GABON: Tier 2 Watch List
Gabon is primarily a destination and transit country for women, men, and children from West and Central African countries subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Some victims transit Gabon en route to Equatorial Guinea. Boys are forced to work as street vendors, mechanics, or in the fishing sector. Girls are subjected to domestic servitude and forced labor in markets or roadside restaurants. West African women are forced into domestic servitude or prostitution in Gabon. Some foreign adults seek the help of smugglers for voluntary labor migration, but are subsequently subjected to forced labor or prostitution after arriving in Gabon without the proper documents for legal entry. During the reporting period, adult men were reportedly subjected to forced labor on cattle farms in Gabon. Traffickers appear to operate in loose, ethnic-based criminal networks, with female traffickers, some of whom are former trafficking victims, recruiting and facilitating the transportation of victims in countries of origin. In some cases, child victims report their families turned them over to intermediaries promising employment opportunities in Gabon. There is evidence some traffickers operate outside the capital to avoid detection.
The Government of Gabon does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare provided assistance to 14 victims identified by local NGOs and assisted in the repatriation of 12 of these victims. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Gabon is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. The government initiated prosecution of only one suspected trafficker during the reporting period and, for the second consecutive year, did not convict a trafficking offender or enact a proposed amendment to criminalize adult trafficking. The government identified three victims in 2014 but did not refer them to care facilities, compared with 50 identified and referred to care during the previous reporting period. It has failed to identify any adult victims since 2009. The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Monitor Child Trafficking remained without sufficient funds to effectively coordinate national efforts and was inactive for much of the year.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GABON:
Increase efforts to prosecute, convict, and punish traffickers, including those involved in adult trafficking; enact provisions criminalizing all forms of adult trafficking; expand training for social workers, law enforcement, labor inspectors, and judicial staff to include adult trafficking; develop a system to track trafficking cases and provide relevant law enforcement and victim protection statistics; increase financial or in-kind support to government-run shelters and government-supported NGO shelters; train social workers and service providers in best practices of provision of care for trafficking victims; develop an inter-ministerial committee to address adult trafficking or expand the existing inter-ministerial committee’s mandate to include adult trafficking; and expand national awareness-raising campaigns to include information on adult trafficking.
The government demonstrated decreased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Existing laws do not prohibit all forms of human trafficking; for example, they do not criminalize bonded labor. Enacted in September 2004, Law 09/04 Concerning the Prevention and the Fight Against the Trafficking of Children in the Gabonese Republic prohibits child trafficking for both labor and sexual exploitation and prescribes penalties of up to a maximum of 40 years’ imprisonment, in addition to fines; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Penal code Article 261 prohibits the procuring of a child for the purpose of prostitution and prescribes a sufficiently stringent penalty of two to five years’ imprisonment. Law 21/63-94 prohibits forced prostitution of adults and prescribes sufficiently stringent penalties of two to 10 years’ imprisonment, which are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Penal code Article 48 prohibits the use of children in illegal activities, prescribing penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment. Title 1, Article 4 of the Gabonese labor code (Law 3/94) criminalizes all forms of forced labor, prescribing penalties of one to six months’ imprisonment, which are not sufficiently stringent and do not reflect the serious nature of the offense. The government failed to pass its amendment to Law 09/04, drafted in 2013, to prohibit and punish the trafficking of adults.
The government reported at least 16 investigations and initiated prosecution of one suspect during the reporting period, compared with 50 investigations and nine prosecutions from the previous reporting period. Although the government initiated the prosecution of one suspect, the defendant fled the country as a result of case mismanagement and was not apprehended by the close of the reporting period. For the second consecutive year, the government failed to convict a trafficker. The government trained 40 law enforcement and civil society groups on victim identification and referral measures in 2014. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. In 2013, the government investigated a local chief and a prosecutor for alleged complicity in a child labor trafficking case; however, the government did not provide an update on the investigation.
The government decreased efforts to identify and refer victims to protective services. Government officials identified three child trafficking victims in 2014 but did not refer these victims to care facilities for assistance—a decrease from 50 victims identified and referred to care in the previous reporting period. Furthermore, in one concerning instance in November 2014, due to the lack of appropriate care for an asthmatic trafficking victim, authorities inadvertently re-trafficked the child by returning him to the custody of his suspected trafficker. Nonetheless, in 2014, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare provided assistance to 14 children identified by a local NGO and assisted in the repatriation of 12 of these victims.
The government provided an unknown amount of funding to support four centers offering shelter, medical care, education, and psycho-social services to orphans and vulnerable children, including child trafficking victims, in Libreville and Port Gentil. The government funded and ran two shelters, while the two others were NGO-run with partial government support; however, the government decreased funding to one of the government-run shelters in the 2014 budget. During the reporting period, existing shelters in Libreville were unable to accommodate all identified victims and other vulnerable children. Neither the government nor NGO-run transit centers were specifically designated for adult victims but in practice could provide shelter and services to adults; however, no adults were identified during the reporting period.
If victim repatriation was not an option, the Ministry of Social Affairs could provide a victim with immigration relief and resettle them in Gabon; an unknown number of victims availed themselves of this legal alternative during the reporting period. Prosecutors, police, and magistrates routinely took testimony at the time of arrest of the suspected traffickers or rescue of the victim. There were no reports of the government detaining, fining, or jailing victims due to acts committed as a result of their being subjected to trafficking.
The government made minimal efforts to prevent trafficking. The government’s Inter-Ministerial Committee to Monitor Child Trafficking—the focal point for coordinating government anti-trafficking activities—remained without sufficient funding and was inactive for most of the year. The committee did not conduct any trafficking awareness campaigns. The government did not make any other discernible efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts during the reporting period. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to 500 troops prior to their deployment as part of international peacekeeping missions.