France is a destination, transit, and a limited source country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labor and sex trafficking. Foreign victims from Eastern Europe, West Africa, and Asia, as well as North Africa and South America, are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Sex trafficking networks controlled by Bulgarians, Nigerians, Romanians, Chinese, and French citizens force women into prostitution through debt bondage, physical force, and psychological coercion, including the invocation of voodoo. Students and isolated foreign minors are also increasingly exploited for sexual purposes. The Government of France estimates the majority of the 20,000 people in France’s commercial sex trade, about 90 percent of whom are foreigners, are likely trafficking victims. Source countries include Romania, Nigeria, China, Brazil, and Bulgaria. There is a noticeable increase in online-advertised prostitution organized by Russians and Bulgarians and classified ads posted by organized networks, both involving trafficking victims, mainly controlled by Romanians, Bulgarians, Nigerians, and Brazilians. Reports indicate that significant number of children—one NGO estimates approximately 5,000—primarily from Romania, West Africa, and North Africa, are victims of forced prostitution in France. Women and children from Suriname are victims of sex trafficking in French Guyana. Roma and other unaccompanied minors in France continue to be vulnerable to forced begging and forced theft. Women and children continue to be subjected to domestic servitude mostly in cases where families exploit relatives brought from Africa to work in their households.
The Government of France fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government revised its anti-trafficking law and continued to protect a large number of victims; however, the government’s efforts to combat labor trafficking were much weaker than those undertaken for sex trafficking. Robust cooperation with external law enforcement organizations continued as demonstrated by the breakup of numerous sex trafficking and forced begging networks. The government also increased cooperation with destination countries for child sex tourism by French nationals. Despite these efforts, the government continued to lack a national action plan and a national rapporteur position responsible for all trafficking-related statistics and in charge of evaluating data from other government agencies. The implementation of victim protection policies remained inconsistent between regions and municipalities and the fee victims must pay to receive temporary resident permits more than doubled in 2014. Law enforcement efforts under the anti-trafficking statute were extremely low compared with the number of victims identified.
Recommendations for France:
Greatly increase investigations, prosecutions, and convictions under the trafficking statute, ensuring convicted offenders are sentenced to jail terms; amplify training on and enforcement of labor trafficking laws; increase anti-trafficking training for prosecutors and judges, ensuring that emphasis is placed on increasing the use of the trafficking statute; formalize a referral mechanism adequately addressing the needs of both sex and labor trafficking victims, including children forced to beg and steal; strengthen victim protection for child victims of forced begging and theft; improve victims’ access to restitution; standardize residence permit issuance policies and consider waiving fees for trafficking victims; ensure women and children arrested for soliciting or theft are screened for trafficking indicators; offer trafficking victims a 30-day reflection period; ensure victims of trafficking receive care regardless of cooperation with law enforcement; enhance the collection of law enforcement and victim assistance data; adopt the 2014-2016 National Action Plan; and create a national rapporteur responsible for all statistics related to human trafficking and in charge of evaluating data.
The government sustained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and improved its definition of trafficking under new legislation; nevertheless, the French prosecution and conviction efforts under the trafficking law remain very low compared with the identification of the crime in France. France prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through Article 225-4 of its penal code, which prescribes maximum penalties of between seven years’ and life imprisonment for trafficking offenses. In August 2013, the government amended Article 225-4 to comply with EU Directive 2011/36/EU. The law better aligned the French definition of trafficking with international law by ensuring that coercion was included as an element of the base offense of trafficking for adults, rather than an aggravating factor. The law includes penalties from seven to 30 years’ imprisonment; the law also created the offenses of servitude, with a punishment of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, and forced labor, with a punishment of up to seven years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. The government continued to have difficulty collecting and reporting current data on its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, inhibiting its ability to assess the country’s trafficking situation and its own anti-trafficking efforts. Law enforcement reportedly dismantled 45 sex trafficking networks in 2013, mostly from Eastern Europe. In 2013, French authorities formally questioned 824 individuals suspected of trafficking or pimping offenses, but did not specifically report the number of trafficking investigations within that figure. In 2012, the most recent year for which data is available for convictions, French authorities prosecuted and convicted 17 offenders under Article 225-4-2, the same amount as in 2011. The government also convicted 19 offenders for the prostitution of children in 2012, compared with 22 in 2011. In addition, in 2012, the government obtained convictions against 19 offenders for the exploitation of begging, compared with 15 in 2011.
