NIGER: Tier 2
Niger is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Caste-based slavery practices continue primarily in the northern part of the country. Nigerien boys are subjected to forced labor, including forced begging, within the country and in Mali and Nigeria by corrupt marabouts (religious instructors). Corrupt marabouts or loosely organized clandestine networks may also place Nigerien girls into domestic servitude or in the sex trade. Nigerien children are subjected to forced labor in gold mines, agriculture, and stone quarries within the country. Girls are subjected to sex trafficking along the border with Nigeria. In the Tahoua region of Niger, girls born into slavery are forced to marry men who buy them as “fifth wives” and subsequently subject them to forced labor and sexual servitude, a practice known as wahaya; their children are born into slave castes. “Fifth wives” are typically sold between the age of 9 and 11 years old. Traditional chiefs play a primary role in this form of exploitation, either through enslaving children in their own families or arranging “marriages” for other powerful individuals. Some girls in forced marriages may be exploited in the sex trade after fleeing these nominal unions. Nigerien girls reportedly travel abroad to enter into “marriages” with Nigerian men or foreign nationals living in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and are subjected to domestic servitude in these countries.
Nigerien women and children are recruited from Niger and transported to Nigeria, North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe where they are subjected to domestic servitude, sex trafficking, or forced labor in agriculture or animal herding. The profile of traffickers changed during the reporting period; for the first time, some migrants were suspected to be traffickers, particularly Nigerien migrants to Algeria. Traffickers operated primarily small, freelance operations in loosely organized networks of individuals and some marabouts. Some women were accused of managing trafficking rings, although they may have been trafficking victims themselves. Some women are complicit in the exploitation of children, accepting payment from traffickers who run forced street begging operations. Niger is a transit country for men, women, and children from West and Central Africa migrating to North Africa and Western Europe, where some are subjected to forced labor or sex trafficking. Additionally, some migrants are subjected to forced labor in Niger as domestic servants, mechanics, welders, laborers in mines and on farms, or as staff in bars and restaurants. Corrupt law enforcement and border officials accept bribes from traffickers to facilitate the transportation of victims into and throughout the country.
The Government of Niger does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government continued to prosecute and convict traffickers using its 2010 anti-trafficking law and, in May 2014, using the slavery statute in the penal code, it obtained its first conviction for the slavery practice known as wahaya. The government adopted the National Action Plan for the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons and allocated resources to fund the National Commission for the Coordination of the Fight against Trafficking in Persons (CNCLTP)—currently serving as the coordinating body for anti-trafficking efforts—and its implementing agency, the National Agency for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons (ANLTP). The government continued to identify and refer victims to NGOs to receive care; however, authorities identified fewer victims and the overall level of protective services available to victims was inadequate.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR NIGER:
Vigorously prosecute and punish trafficking offenders, including those guilty of slavery offenses and complicit government officials, using the anti-trafficking law; continue to train law enforcement and judicial officials throughout the country on the provisions of the anti-trafficking law in coordination with NGOs and international organizations; develop systematic procedures for the proactive identification of trafficking victims—especially among vulnerable populations, such as individuals in prostitution, girls born into slave castes, and children at worksites—and their subsequent referral to care; train law enforcement officials on such procedures; provide financial or in-kind support to NGO partners providing victim care; rescue and refer all suspected victims; increase the quantity and quality of services available to victims; increase efforts to rescue victims of traditional slavery practices and adult victims; initiate law enforcement investigations into suspected cases of local officials colluding with traffickers or accepting bribes to obstruct criminal investigations of trafficking crimes, particularly traditional slavery; and continue to raise public awareness about the anti-trafficking law—specifically targeting vulnerable populations, religious leaders, and traditional chiefs and encouraging victims to exercise their legal rights.
The government maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Order No. 2012-86 on Combating Trafficking in Persons, enacted in 2010, prohibits all forms of trafficking, including slavery and practices similar to slavery. This law prescribes sufficiently stringent punishments of five to 10 years’ imprisonment for committing trafficking offenses against adults and 10 to 30 years’ imprisonment when the victim is a child. Penalties for child trafficking are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape, but those prescribed for trafficking of adults are not. The law defines slavery and practices similar to slavery and specifically prohibits exploitative begging. Other statutes prohibit certain forms of trafficking; the country’s penal code prohibits slavery, procurement of a child for prostitution, and the encouragement of or profiting from child begging in Articles 270 (as amended in 2003), 292-293, and 181, respectively. Niger’s labor code, enacted in September 2012, outlaws forced labor. The penal code’s prescribed penalties of 10 to 30 years’ imprisonment for slavery offenses are sufficiently stringent and reflect the serious nature of the crime. The penalties prescribed in the labor code for forced labor are also sufficiently stringent in terms of imprisonment, but the law allows for the option of a fine in lieu of jail time, which does not reflect the serious nature of this crime.
