Somalia remains a Special Case for the twelfth consecutive year. During the reporting period, the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) controlled Mogadishu, but had limited influence outside the capital city. The self-declared independent Republic of Somaliland and semi-autonomous Federal State of Puntland retained control of security and law enforcement in their respective regions. In August 2013, federal officials and Jubaland regional leaders agreed to establish the Interim Juba Administration in southern Somalia. The FGS focused on capacity-building and securing Mogadishu and government facilities from attacks by the al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization al-Shabaab, which retained control of many rural areas in southern and central Somalia. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) commenced a new round of military operations in early March 2014 to recover al-Shabaab-controlled territory. The government possessed minimal capacity to investigate and prosecute most crimes, including human trafficking. In addition, officials across Somalia generally lacked an understanding of trafficking crimes, which they often conflated with smuggling. Justice was primarily provided through military courts. Civilian courts remained limited in number and capacity but functioned during the year. Many Somalis continued to rely on the traditional justice system. Due to capacity constraints, Somali authorities struggled to address human trafficking, yielding minimal results in terms of prosecution, protection, and prevention efforts 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 reportedly 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 domestic servitude or sex trafficking. Somali women and girls may also endure sex trafficking in Garowe, Las Anod (Sool region), and pirate towns such as Harardheere. Pirates also use children aged 15 to 17 to carry out their illegal activities. Although pirate groups continued to decline in numbers and influence in 2013, stakeholders indicated that these criminal groups turned towards human smuggling and trafficking as alternative income sources. In Somali society, Somali Bantus and Midgaan remain marginalized and 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 only 30 percent of children estimated to attend school. Children may be forced into labor in agriculture, domestic work, herding livestock, selling or portering khat (a mild narcotic), crushing stones, or in the construction industry.
Somalia has more than 1.1 million internally displaced persons (IDP) within its territory. “Gatekeepers” in control of some IDP camps reportedly force 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 and seeking to be smuggled to nearby African countries, Europe, or the Middle East remain particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Traffickers reportedly prey 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. IDPs within these camps claimed that clan, regional, and government armed forces, as well as al-Shabaab, recruited from these camps.
Traffickers smuggle Somali women, sometimes via Djibouti, to destinations in the Middle East, including Yemen and Syria, where they frequently endure domestic servitude or forced prostitution. Somali men experience conditions of forced labor as herdsmen and workers in the Gulf states. Traffickers smuggle children to Saudi Arabia through Yemen and then force them to beg on the streets. Reports of human smuggling remain geographically widespread in Somalia, including along its long coastline. Reports suggest 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 or Europe for employment. Migration via Puntland and Yemen to Saudi Arabia appeared less viable in 2013 due to Saudi Arabia’s strengthened border enforcement and the forced return of tens of thousands of reportedly illegal migrants. NGOs and international organizations reported that Somalis increasingly sought to move to other destinations in Africa, including Kenya and South Africa. Authorities in Somaliland reported an increase in the smuggling or kidnapping of children and unemployed university graduates, who later move through Ethiopia and Sudan and perhaps are held hostage by networks in Libya en route to Europe and other destinations in the Middle East. NGOs estimated 50 young people were smuggled out of Somaliland each month, some of whom may be trafficking victims. During the year, the Government of Tanzania investigated 14 Somali businessmen reportedly using forged documents to facilitate the smuggling of Somalis to South Africa and Europe. Members of the Somali diaspora use false offers of marriage to lure unsuspecting victims, many of whom include relatives, to Europe or the United States, where they force them into prostitution and domestic servitude.
Traffickers reportedly subject Somali children fleeing al-Shabaab and seeking refuge in Kenya to forced labor or sexual exploitation. Refugee children at the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps in Kenya may also encounter exploitation in prostitution and forced labor. Trucks transporting goods from Kenya to Somalia return to Kenya with young girls and women; traffickers acquire these young girls and women and place them in brothels in Nairobi or Mombasa or send them to destinations outside Kenya. Somali traffickers known as “makhalis” control the networks, but truck drivers also exploit these girls in prostitution.