Some trafficking cases may be reflected in the 590 convictions under the aggravated anti-pimping statute in 2012; an estimated 15 percent of the original arrests in those cases were for trafficking-specific offenses. In March 2013, a man was sentenced in Avignon to 18 months’ imprisonment for buying a 15-year-old girl from Cote d’Ivoire for domestic servitude and subjecting her to physical abuse. In May 2013, the leader of a forced theft network involving Roma children was sentenced by a Paris court to seven years’ imprisonment; 20 accomplices were sentenced to between one and five years’ imprisonment. In September 2013, Paris police arrested eight people who subjected approximately 90 transgender individuals from Argentina to sex trafficking. In October 2013, a court in Nancy sentenced 26 people to between two and eight years’ imprisonment for forcing Roma children as young as 10-years-old to commit robberies. In November 2013, police announced the dismantling of one of the largest trafficking networks involving Eastern European children ever identified in France. Police arrested six individuals accused of forcing their children to commit burglaries in Paris and surrounding areas following a six-month joint investigation with Romania. In April 2013, a Paris court sentenced 22 people responsible for two sex trafficking networks to between one and 10 years’ imprisonment. In December 2013, Limoges police arrested 10 people from a Bulgarian sex trafficking network for victimizing approximately 60 women and girls. In December 2013, a court in Alpes-Maritimes sentenced a man to 20 years’ imprisonment for the purchase of a four-year-old Moroccan boy for sexual exploitation. In January 2014, two people were arrested in Paris for subjecting a dozen women and girls from China to sex trafficking.
The Ministry of Justice continued to offer an annual training session for prosecutors and magistrates on France’s anti-trafficking laws, which have historically been underused due to prosecutors’ lack of familiarity with anti-pimping statutes. The government’s current anti-trafficking strategy continues to call for prosecutors to prosecute traffickers under as many statutes as possible. Because it is frequently more difficult to obtain a conviction for trafficking than for other offenses, by using as many charges as possible, the intent is to obtain a conviction on at least one count. The government sponsored training for police and distributed pocket-sized cards to border police and NGOs on how to identify trafficking victims. France cooperated with international and intergovernmental law enforcement agencies in 208 cases in 2013, as well as several cases with Bulgaria, China, Romania, and Spain to investigate human trafficking cases. There were no reports of cases of human trafficking among foreign diplomats posted in France. In May 2013, the Lyon Appeals Court increased the sentence of the wife of Muammar Qadhafi’s former chief of staff for holding four Tanzanian women against their will in the family’s house in France to two years’ imprisonment, with a one-year suspended prison sentence, a fine the equivalent of approximately $207,000, and compensation the equivalent of approximately $69,000 to four female forced labor victims from Tanzania. In October 2013, a retired police officer and his domestic partner were put under formal investigation for forcing two women from Cameroon into prostitution.
The government improved protection efforts by identifying an increased number of victims and providing funding to sex trafficking victims, but efforts to protect victims were inconsistent within different regions of France. The government has a formal procedure for identifying victims who were French citizens or legal residents. The government by law provides shelter and assistance to all victims of exploitation, regardless of their nationality or type of exploitation suffered. The government sponsored trainings for social workers and other government employees, including labor inspectors, on trafficking victim identification, as well as training for managers and employees of major hotel groups on suspicious activity they should report to police. The government identified 912 victims of pimping and sex trafficking in 2013—892 females (26 minors) and 20 males (two minors)—including victims from Romania (210), France (206), Nigeria (133), China (108), Brazil (37), Bulgaria (32), and 42 other countries. In 2012, the government identified 751 victims of trafficking and pimping. An NGO receiving partial government funding received 257 reports of trafficking victims and assisted a total of 147 victims in 2013, including 33 new victims (25 women and eight men) who were subjected to forced labor.
