Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

MALI: Tier 2 Watch List

Mali is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Internal trafficking is more prevalent than transnational trafficking; however, boys from Guinea and Burkina Faso are subjected to forced labor in artisanal gold mines and women and girls from other West African countries are subjected to prostitution in Mali. Women and girls are forced into domestic servitude, agricultural labor, and support roles in artisanal gold mines and subjected to sex trafficking. Boys are subjected to forced labor in agriculture, artisanal gold mines, and the informal commercial sector. Men and boys, primarily of Songhai ethnicity, are subjected to debt bondage in the salt mines of Taoudenni in northern Mali. Some members of Mali’s black Tamachek community are subjected to slavery-related practices rooted in traditional relationships of hereditary servitude. Boys from Mali and other West African countries are forced into begging and other types of forced labor or service by corrupt marabouts (religious teachers) within Mali and neighboring countries. Reports indicate Malian children endure forced labor in gold mines in Senegal and Guinea and on cotton and cocoa farms in Cote d’Ivoire. Malians and other Africans transiting Mali to Mauritania, Algeria, or Libya to reach Europe are vulnerable to trafficking. Malian girls and women are victims of sex trafficking in Gabon, Libya, Lebanon, and Tunisia. Reports allege general corruption is pervasive throughout the security forces and judiciary.

In early 2012, rebel and Islamic extremist groups invaded and occupied northern Mali. Since that time, several militias and pro-government groups recruited and used children to fight in combat. There were reports these groups used children to carry assault rifles, staff checkpoints, guard prisoners, and conduct patrols. While the majority of child soldiers were boys, reports indicate these groups may have used some girls for sexual exploitation and forced marriage to members of armed groups. These armed groups purportedly force some families to sell their children. Although the prevalence of child soldiers decreased during the reporting year, NGOs and international organizations estimate many children remain associated with armed groups; however, restricted access, particularly in northern Mali, where the government has a limited presence, continues to prevent comprehensive reporting.

The Government of Mali does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these efforts, the government did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Mali is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year. Mali was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and it has committed to devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. While the government, in partnership with NGOs, identified and referred 48 victims for protection during the reporting year, it failed to investigate, prosecute, or convict any trafficking offenders, did not provide any direct services to trafficking victims, or conduct any national awareness campaigns.


Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; vigorously investigate, prosecute and, where appropriate, convict government officials complicit in human trafficking; adequately inform and train judicial personnel about the 2012 anti-trafficking law; train law enforcement to investigate trafficking cases, identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, and refer them to protective services; continue to implement programs for the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former child combatants that take into account the specific needs of child ex-combatants; convene and allocate funds to the national anti-trafficking committee; allocate appropriate funding to effectively implement the newly adopted national action plan to combat trafficking; and increase efforts to raise public awareness about trafficking.


The government reduced anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Law 2012-023 Relating to the Combat against Trafficking in Persons and Similar Practices prohibits all forms of trafficking of adults and children. The law prescribes penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment, and a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment for cases involving aggravating circumstances, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. For the third consecutive year, the Ministry of Justice failed to distribute the 2012 anti-trafficking law to judicial and law enforcement personnel, which perpetuated the lack of awareness and understanding of the law among the judiciary. The government investigated one potential trafficking case, which represented a decrease from 13 cases investigated during the previous reporting period. It did not prosecute or convict any trafficking offenders during the reporting period. The government provided no specialized anti-trafficking training to its officials. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of any government officials complicit in trafficking offenses.


The government demonstrated minimal efforts to protect trafficking victims. Government officials and NGO partners identified 48 trafficking victims, compared with 79 during the previous reporting period. The government provided minimal assistance to victims and continued to rely on privately-funded NGOs and international organizations to provide victims with medical assistance, shelter, counseling, and financial aid. Despite its substantial reliance on NGOs, the government did not provide financial support to these organizations. The government did not report identifying or assisting any victims of traditional slavery in areas where these practices are prevalent; this lack of identification reflects limited government presence in these areas. It offers legal alternatives to removal to countries in which victims would face retribution or hardship; however, all victims identified during the reporting period were ECOWAS country citizens and were able to stay within the country.

Rebel armed groups and terrorist organizations continued to recruit and use child soldiers during the reporting period. The government did not report the recruitment or use of child soldiers in the Malian armed forces; however, poor record keeping systems within the military, coupled with the ability to easily obtain fraudulent birth certificates, limited the ability to verify the precise age of all Malian soldiers. During the reporting period, with the assistance of international organizations and NGOs, the government, through the National Directorate for the Protection of Family, Women, and Children, rehabilitated five child soldiers aged 15 to17 years. There were no reports alleging the government detained child soldiers during the reporting year. While the government passed an inter-ministerial protocol in 2013 to require liberated child soldiers to be transferred to rehabilitation centers rather than prison, the lack of awareness and clear guidelines for judicial and military personnel to implement the protocol impeded systematic processing of these cases. As a result, some suspected child soldiers remained in detention since 2013.


The government made minimal efforts to prevent trafficking. It adopted a three-year national action plan (2015-2017) to combat trafficking and submitted a formal budget request to ensure its implementation. The government did not conduct any awareness-raising campaigns, workshops, or training efforts. The national committee, the entity charged with coordinating government anti-trafficking efforts, was minimally active during the reporting period. Labor inspectors did not receive anti-trafficking training and they did not have the capacity to regulate the informal sector, where most cases of forced labor occurred. The government failed to make tangible efforts to decrease the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts in Mali. It did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel and peacekeepers deployed abroad.