The estimated 20,000 undocumented Ethiopians in northern Somalia remain vulnerable to trafficking as they seek employment in Puntland and Somaliland to fund subsequent travel to the Middle East. Traffickers smuggle Ethiopian women through Somalia to Yemen and onward to other destinations in the Middle East, where they subsequently force them into domestic servitude and prostitution. Ethiopian children travel to Somaliland seeking employment but may end up begging on the streets or vulnerable to other forms of forced labor.
Child Soldiers: During the year, the Somali National Security Forces (SNSF), anti-Shabaab militias, and AMISOM forces continued their offensive against al-Shabaab. The Federal Government of Somalia expressed full commitment to eliminating the use of child soldiers among the ranks of the SNSF and made incremental progress on the Child Soldier National Action Plan, including signing the standard operating procedures for children separated from armed groups in February 2014. The SNSF also promulgated a Code of Conduct that, among other provisions, prohibited recruitment of anyone under 18-years-old into the military services. Nonetheless, according to UN reports, the SNSF recruited or used children during the period of April to December 2013. In addition, reports indicated that Somaliland and AMISOM forces also allegedly used children for support during the year. Most Somalis lacked birth certificates. Without an established birth registration system, verifying claims of recruitment and use of child soldiers remained difficult, except in the most blatant circumstances involving al-Shabaab terrorists.
Throughout areas beyond state control, al-Shabaab frequently recruited children as young as 8-years-old for use by its militias through abduction or deception. This terrorist group 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. 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, serving as human shields during incursions, carrying out assassinations, providing intelligence, portering, and working in domestic service or in raising cash crops. The UN reported al-Shabaab’s recruitment, from April to September 2013, of over 178 children, including through abduction. Al-Shabaab also forcibly recruited young girls and forced them to “marry” al-Shabaab militia leaders; the girls were subsequently exploited in sexual servitude and used for logistical support and intelligence gathering.
Government Efforts: Somaliland and Puntland authorities made efforts during the reporting period to combat trafficking. Due to capacity constraints and the ongoing campaign to degrade al-Shabaab and secure Mogadishu, the FGS lacked trafficking awareness, proper training, resources, and the ability to effectively prosecute trafficking offenses, protect victims, or prevent the crime. The pre-1991 penal code (applicable at the federal and regional levels) outlaws forced labor and other forms of trafficking in persons. 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 of these penalties appear sufficiently stringent. Article 408(1) prohibits compelled prostitution of a person through violence or threats, prescribing penalties of two to six years’ imprisonment, which appears sufficiently stringent but not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The constitution, which remains provisional until the holding of a national referendum for a permanent version, prohibits slavery, servitude, trafficking, and forced labor under Article 14. Article 29(6) prohibits the use of children in armed conflict, and Article 405 prohibits all forms of prostitution. The Somali National Police retained responsibility for investigating and enforcing such laws; however, they remained understaffed and undertrained and—representative of the challenges across the judicial system generally—lacked capacity to enforce these laws effectively in 2013. The federal government did not investigate or prosecute trafficking crimes during the reporting period.
The Puntland State administration and Somaliland possessed 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 operated an anti-trafficking unit, though it lacked proper training. Provisions under Islamic law in Puntland criminalize the murder of smuggled or trafficked persons, prescribing penalties of between one and five years’ imprisonment. In March 2013, Puntland police intercepted seven girls kidnapped from south-central Somalia destined for Hargeisa, Somaliland, for unknown purposes; the police arrested the two men transporting the girls, although the resolution of this case remained unknown at the close of the reporting period.