The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Women’s Rights provided funding for the Ac-Se system, which is an NGO-managed network of 56 NGO-run shelters assisting vulnerable adult victims of sex and labor trafficking. Ac-Se assisted 68 victims of trafficking in 2013 (eight fewer than in 2012), providing them with shelter, legal, medical, and psychological services. Shelters located throughout France allowed NGOs to place victims far away from where they were exploited. Ac-Se received the equivalent of approximately $275,000 from central government funding sources in 2013; regional and local governments provided additional funding. Local governments provided French language classes to victims. Some victims could qualify for subsidized housing and job training programs. Victims received the equivalent of approximately $480 as an initial stipend from the government, and the equivalent of approximately $137 per month thereafter. Victims had to wait an average of seven days for access to a shelter, a decrease from the average 14-day wait in 2012. The central and municipal governments also partially funded the operation of a shelter in Paris and a small number of emergency apartments. Child protective services placed child victims of trafficking into children’s shelters. The government continued to operate a hotline for children in abusive situations, including human trafficking. While French authorities did not report overall funding allocations to NGOs for victims of trafficking, the central government, municipal governments, and the city of Paris provided at least the equivalent of approximately $3.2 million to NGOs for victim assistance in 2013.
French law provided for a 30-day reflection period for suspected trafficking victims; however, some authorities were reportedly not familiar with the reflection period and did not offer it. Victims of trafficking were eligible for temporary residency permits, provided they cooperated with police investigations. The permits were typically valid for one year and were renewable every six months. The government issued first-time residency documents to 39 victims and renewals to 113 victims, with waiting periods for permits ranging from 15 days to 18 months; in January 2014 the cost for this permit increased from the equivalent of approximately $390 to $840. Victims of trafficking who obtained residency were able to work or leave the country during trial proceedings. These permits were available during the duration of the criminal process and automatically became permanent upon an offender’s conviction. In cases in which offenders were not convicted, local prefects had the discretion to grant permanent residency cards to victims. NGOs noted highly inconsistent practices among prefects in the issuance of residence permits, particularly if the victims had past convictions for prostitution. Some trafficking victims found it easier to apply for and obtain asylum, as the process involved no cost and no requirement to participate in a prosecution. Trafficking victims were eligible to receive restitution through the Crime Victims Compensation Program; the equivalent of approximately $310,411 was allocated to trafficking victims in 2013 from this fund. There were no specific reports of identified trafficking victims being penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. However, NGO contacts reported police punished victims, including child victims, for soliciting and theft, and when the police encountered the victims on multiple occasions, the police imprisoned them. The issue was exacerbated by the majority of victims escaping from juvenile housing centers and returning to their prior activities.
The government has an NGO-run referral program to transfer victims detained, arrested, or placed in protective custody by law enforcement authorities to institutions that provide short-term care. The government also provided witness protection services for victims of trafficking who work with police to prosecute traffickers. Case-specific protection in France must be authorized by a judge and can take the form of complete 24-hour-a-day protection for victims who will testify or a mixed protection program in which police work with NGOs to ensure the protection of victims. To qualify for the more robust protection program, victims must fulfill certain criteria that involve being the primary witness or essential to the outcome of a trial. NGOs assessed when victims are willing to cooperate with law enforcement authorities, the referral process worked well. However, because victim assistance was based on cooperation with law enforcement, those victims unwilling to cooperate did not receive assistance.
The government sustained anti-trafficking prevention efforts, but efforts to raise awareness within France did not adequately address the enormity of the issue. The government continued to operate without an approved national action plan, although the 2014-2016 plan is expected to be adopted in June 2014. The government did not run a national anti-trafficking awareness campaign, but NGOs receiving government funds ran campaigns. The government increased efforts to address child sex tourism committed by French citizens. NGO contacts estimated 15 French nationals are sentenced every year for involvement in child sex tourism, mainly in Asia. The government implemented a reporting mechanism with Senegal, Gambia, Madagascar, Kenya, and South Africa for French nationals who engage in child sex tourism. French police traveled to child sex tourism destination countries to investigate reports of child sexual exploitation abroad and to investigate French nationals suspected of this criminal activity. The French government funded programs through airlines and tourism operators describing the penalties for child sex tourism. All tourism students in France were obligated to take coursework on preventing child sex tourism. The government also took steps to reduce demand for prostitution among troops stationed abroad, although the government did not initiate any campaigns to reduce demand for commercial sex acts within France. The French government provided anti-trafficking training to all peacekeeping troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.