COMOROS: Tier 3*
The Comoros is a source country for children subjected to forced labor and, reportedly, sex trafficking within the country; Comoran women and children are subjected to forced labor in Mayotte and it is a possible transit country for Malagasy women who may endure forced labor in the Middle East. Children are subjected to forced labor mostly on the island of Anjouan, in domestic service, roadside and market vending, baking, fishing, and agriculture. On the islands of Anjouan and Moheli, it is common for poor rural families to place their children with wealthier relatives or acquaintances in urban areas or on the island of Grande Comore for access to schooling and other benefits; however, some of these children become victims of domestic servitude. Most Comoran boys and girls aged three to seven years (but on occasion up to age 14 years) study at Koranic schools headed by private instructors, and some are exploited as field hands or domestic servants as payment for instruction; these Koranic students are sometimes subjected to physical and sexual abuse. Girls are reportedly exploited in prostitution in the Comoros. An NGO reported tourists from the neighboring French island of Mayotte are among the clients of children in prostitution in Anjouan. Comorans may be particularly vulnerable to transnational trafficking due to a lack of adequate border controls, corruption within the administration, and the existence of international criminal networks involved in human smuggling. Unaccompanied Comoran children become victims of domestic servitude and prostitution on the island of Mayotte, at times after the deportation of their parents. French officials recognize the 3,000 unaccompanied children on the island—the majority of whom are Comoran—as requiring urgent assistance. During the year, a Mayotte court convicted Comoran nationals for human trafficking following their exploitation of their niece in domestic servitude. The Comoros may be a destination for forced labor, as officials noted Malagasy women and girls and East African women in domestic service, with some reports of abuse and potential coercion.
The Government of the Comoros does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and was placed on Tier 2 Watch List from 2011-2014. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act provides that a country may remain on Tier 2 Watch List for only two consecutive years, unless that restriction is waived because the government has a written plan to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. In the 2013 and 2014 TIP Reports, Comoros was granted consecutive waivers from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 on the basis of the government having a written plan to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) authorizes a maximum of two consecutive waivers. A waiver is no longer available to Comoros, which is therefore deemed not to be making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards and is placed on Tier 3. In 2014, Parliament passed amendments to the penal code, including anti-trafficking provisions, and a new criminal procedure code providing implementation guidelines on the new criminal sanctions; however, these revised codes have not been promulgated by the executive and are not currently in effect. In addition, in partnership with an international organization, the government organized a multifaceted anti-trafficking public awareness and education campaign in 2014. Nonetheless, the government did not make tangible efforts to prosecute trafficking crimes and protect victims. The government increased its capacity to combat trafficking through the enactment of a new child labor law prohibiting child trafficking and increased in-kind support to the Morals and Minors Brigade, the office charged with the investigation of child abuse and exploitation. However, it failed to investigate, prosecute, or convict trafficking offenders during the year, including officials complicit in trafficking crimes. While the government continued limited support to NGO-run centers offering counseling, medical, and legal service to child and female victims of sexual and other violence on each of the three islands, it did not identify or assist any victims during the year. Officials lacked formal victim identification or referral procedures. Official complicity in trafficking crimes and use of mediation, resulting in the return of children to their alleged exploiters, continued to be a serious concern.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR COMOROS:
Redraft the amendments to the penal code related to trafficking, passed by Parliament, but not yet assented to by the president so as not to conflict with the newly enacted Child Labor Law and existing penal code provisions; investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders including allegedly complicit officials; develop procedures for the identification and referral of trafficking victims to care; end the practice of returning children to their exploiters through arbitration; increase the availability of and provide support for the provision of counseling and psychological care for trafficking victims, possibly within facilities already in existence for victims of other crimes; work with international partners to conduct a study on the forms and extent of the trafficking problem in the Comoros; continue anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns on each of the islands; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
While the government increased its capacity to respond to trafficking crimes by modestly increasing in-kind support of Morals and Minors Brigades on all three islands and by promulgating a new child labor law prohibiting child trafficking, it did not investigate, prosecute, or convict those allegedly responsible for the commission of these offenses. Comoran law does not prohibit all forms of human trafficking. Article 310 of the penal code prohibits aiding or assisting in the prostitution of others, prescribing penalties of six months to three years’ imprisonment and fines. Article 311 of the penal code prescribes increased penalties for aggravating factors related to Article 310 ranging from two to 10 years’ imprisonment. Article 323 of the penal code prohibits the facilitation of child prostitution, prescribing sufficiently stringent punishments of two to five years’ imprisonment and fines of between the equivalent of approximately $460 and $6,150; however, these penalties are not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Although prostitution is illegal in the Comoros, existing laws do not criminalize the forced prostitution of adults. Article 333 of the penal code prohibits illegal restraint and prescribes penalties of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 2 of the labor code prohibits forced and bonded labor, prescribing insufficiently stringent penalties of three months’ to three years’ imprisonment or fines from the equivalent of approximately $310 to $1,540. In January 2015, the President promulgated the Law Countering Child Labor and Trafficking in Children (Child Labor Law), which prohibits the worst forms of child labor in Article 6 and child trafficking in Article 13, among other offenses. However, Articles 6 and 13 are inconsistent with each other: Article 6 does not require the means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, fraud, or deception and prescribes an insufficiently stringent penalty of five months to 10 years’ imprisonment; and Article 13 does require the means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, fraud, or deception. Article 6 also partially overlaps with Articles 310, 311, and 323 and prescribes penalties ranging from two to 10 years’ imprisonment for such acts involving children. The overlap in these laws raises concern prosecutors may be confused as to which laws to use to hold traffickers accountable and traffickers might be charged with lesser offenses, both of which would weaken efforts to deter trafficking and comply with international law.
