostitution. There are reports of forced labor or sexual exploitation of Somali children fleeing al-Shabaab and seeking refuge in Kenya; refugee children among the populations of Kenya-based Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps may also encounter exploitation in prostitution and forced labor. Trucks used to transport goods from Kenya to Somalia return to Kenya with young girls and women who are placed in brothels in Nairobi or Mombasa, or are sent to destinations outside Kenya. Somali traffickers known as makhalis control the networks, but truck drivers also exploit these girls in prostitution. Somali men are subjected to conditions of forced labor as herdsmen and menial workers in the Gulf states, while children are reportedly smuggled to Saudi Arabia through Yemen and then placed into forced begging. Members of the Somali diaspora use fake offers of marriage to lure unsuspecting victims, many of whom are relatives, to Europe or the United States where they are forced into prostitution and domestic servitude. During the year, Somali sex trafficking and forced labor victims were identified in the United States; in one case, Somali nationals belonging to criminal gangs operating in the United States were convicted of trafficking by the U.S. government in 2012.

The estimated 20,000 undocumented Ethiopians in northern Somalia are vulnerable to trafficking as they seek out employment in Puntland and Somaliland to complete their journey to the Middle East, where they also are vulnerable to exploitation upon arrival. Ethiopian women are smuggled through Somalia to Yemen and onward to other destinations in the Middle East where they are subsequently forced into domestic servitude and prostitution. Ethiopian children travel to Somaliland seeking employment but may end up in forced begging or vulnerable to other forms of forced labor.

Child Soldiers: During the year, the Somalia National Army (SNA), anti-Shabaab militia, and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces continued their offensive against al-Shabaab. The UN reported identifying children associated with Somali National Armed Forces. It also reported that the Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) militia recruited children. Children were also used by Somalia’s numerous clan and other militias. Screenings by international actors after transport to basic training in Uganda identified 15 individuals out of 581 new recruits in 2012 as too immature for training. Most Somalis lack birth certificates, and without an established birth registration system it remains difficult to determine the exact age of persons associated with armed groups.

During the reporting period, al-Shabaab sustained losses in numbers and financing, leading Shabaab leaders to rely more heavily on the systematic use of child soldiers as support staff and often as soldiers in the front lines. Throughout the areas under its control, al-Shabaab frequently recruited children as young as eight years old for use by its militias through abduction or deception. It continued forced recruitment at both Koranic schools and other educational facilities, and punished teachers and parents who refused to send their children to its training camps. In August 2012, for instance, one girl and eight boys were taken from a Koranic school in Celbande District (Bakol region). In the El Bur, Galgadud region, press reporting indicated that al-Shabaab forcibly recruited over 100 children in response to an Ethiopian offensive. Recruitment also took place in IDP and Kenya-based refugee camps. Al-Shabaab continued to use children for direct participation in hostilities and other support functions in southern and central Somalia, including for planting roadside bombs and other explosive devices, carrying out assassinations, providing intelligence, portering, working in domestic service, and serving as human shields during incursions. The UN reported al-Shabaab’s recruitment of over 542 boys and girls in March and April 2012, including through abduction; such activities continued throughout the year. Al-Shabaab also forcibly recruited young girls who were then “married” to its militia leaders and used for sexual servitude, logistical support, and intelligence gathering. In an April 2012 al-Shabaab attack on the Somali National Theater, a girl was used as a suicide bomber.

Government Efforts: Somaliland and Puntland authorities made efforts during the reporting period to combat trafficking. However, due to capacity constraints and the ongoing campaign to degrade al-Shabaab and secure Mogadishu, the Federal Government of Somalia lacked the resources and will to prosecute trafficking offenses, protect victims, or prevent the crime during the reporting period. Authorities within the three regions did not prosecute or convict any trafficking offenders. The pre-1991 penal code (applicable at the federal and regional levels) outlaws forced labor and other forms of trafficking of persons in servitude, but does not specifically prohibit sex trafficking. Article 455 prohibits and penalizes slavery, prescribing penalties of five to 20 years’ imprisonment. Article 464 prohibits forced labor, prescribing penalties of six months’ to five years’ imprisonment. Article 457 prohibits the transferring, disposing, taking possession, or holding of a person, and prescribes penalties of three to 12 years’ imprisonment. All such penalties are sufficiently stringent. Article 408(1) prohibits compelled prostitution of a person through violence or threats, prescribing penalties of two to six years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent but not commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. In August 2012, a national constituent assembly adopted a constitution, which remains provisional until a national referendum is held. Its Article 14 prohibits slavery, servitude, trafficking, and forced labor, and Article 29(6) prohibits the use of children in armed conflict. The federal government lacks the police force and judicial system necessary to enforce effectively the provisions set out in its laws, but has modestly increased its capacity in recent months. In 2011, the TFG established a focal point for human rights to oversee efforts to address child soldiers and child labor; however, the succeeding permanent federal government stated its intent to establish a human rights commission and did not retain this specific position. Neither the TFG nor its successor government investigated or prosecuted trafficking crimes during the reporting period.

