CAMEROON: Tier 2
Cameroon is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking and a source country for men in forced labor. Trafficking operations usually target two to four children, often when rural parents give their children to an intermediary promising education or a better life in the city. Child traffickers increasingly resort to kidnapping their victims, including in Yaounde, as heightened public awareness about trafficking has led parents to be less willing to give their children to these intermediaries. Cameroonian children are exploited in domestic service, restaurants, street begging or vending, artisanal gold mining, gravel quarries, fishing, animal breeding, and agriculture (on onion, cotton, tea and cocoa plantations), as well as in urban transportation and construction working as errand boys and laborers. Many children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Reports document hereditary slavery in northern chiefdoms. Children from neighboring countries are exploited in spare parts shops or by herders in northern Cameroon or transit the country en route to Gabon or Equatorial Guinea. Cameroonian women are lured to Europe and other regions by fraudulent internet marriage proposals or offers of domestic work and subsequently become victims of forced labor or forced prostitution. Cameroonian trafficking victims were identified in the Middle East, Haiti, the United States, and several African countries. Teenagers and adults from the Central African Republic (CAR) and Nigeria are lured by the prospect of a better life in Cameroon and subsequently are victims of labor trafficking. Refugees from CAR and Nigeria, as well as displaced Cameroonian citizens fleeing growing insecurity in border areas, are increasingly vulnerable to human trafficking in Cameroon.
The Government of Cameroon does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts through the work of two regional multidisciplinary anti-trafficking taskforces and continued to implement its action plan to combat trafficking through reintegrating street children who were victims and conducting grass roots, regional, and national child trafficking public awareness campaigns. Despite these efforts, the government did not make progress in ensuring adult and child trafficking victims were identified and received access to protection services or in providing much needed anti-trafficking training to law enforcement, judicial, and social welfare personnel. Furthermore, the government did not provide budgetary support for the national and regional multidisciplinary governmental bodies responsible for addressing human trafficking. Data collection remained sporadic and did not cover the entire country, resulting in unreliable and incomplete statistics on victim identification and law enforcement efforts.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CAMEROON:
Enact legislation to address the lack of victim protection measures and to conform the definitions in the 2011 law with international law; continue to prosecute and convict traffickers, including government employees complicit in trafficking-related offenses; provide funding to support the anti-trafficking inter-ministerial committee and the three regional multidisciplinary anti-trafficking taskforces; increase efforts to educate police, judges, lawyers, and social workers about the law against human trafficking; develop and provide advanced training on victim-centered investigation and prosecution of human trafficking offenses for the anti-trafficking taskforces; dedicate resources to improve the collection of statistics relating to victim identification and law enforcement; fully implement the standardized procedures for referring trafficking victims to government and NGO care services and provide training on the procedures for government officials and the NGO community; continue to provide training for government service providers to ensure the quality of care for victims; establish multidisciplinary anti-trafficking taskforces in the remaining seven regions; and address cases of hereditary servitude in the northern regions.
The government increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. In the 2011 Law Relating to the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons and Slavery, the definition of “trafficking in persons” requires movement and does not include exploitation. The definition of “slavery in persons” does not require movement and prohibits most forms of human trafficking; however, the use of threat, fraud, deception, force, or other forms of coercion is required for a child, under 18 years, to be considered a sex trafficking victim, which is contrary to international law where such means are not required. Section 4 prescribes penalties of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment for trafficking and slavery, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. Section 5 prescribes penalties ranging from 15 to 20 years’ imprisonment if the trafficking victim is 15 years of age or younger, if a weapon is used, or if the victim sustains serious injuries as a result of trafficking. Section 3 prescribes penalties for debt bondage ranging from five to 10 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are also sufficiently stringent. Draft legislation to improve the 2011 law remain under consideration for the third consecutive year; drafted in 2012 in collaboration with the government, an NGO, and national and international experts, these provisions aim to address shortcomings in protection of victims and witnesses, as well as inconsistencies with international law.