In June 2014, the parliament adopted, but the President has not yet assented to, amendments to the penal code, which would specifically add provisions to prohibit trafficking in persons under Article 265.
The government failed to investigate, prosecute, or convict trafficking offenders during the reporting period. The government did not report progress in its investigation, initiated in the previous reporting period, of a magistrate allegedly responsible for the domestic servitude of a 14-year-old girl. A foreign donor trained investigators from Grand Comore on investigation of trafficking in December 2014. During the year, the Morals and Minors Brigade continued to oversee the investigation of cases of child abuse and exploitation, including child trafficking, nationwide. The police generally lacked resources, which stymied investigation of child abuse and exploitation cases. The prosecutor general and six law enforcement officials received donor-funded training in December 2014 on how to recognize, investigate, and prosecute trafficking and trafficking related crimes. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. Corruption remained a significant concern throughout the Comoros and hindered law enforcement efforts, including efforts to address trafficking. Alleged perpetrators were sometimes released without prosecution after out-of-court settlements with victims’ families. Previously, judges renegotiated agreements between a child’s parents and his or her trafficker, effectively re-trafficking the victim by returning the child to domestic servitude, and reports emerged of police returning sexually abused children to their exploiters.
The government continued to offer extremely limited victim protection services and did not identify or assist any victims or increase its capacity to more ably do so during the year. There are no shelters specifically for trafficking victims, and the quality of care provided remained poor. NGO staff provided temporary shelter in their private homes, if needed; however, children were often returned to their parents or guardians. In 2014, the government provided the salaries of five employees at a cost of 2,500,000 francs ($6,800) per year for the NGO-run centers, supported by an international organization, to provide assistance to abused and neglected children. The international organization provided a vehicle, driver, and additional financial support of 14,000,000 francs ($38,000). The government failed to provide psycho-social services for victims and provided minimal support to NGOs doing so. Law enforcement’s failure to fully protect children remained a concern; the Morals and Minors Brigade lacked adequate facilities to shelter child victims, even temporarily, and a majority of its staff remained without training for interviewing child victims of crime. The government did not develop or employ systematic procedures for identifying trafficking victims or for referring them to the limited care available. As government officials did not make systematic efforts to identify victims, victims may have remained unidentified in the law enforcement system. There were no reports of the government penalizing victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.
The Comoran government sustained minimal efforts to prevent trafficking. The government continued implementation of its national action plan, developed in May 2013. The monitoring group established to ensure implementation of the national action plan continued to meet weekly and, during the year, reported its activities at the weekly government Council of Ministries meeting. Representatives of the monitoring group included all relevant officials, international organizations, and NGOs. The anti-trafficking commission, established in July 2013 to oversee national efforts, met only once during the year, in July 2014, where members created a detailed road map with assigned duties, deadlines, and responsibilities for various government ministries in implementing the national action plan. In addition, the government continued implementation of its 2010-2015 national action plan for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor, which includes activities to address child trafficking, including forced labor in Koranic schools and domestic servitude. In November 2014, the Ministry of Interior collaborated with an international organization in hosting an event to raise awareness on child rights, including human trafficking, for an audience of 500-600 people. The government continued to fund a toll-free emergency line for reporting crimes to assist in the identification of victims of child abuse and exploitation. The government did not make efforts to reduce reported demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The Comoros is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
* Auto downgrade from Tier 2 Watch List