THE GAMBIA: Tier 3
The Gambia is a source and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Within The Gambia, women, girls, and—to a lesser extent—boys are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude. Women, girls, and boys from West African countries—mainly Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Benin—are recruited for commercial sexual exploitation in The Gambia. The majority of these victims are subjected to sexual exploitation by European child sex tourists. Observers believe organized sex trafficking networks use both European and Gambian travel agencies to promote child sex tourism. Many Gambian boys attend Koranic schools led by religious teachers, known as marabouts; some corrupt or unscrupulous marabouts force such boys into begging and street vending. Gambian children have been identified as victims of forced labor in neighboring West African countries, including Ghana and Senegal. During the reporting period, approximately 60 Gambian girls were subjected to domestic servitude in Lebanon.
The Government of The Gambia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Although the government continued to sustain modest prevention efforts, it failed to demonstrate notable law enforcement or protection efforts during the reporting period. The government charged four traffickers, but failed to convict any trafficking offenders and did not provide any specific anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officials. Although the government identified and provided shelter to 19 Gambian victims in Lebanon, it did not identify or provide any trafficking victims with shelter or care within the country. Additionally, the government arrested a journalist for reporting on The Gambia’s Tier 3 ranking in the 2014 TIP Report.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE GAMBIA:
Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and ensure adequate sentencing for convicted trafficking offenders, including complicit government officials; train law enforcement personnel to identify trafficking victims proactively among vulnerable populations, such as boys in street vending, unattended children in tourist resorts known to be sex tourism destinations, and women in prostitution, and refer them to protective services; improve data collection and public reporting on victim identification and law enforcement efforts; develop standardized procedures for referring trafficking victims to NGO care services and inform government officials and the NGO community of such procedures; engage with anti-trafficking counterparts in the region to enable the safe repatriation of victims to and from The Gambia; and provide adequate funding and resources to the national coordinating body so it can effectively implement the anti-trafficking national action plan.
The government demonstrated minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Gambia’s 2007 Trafficking in Persons Act prohibits all forms of trafficking and an October 2010 amendment increased the prescribed penalties to 50 years’ to life imprisonment for all forms of trafficking. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Gambia’s 2005 Children’s Act also prohibits child trafficking—though it does not include forced labor in its definition of trafficking—prescribing a penalty of life imprisonment. The 2003 Tourism Offenses Act explicitly prohibits child sex trafficking, prescribing a penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. The government investigated one trafficking case, but did not prosecute or convict any trafficking offenders in 2014. Law enforcement officials continue to lack adequate training to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, yet the government did not provide any specific anti-trafficking training to law enforcement during the reporting period. In March 2015, the Magistrate Court charged four individuals with trafficking 19 Gambian women to Lebanon. Only one suspect appeared before the court; he was released on conditional bail, and a bench warrant was issued for the other three suspects. The case was adjourned pending the arrest of the three at-large suspects, although the trial cannot proceed until the young women are repatriated because their testimony is essential to the case. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, law enforcement officers acting with impunity and corruption was a serious problem throughout the reporting period.
The government demonstrated minimal efforts to protect trafficking victims. The government did not identify or provide services to any trafficking victims within the country during the reporting period. However, the government identified 19 Gambian girls who had been subjected to domestic servitude in Lebanon; the Gambian consulate placed the girls in a safe house while the government organized their repatriation. The Department of Social Welfare (DSW) operated a shelter for trafficking victims, abandoned children, and victims of domestic violence, as well as a drop-in center for street children; however, no trafficking victims were cared for in these facilities during the reporting period. The shelter offered 24-hour services to children and adults, but no victims in the shelter were allowed to leave the premises without a chaperone. The government continued to maintain an electronic child protection database, which includes information on trafficking cases, although no cases were identified in 2014. The 2007 Trafficking in Persons Act allows foreign victims to obtain temporary residence visas for the duration of legal proceedings; the government offers no other legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims to countries where they may face retribution or hardship. There were no reports of victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; however, the lack of formal identification procedures likely resulted in victims remaining unidentified in the law enforcement system.
The government sustained modest prevention efforts. The National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons (NAATIP)—the coordinating body for governmental anti-trafficking efforts—continued to receive modest funding from the government. Its officials traveled to key border posts to sensitize immigration, police, and customs officers, as well as local community leaders, on human trafficking and the need to report any suspected cases directly to NAATIP. The DSW operated 34 community child protection committees during the reporting period, which held monthly meetings and sensitization activities, some of which covered trafficking. Five neighborhood watch groups established by DSW were also active in monitoring possible cases of child abuse or trafficking. These groups increased surveillance efforts in high traffic tourist areas. The DSW and the Department of Education continued to operate a program providing financial support and resources to 12 Koranic schools on the condition they refrain from forcing their students to beg; more than 1,000 children benefited from the program during the reporting period. The government contributed the equivalent of approximately $2,300 each month to fund the program in 2014.
In collaboration with international NGOs, the Gambian Tourism Board held training on child sex tourism for approximately 32 law enforcement officers, tourism industry operators, and members of the public. Authorities continued to enforce the 2005 ban on unattended children in resort areas and the DSW continued to operate five neighborhood watch groups to monitor urban areas near tourist resorts for possible cases of child abuse or child sexual exploitation. However, none of these efforts led to the referral of any child trafficking victims to protective services or the apprehension of any suspected traffickers or child sex tourists. Additionally, the government did not make any discernible efforts to decrease the demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period. The government provided anti-trafficking training to Gambian troops before their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. The government did not provide any anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.