FRANCE: Tier 1
France is a destination, transit, and a limited source country for men, women, and children subjected to 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. The number of children subjected to prostitution, including students and foreigners, has increased in recent years. Reports indicate children, primarily from Romania, West Africa, and North Africa, are victims of sex trafficking in France. The Government of France estimates the majority of the 20,000 people in France’s commercial sex trade, about 90 percent of whom are foreign, are likely trafficking victims. Source countries include Romania, Nigeria, China, Brazil, and Bulgaria. Online-advertised prostitution organized by Russians and Bulgarians has increased along with classified ads posted by organized networks controlled by Romanians, Bulgarians, Nigerians, and Brazilians; trafficking victims are likely involved in activities described in these ads. Women and children from Suriname are victims of sex trafficking in French Guyana. Roma and unaccompanied minors in France are vulnerable to forced begging and forced theft. Women and children are subjected to domestic servitude, mostly in cases in which families exploit relatives brought from Africa to work in their households. Trafficking networks have expanded to operate in large towns outside of Paris, including Lille and Nice. In 2014, the French government launched an investigation into allegations that approximately 14 French soldiers stationed in the Central African Republic forced boy refugees to perform sex acts for money and food.
The Government of France fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government adopted a national anti-trafficking action plan for 2014-2016, which outlines prosecution, protection, and prevention activities and a fund to protect and assist trafficking victims. The government significantly increased the number of convictions obtained under the trafficking statute 225-4-2. Robust cooperation with law enforcement in EU and source countries continued, and its success was demonstrated by the prosecution of many members of sex trafficking and forced begging networks. The government continued to protect and provide assistance to a large number of victims and partner with destination countries to address child sex tourism by French nationals. However, the government’s efforts to combat labor trafficking were weaker than those undertaken for sex trafficking, and the implementation of victim protection policies remained inconsistent among regions and municipalities.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FRANCE:
Implement the national action plan and establish a national rapporteur as stated in the plan; amplify training on and enforcement of labor trafficking laws; strengthen victim protection for child victims of forced begging and theft; improve victims’ access to restitution; continue to increase investigations, prosecutions, and convictions under the trafficking statute, ensuring convicted offenders are sentenced to jail terms; standardize residence permit issuance policies and consider waiving permit fees for trafficking victims; screen women and children arrested for soliciting or theft for trafficking indicators; provide care for all victims regardless of cooperation with law enforcement; and continue to enhance the collection of law enforcement and victim assistance data.
The government improved anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. 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. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. In 2014, French authorities conducted 204 criminal investigations for sex trafficking, of which 106 involved aggravated pimping including 17 children. In 2013, the most recent year for which data is available for convictions, French authorities obtained convictions for 127 offenders under Article 225-4-2, a significant increase compared to 17 in 2012. The government also obtained convictions for 23 offenders for the prostitution of children in 2013, compared with 19 in 2012. In addition, the government obtained convictions of eight offenders for forced begging, compared with 19 in 2012. Some trafficking cases may be reflected in the 719 convictions under the aggravated anti-pimping statute; a majority of the original arrests in those cases were for trafficking-specific offenses. The government improved data collection efforts and provided a more detailed disaggregation by type of trafficking, which provided a more nuanced understanding of victims, perpetrators, and the government’s efforts to combat trafficking.
Traffickers were sentenced to multiple years of imprisonment. In May 2014, a Paris correctional tribunal sentenced three members of the “Hamidovic network” to between four to seven years’ imprisonment for exploiting and forcing children to steal in the Paris metro system. The most stringent penalty, seven years’ imprisonment and a 100,000 Euro ($122,000) fine, was issued in absentia for a fourth member and leader of the network who was at large at the end of the reporting period. In July 2014, the Marseille Correctional Tribunal sentenced six members of a Bulgarian family to four to seven years’ imprisonment for sex and labor trafficking offenses; the family forced six elderly Bulgarians to beg, among other crimes. In November 2014, 19 Nigerians were sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for operating a prostitution network; approximately 30 women, located in various cities throughout France, were forced into prostitution. The Ministry of Justice continued to offer an annual training session for prosecutors and magistrates on France’s anti-trafficking laws. The government trained 19 judicial police on how to conduct investigations. France increased cooperation with international law enforcement agencies in 2014, as well as several cases with Bulgaria, China, and Romania to investigate trafficking cases. The government reported no new prosecutions or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses. In July 2014, the government launched a preliminary investigation into allegations that French soldiers stationed in the Central African Republic forced boy refugees to perform sex acts for money and food; the investigation was on-going at the close of the reporting period.