The Puntland State administration and Somaliland have functioning legal systems and some law enforcement capacity. In Puntland, the Ministry of Women Development and Family Affairs oversaw anti-trafficking efforts, and the police force in Garowe had an anti-trafficking unit, though it lacked proper training. During the year, officials in Somaliland and Puntland intercepted potential trafficking cases, although limited information exists regarding these crimes or the status of specific cases. In November 2012, Puntland police intercepted a van carrying 10 girls in Garowe and arrested the suspected traffickers, who were later released on the grounds of it being considered a smuggling case. In December 2010, the Puntland Parliament enacted provisions under Islamic law prohibiting the death of smuggled or trafficked persons, prescribing sufficiently stringent penalties of between one and five years’ imprisonment.

Local laws in Somaliland prohibit forced labor, involuntary servitude, and slavery. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in Somaliland operated a specialized unit to respond to suspected trafficking cases, and police and immigration officers played an active role in anti-trafficking efforts. In June 2012, Somaliland immigration officials intercepted two men at Berbera Airport attempting to smuggle 12 girls aged 12 to 15 to Saudi Arabia via Djibouti and Yemen; it is unclear whether this case was investigated or prosecuted. In April 2012, Somaliland officials intercepted nine children at Berbera port, where they had arrived after being transported by ship from Yemen. While a Berbera court initiated prosecution of the two Ethiopians transporting the children, it did not investigate whether the children had been subjected to conditions of trafficking by these individuals.

No governmental entity provided protective services to victims of trafficking, although IOM and local organizations provided reintegration services to rescued trafficking victims in Puntland and Somaliland. There was an IOM facility in Puntland dedicated to trafficking victims and accessible to male and female Somali and foreign victims. These organizations also placed child victims with families for care. Neither the TFG, its successor government, nor the Somaliland administration provided financial or in-kind assistance to organizations assisting victims. The Ministry of Security in Puntland provided the equivalent of approximately $700 to a temporary shelter for the care of 10 potential trafficking victims after their interception by police in Garowe in November 2012; however, they were housed alongside their suspected traffickers at the center due to a lack of other adequate space. No governmental entity utilized formal procedures for the proactive identification of victims; however, in the previous reporting period, officials from Puntland and Somaliland formalized a referral process to guide officials in transferring trafficking victims detained, arrested, or placed in protective custody to NGOs that provided care. During the year, Puntland police referred 15 potential trafficking victims to IOM for care. Somaliland immigration authorities transferred the 12 rescued girls to the IOM-run and donor-supported Migration Response Center in Hargeisa before officials organized their transport back to Mogadishu. After intercepting nine children at Berbera port in June 2012, Somaliland officials placed them in jail alongside their alleged traffickers; IOM later secured their release and transferred them to the Hargeisa Orphanage Center. Despite their efforts in these potential cases, Somaliland officials were overwhelmed with humanitarian cases and illegal immigration from Ethiopia, which often hindered identification and protection of potential trafficking victims. In addition, it is unclear whether children involved in prostitution or used in the commission of crimes across Somali territory would be protected from charges of crime under Somali law, although no such cases have been reported to date.

Information on the Federal Government of Somalia’s efforts to protect trafficking victims was limited; however, the Somali National Armed Forces reportedly arrested and detained children associated with al-Shabaab. During 2012, in conjunction with the UN, the Somali government began preparations for a comprehensive disengaged combatant program focused on former al-Shabaab members that includes a child soldier component overseen by UNICEF. The successor government has indicated that protection of child soldiers remains part of its national security vision. A donor-funded, NGO-operated camp in Mogadishu held some defectors from rebel groups, including families with children. There were no known foreign trafficking victims or legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims from Somalia to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.

Authorities across Somalia made minimal efforts to prevent trafficking during the year. In February 2013, Puntland authorities partnered with IOM to develop an anti-trafficking action plan, though they did not undertake awareness-raising activities. In Somaliland, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs conducted awareness campaigns. In July 2012, the TFG signed a UN-sponsored action plan to address the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Implementation of this plan was limited. In October, the joint technical committee responsible for facilitating implementation of the action plan was established, though it did not advance significant action. The Somali National Security Forces (SNSF) failed to create child protection units, as called for in the action plan, due to lack of funding. SNSF officials and African Union doctors continued to use medical checks and interviews to screen for underage candidates during recruitment, though it continued to prove difficult to verify the age of some candidates lacking a birth certificate or other documentation. The Federal Government of Somalia, in partnership with UN agencies and AMISOM, began to develop a comprehensive strategy for the screening, rehabilitation, and reintegration of Shabaab defectors, including child soldiers. A team comprised of senior SNA generals, international military advisors, and a technical monitor vetted all ASWJ/Gedo forces for the presence of children as they integrated into the SNSF during 2012. In 2012, no funding was provided to agencies for labor inspections, and no inspectors were employed to enforce labor laws. Authorities across Somalia did not make any discernible efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts. Somalia is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.