Guinea-Bissau is a source country for children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The extent to which adults are subjected to forced labor or forced prostitution is unclear. Some 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 traffickers are men from the regions of Bafata and Gab—often former students of the marabouts, known as talibes—who are generally well-known within the communities in which they operate. Bissau-Guinean boys are subjected to forced labor in street vending in Guinea-Bissau and in manual labor, agriculture, and mining in Senegal. Bissau-Guinean girls are subjected to forced labor in street vending and domestic servitude in Guinea and Senegal; a smaller number may be subjected to child prostitution in these countries, including for exploitation by international sex tourists.
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 the new government has not indicated whether it will maintain the previous administration’s commitments to combating trafficking. 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 for a second year in a row. It did not take law enforcement action against suspected trafficking crimes, provide adequate protection to identified trafficking victims, conduct any tangible prevention activities in 2013, or make progress on the implementation of its national action plan.
Recommendations for Guinea-Bissau:
Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish trafficking offenders, including unscrupulous marabouts who use talibes for forced begging; provide anti-trafficking training to law enforcement, labor, and social welfare officials on how to adequately identify victims, investigate cases, and refer victims to appropriate services; adequately inform and train judicial personnel about the 2011 anti-trafficking law; establish a formal victim referral mechanism between the government, NGOs, and international organizations providing care to trafficking victims; improve data collection efforts, including to ascertain the number of victims identified and referred to protective services; reconvene the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Trafficking and allocate specific funds to the committee for the implementation of the national action plan; and make effort to raise public awareness on human trafficking.
The transitional government failed to demonstrate any notable law enforcement efforts. 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. The government, however, did not use these laws or other existing laws 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 some police and border guards might 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 made inadequate efforts to identify and protect victims during the year, although 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, at least 49 child victims of forced labor were repatriated to Guinea Bissau. Of these victims, 45 were repatriated from Senegal; the transitional government did not provide any assistance to the victims after they arrived in the country. During the last year, the transitional 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. While no prosecutions were undertaken during the reporting period, the transitional government reported that it encouraged adult family members and neighbors to participate in legal proceedings against suspected child traffickers. 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. There is no evidence that the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Trafficking, which was established to coordinate the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, continued to exist or that the government had taken any steps to implement the 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 2013. The transitional government took no discernible measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor during the year.