The government sustained comprehensive protection efforts. The government had a formal procedure for identifying victims and an NGO-run referral mechanism. The government identified 467 victims of aggravated pimping and sex trafficking in 2014—440 females (including 27 girls) and 27 males (including one boy). By comparison, the government identified 912 victims of trafficking and pimping in 2013. This represents a significant decrease in the number of victims identified; however, the government provided more detailed information, including greater disaggregation of victim statistics by type of crime, which allows for a more accurate understanding of the data. An NGO received 252 reports of trafficking and assisted 180 victims who originated from 12 countries; the majority of victims assisted were females from West Africa, particularly Nigeria.
The Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Health, and the City of Paris provided funding for the Ac-Se system, an NGO-managed network of 50 NGO-run shelters assisting vulnerable adult victims of sex and labor trafficking. Ac-Se assisted 70 trafficking victims in 2014, compared with 68 in 2013, by providing them with shelter, legal, medical, and psychological services. Ac-Se received 205,000 euro ($222,000), with approximately 90 percent from the central government and ten percent from the City of Paris, in 2014. Local governments provided French language classes to victims, and some victims could qualify for subsidized housing and job training programs. Victims received 350 euro ($425) as an initial stipend from the government, and the equivalent of approximately 100 euro ($122) per month thereafter. Victims had to wait an average of seven days for access to a shelter in 2014, and Ac-Se reported it experienced difficulties in its capacity to provide a rapid response to victims. The central and municipal governments also partially funded the operation of a shelter in Paris and a small number of emergency apartments external to the Ac-Se system. Child protective services placed child trafficking victims into generalized children’s shelters. The government continued to operate a hotline for children in abusive situations, including trafficking. Ac-Se operated a hotline that received an estimated 900 calls in 2014. While French authorities did not report overall funding allocations to NGOs for victims, the central government provided 1.7 million euro ($1.8 million) to NGOs for victim assistance in 2013.
The government had 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 who worked with police to prosecute traffickers. NGOs assessed the referral process worked well when victims were willing to cooperate with law enforcement authorities; however, because victim assistance was based on cooperation with law enforcement, victims unwilling to cooperate did not receive assistance. French law provided for a 30-day reflection period for suspected victims; however, some authorities were reportedly not familiar with the reflection period and did not offer it. Victims were eligible for temporary residence 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 43 victims and renewals to 155 victims, with waiting periods for permits ranging from 15 days to 18 months. Victims 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 residence cards to victims. NGOs previously reported highly inconsistent practices among prefects in the issuance of residence permits, particularly if the victims had past convictions for prostitution. Some victims found it easier to apply for and obtain asylum, as the process involved no cost and no requirement to participate in a prosecution. Victims were eligible to receive restitution through the Crime Victims Compensation Program; 361,000 euro ($392,000) was allocated to victims in 2013 from this fund. The compensation request process often took several years to complete, and many victims had requests in progress; since its creation in 1985, it provided compensation to two victims—in 2007 and 2009. There were no specific reports of identified victims being penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of their being subjected to trafficking; however, approximately 1,500 individuals in prostitution have been arrested annually for soliciting. The government sponsored trainings for social workers and other government employees, including labor inspectors, on trafficking victim identification.
The government increased anti-trafficking prevention efforts. The government adopted a 2014-2016 national anti-trafficking action plan. The implementation of the plan was supported by a fund dedicated to trafficking victims and called for the appointment of a national rapporteur position; however, the rapporteur was not established during the reporting period. The government continued efforts to address child sex tourism committed by French citizens. NGO contacts estimated 15 French nationals were convicted every year for involvement in child sex tourism, mainly in Asia. French police conducted international investigations of child sex tourism. The government funded programs through airlines and tourism operators describing the penalties for child sex tourism and funded poster and pamphlet campaigns by NGO partners to reduce the demand for child prostitution and child sex tourism. Tourism and hospitality students in France were obligated to take coursework on preventing child sex tourism. The government took steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex by passing legislation in March 2015 designed to prevent human trafficking and protect victims by fining those found guilty of soliciting sex, and providing a six-month renewable residence permit for foreigners regardless of whether they cooperate with law enforcement efforts. The government did not implement a national anti-trafficking awareness campaign. The French government provided anti-trafficking training to all peacekeeping troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.