During the reporting period, the government initiated 25 trafficking investigations, prosecuted 11 defendants, and secured eight convictions for child trafficking crimes, a significant increase from the five prosecutions and one conviction reported the previous year. Sentences for convicted traffickers ranged from one to 15 years’ imprisonment. The prosecution of cases against at least three alleged traffickers and investigations in 10 cases were ongoing. A court dismissed one case involving alleged forced labor of a Cameroonian man in Qatar, and the 2013 conviction of a child trafficker remained under appeal. The government failed to collect comprehensive anti-trafficking law enforcement data from all of Cameroon’s 10 regions during the reporting period; however, information was available from the anti-trafficking taskforces in the Northwest and Southwest regions.
Despite the recognized need for training of law enforcement, judicial personnel, and other stakeholders to assist them in distinguishing human trafficking from crimes such as fraudulent adoption, the government failed to directly train its staff; rather it provided in-kind support for NGO-led training sessions on human trafficking for each of the anti-trafficking taskforces in the Northwest, Southwest, and Littoral regions. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.
The government demonstrated modest efforts to identify and assist child trafficking victims. The government does not produce statistics from all regions on the number of trafficking victims identified or the services victims received. Information from the government and NGOs indicates the government identified 17 child trafficking victims, a slight decrease from the 19 victims identified in the previous reporting period. The government did not provide details to confirm these were human trafficking victims, as compared with fraudulent adoption or other crimes. Of these 17 victims, the government placed 14 children in government or NGO care facilities. The government also reintegrated 31 victims identified the previous year. The government identified at least one adult victim of forced labor, but it is unclear whether he received any services.
The Ministry of Social Affairs (MINAS), with support from an international organization, adopted a national referral system and standard operating procedures to guide the provision of assistance to trafficking and other victims. The government continued to offer direct assistance to vulnerable children and victims, including shelter and medical, psychological, and reintegration support through its shelter facilities in several cities. If identified, female adult victims were offered care in government shelters where victims were not permitted to leave unchaperoned. It is unclear how much funding the government devoted to victim care in 2014, how many victims received services, or whether any trafficking victims benefited from these services during the year. NGOs identified at least 130 victims of trafficking and provided the majority of victim services in the country.
It is unclear whether the government provided counseling, legal support, or any other assistance to victims during court proceedings. Victims may file suits or seek legal action against traffickers, and family members may also bring civil suits against traffickers on behalf of children. Some victims received out of court financial settlements facilitated by regional offices of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms; in a case from Cameroon’s Northwest region, a trafficker who forced two children to work in a shop for four years without compensation paid approximately 10,000 Central African CFA francs ($20) per month for the four years as a financial settlement to the victims. The government may provide temporary residency status to foreign victims, but no such cases were reported in the past year. There were no reports the government punished trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; however, due to a lack of formal victim identification procedures in use during the reporting period, some unidentified victims may have remained unidentified in the law enforcement system.
The government demonstrated continued progress in preventing child trafficking. The government increased the number of multidisciplinary regional taskforces from one to three during the reporting period. The taskforces in the Northwest, Southwest, and Littoral regions, comprised of representatives of social welfare, police, gendarmerie, magistrates, and NGOs, coordinated the response to trafficking cases and conducted grass roots awareness campaigns on the radio and through community watch groups. However, the government did not allocate budgetary support for the national inter-ministerial committee, the taskforces, or towards implementation of the new national action plan. Officials continued efforts to implement the plan by identifying and reintegrating street children, publishing a new manual that tightened procedures for adoption of children, and, in collaboration with an international organization, conducting a national awareness campaign against forced labor and sex trafficking of children. MINAS continued to address the phenomenon of street children, a population vulnerable to trafficking, and identified 240 new cases of street children in Yaounde and Douala; it reunited 77 children with their families and offered healthcare, education, and psycho-social services to the others during the reporting period. At ports of entry, trained customs and border security officers interrogated adults accompanying children and checked their travel documents to verify their parentage, and volunteer committees in some rural communities were trained to recognize and monitor vulnerable children. Although Cameroonian trafficking victims were identified in several European and Middle Eastern countries, the government took no action against suspicious labor recruiting practices. The government continued to provide members of the Cameroonian armed forces with anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. To reduce the demand for commercial sex acts with children, the government continued its public awareness campaign against sexual exploitation of children; however, it did not try to reduce the demand for forced labor. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.