The government investigated 144 trafficking offenses, prosecuted five defendants, and convicted five traffickers, compared with the prosecution of 18 cases and five convictions during the previous reporting period. Convicted offenders received prison sentences ranging from two to four years. Thirty-nine investigations, involving 139 individuals, remained pending at the close of the reporting period. In one landmark case in May 2014, the government obtained its first conviction for the practice of wahaya in a case in Tahoua region in which a Nigerien man bought a girl (age not provided) to be his “fifth wife,” with the intention of subjecting her to sexual and domestic servitude. The defendant was convicted under the slavery provision in the penal code and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, which was accounted for by time served. The government did not make progress in 2014 in ending impunity for marabouts who force children to beg or traditional chiefs who facilitate the enslavement of children. Structural barriers impeded victims’ access to justice, as they were often uninformed about their legal rights and lacked the necessary capacities and resources to seek punitive action against their exploiters. There were no reported developments in pending slavery cases, some of which have reportedly been ongoing for years.
In May 2014, the government cooperated with international partners to train 30 police chiefs and magistrates from across the country on effective application of the 2010 trafficking law in Niamey. The government conducted similar trainings in Agadez, Arlit, and Zinder. Unlike the previous year, there were no investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials for complicity in trafficking or trafficking-related criminal activities.
The government decreased efforts to identify and refer victims to NGOs to receive care, and overall victim protection efforts remained inadequate. Authorities did not develop or employ systematic measures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women and girls born into traditional slave castes or children at worksites. There were no formal procedures to guide officials in referring identified victims to protective services. The CNCLTP identified 28 child victims and on an ad hoc basis referred them to NGOs to receive protective care. This represents a consistent decrease in the government’s efforts to identify victims over the past three years, down from 50 and 183 identified victims within the two previous reporting periods respectively. NGOs identified 133 victims for a total of 169 total victims assisted in shelters during the reporting period. The government provided in-kind assistance to NGOs and international organizations in the form of food and primary health care to an unknown number of child victims. The government relied almost exclusively on NGOs and international organizations to provide services to victims, though NGOs’ capacity to provide shelter or long-term services to victims was inadequate; their primary role was often to facilitate victim repatriation or family reunification. There were no specialized services available in Niger for adult victims or victims of hereditary slavery.
The government reported adult victims would be encouraged to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases. Victims’ lack of awareness of the legal options available to them, fears of retaliation by traffickers, and lack of adequate shelter and protective services impeded efforts to obtain their participation in investigations and prosecutions. Victims of forced labor and caste-based servitude were able to file civil and criminal complaints simultaneously. There were no reports identified victims were detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. Front-line officials did not receive training in identifying victims and referring them to protective services. The law includes provisions to ensure foreign victims would be safe upon return to their countries of origin and provides for the possibility of granting victims legal status in Niger, including the ability to obtain employment.
The Government of Niger maintained robust efforts to prevent human trafficking. The CNCLTP continued to serve as the coordinating body for the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, and the ANLTP was the government’s permanent implementing body to address trafficking in persons. The government adopted a national action plan, which was developed with inter-ministerial cooperation and in partnership with civil society organizations. Senior officials recognized publicly the problem of human trafficking and Niger’s policies to combat it at the opening of several anti-trafficking information and education campaigns during the reporting period. In June 2014, the government partnered with a local NGO to host an awareness-raising event in recognition of the West African Day for the Fight Against Slavery. In August and September 2014, the government organized a series of events, including conferences, radio and television talk shows, advocacy sessions, and cultural events to educate the government officials and members of the public on trafficking. Another conference was held on the practice of wahaya, or “fifth wife,” where panelists discussed forced labor and sexual exploitation of women in the context of wahaya. The government did not punish labor recruiters or brokers in the recruitment of workers through knowingly fraudulent offers of employment or job placement. The government took no discernible measures to address the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts. Bylaws governing Niger’s armed forces require troops to receive anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions, though there is no evidence the government implemented such training during the reporting period. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.