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. Somaliland officials made efforts to convict human smugglers—including those potentially intending to exploit migrants in forced labor or sex trafficking upon their final destination. In November 2013, Somaliland officials arrested four Somaliland military personnel for the alleged smuggling of 11 Somalis from south-central Somalia into Ethiopia. Officials did not provide additional details on this case, including whether these adults appeared destined for forced labor at their final destinations. In addition, in April 2013, a Somaliland court in Gabiley sentenced nine men, convicted of human trafficking, to between three to six months’ imprisonment; although officials reported that these men participated in a network moving Somalis to Libya and other destinations, it remained unclear if the workers who were being smuggled were intended for exploitation upon arrival.
No governmental entity utilized formal procedures for the proactive identification of victims; however, in 2013, officials from Puntland and Somaliland continued to develop a referral process to guide officials in transferring trafficking victims detained, arrested, or placed in protective custody to NGOs that provided care. 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. Neither the federal government nor the regional governments of Somaliland and Puntland provided financial or in-kind assistance to organizations assisting victims. In Puntland, IOM staff trained officials on victim identification and assistance procedures. These organizations also placed child victims with families for care.
The Puntland Ministry of Women and Children received the seven girls intercepted in March 2013 and conducted family tracing. In October 2013, Somaliland authorities worked with IOM and its donor-supported Migration Response Center in Hargeisa to establish a mobile health clinic for the IDPs surrounding Mahamed Mooge settlement and a rehabilitation center for 150 street children. In addition, in June 2013, the Somaliland Ministries of the Interior and Resettlement, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration cooperated with Ethiopian immigration officials to assist in the IOM-funded voluntary return of 42 migrants stranded at the Migration Response Center in Hargeisa. Nonetheless, Somaliland officials appeared overwhelmed with humanitarian cases and illegal immigration from Ethiopia, which often hindered identification and protection of potential trafficking victims. Government officials provided no data clarifying whether children who involuntarily engaged in prostitution or the commission of crimes across Somali territory gained protection from charges of crime under Somali law. There were no legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims from Somalia to countries where they may face hardship or retribution; however, government officials identified no foreign victims during the year.
Information on FGS efforts to protect trafficking victims remained limited. Since December 2013, Saudi Arabia has forcibly returned to Mogadishu 28,000 Somalis deemed to have been illegally present in Saudi Arabia, some of whom may have been trafficking victims. The Somali government cooperated with IOM to respond to this large-scale deportation and possible refoulement, but did not provide any funding to support provision of assistance nor reintegration programming. In 2013, UNICEF and officials with the Ministries of National Security and Defense developed referral procedures for the reception and handover of children identified to have been associated with al-Shabaab. FGS Ministers signed these standard operating procedures in February 2014. In addition, the SNSF cooperated with UNICEF to refer potential child soldiers to rehabilitation programs. The FGS, in partnership with UN agencies and AMISOM, developed and began to implement a comprehensive strategy for the screening, rehabilitation, and reintegration of al-Shabaab defectors; following immediate screening of children, the guidelines of the program require the children be transferred to UNICEF for placement in rehabilitation programs. The SNSF promulgated a Code of Conduct that prohibited recruitment of individuals under 18 years of age.
Authorities across Somalia made minimal efforts to prevent trafficking during the year. In 2013, Puntland authorities partnered with IOM to establish an anti- trafficking coordinating body and raise awareness. Given the reported increase in youth leaving Somaliland, in June 2013, the President of Somaliland established a seven-member migration prevention and job creation committee to stem illegal migration of Somalis. Officials also advocated for increased school enrollment and began cooperation with Ethiopia to intercept human smugglers. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs conducted awareness campaigns across Somaliland, engaging with religious leaders, youth, and civil society organizations. In 2013, the FGS began implementation of the UN-sponsored action plan to address the recruitment and use of child soldiers, signed by the former transitional federal government in July 2012. Overall implementation of the action plan remained limited—with inaction on key items, such as the creation of child protection units. 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 candidates lacking a birth certificate or other documentation. 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.